Psilocybin Spores: How Magic Mushrooms Affect the Brain
Unlike other naturally grown hallucinogens, magic mushrooms are fungi and not plants. They grow from psilocybin spores out of decaying plant material or soil. Like plants, different species can have dramatically different effects on the human body. Some will be a tasty addition to your grandmother’s pasta sauce, and others could have enough toxicity in one ounce to kill you.
Some mushrooms have profound psychedelic effects because they have a compound called psilocybin. The compound can be found in around 200 mushroom species in the genus Psilocybe. These fungi have varying effects on mood, perception, and some genera can cause hallucinations.
Because they grow in the wild and can be relatively easy to grow in your backyard, psilocybin mushrooms (also known as magic mushrooms, shrooms, shroomies, and mushies) are one of the most widely used psychedelic drugs in the world. However, the threat of deadly mushrooms like the aptly named Death Caps makes it dangerous to pick magic mushrooms in nature. Poisonous mushrooms can easily be mistaken for common psilocybin species like psilocybe cubensis.
Psilocybin Spores: What is a Fungus?
In the plant, animal, or mineral debate, mushrooms break the mold (pun intended) and fit into their own category: fungus. Fungus is more common than you may realize and includes things like mushrooms, mold, and yeast. That’s right, the thing that makes your bread rise will also ruin it a few weeks later.
Though they grow in nature, in the form of mushrooms, they aren’t plants at all. Unlike plants, mushrooms get their energy by consuming “food” like an animal. They commonly grow on logs and decaying plant material that they break down as a source of energy.
Psilocybin spores are how the species both reproduces and moves. Other forms of fungus locomote through growth, spreading to new places as it grows. Mushrooms release spores into the air or water in order grow in new areas.
History of Psilocybin Use
Psilocybin spores can travel on the wind or through water which allows it to find its way to a variety of ideal conditions throughout the world. Plus, there are around 200 species of mushroom with the psychedelic compound in it. Because it can be found easily or grown from Psilocybin mushroom spores, there is a long history of magic mushroom use. According to archeological findings, depictions of psychedelic mushrooms being used in religious ceremonies dates back to around 9000 BC.
Magic mushrooms were brought into modern culture in 1957 by R. Gordon Wasson who studied its use in Mazatec tradition. Wasson gave psilocybin mushrooms their common names in his essay, “Seeking the Magic Mushroom.” In the same year, the substance was studied by chemists including Albert Hofmann who had previously synthesized LSD.
In the 1960s, psilocybin studies showed promise in clinical psychiatry trials. However, negative press over growing illegal use and abuse lead to its Schedule 1 status in 1970.
Effects of Psilocybin on Human Brains
Because of the varying amounts of psilocybin in mushroom species and the variety of mushrooms that are called magic mushrooms, the effects of psilocybin mushrooms can be hard to predict. Plus, a user’s experience with psychedelics, in general, can be affected by several factors.
The idea of set and setting is reported to significantly impact psilocybin’s effects. Your mindset and the place you experience the drug can mean the difference between a bad trip and pleasant euphoria. However, users report bad trips occurring spontaneously regardless of set and setting.
Despite varying effects, there are a few physical and psychological effects that are common among users.
As with other psychedelics, psilocybin has mild physical effects compared to its cognitive ones. In rare cases, mushrooms have been reported to cause seizures in people who are susceptible.
- Sedation or drowsiness
- Pupil dilation
- Changes in heart rate
- Changes in blood pressure
Users also report other mild effects like watery eyes and excessive yawning. As with any substance that affects heart rate and blood pressure, users with pre-existing heart conditions or hypertension may be at risk when on psilocybin.
Though its physical effects are mild, psilocybin has several side effects that affect users cognitively and perceptually. One of the most commonly reported effects of mushrooms is the slowing down of perceived time. A 2007 study performed a test of twelve human subjects and how psilocybin affected their ability to perceive time accurately. The study found that their perceived time as significantly slowed and they were unable to synchronize to beat intervals that were longer than 2 to 3 seconds. Users also report feeling like minutes are hours or that time is standing still.
- Increased empathy
- Language suppression (unable or unwilling to talk)
- Mental euphoria
- Memory suppression or dysphoria
- Brightening of colors
- Visual distortions
While mushrooms in the genus Psilocybe rarely cause hallucinations like those found in DMT, mushrooms of other genera that also include the psilocybin compound can. Users report hallucinations and more specifically “bad trips” occurring while on mushrooms, despite carefully planned mindsets and settings.
Psilocybin has also been known to induce psychosis similar to schizophrenia because of the activation of the serotonin-2A receptor in the brain. Terrifying experiences on psychedelic substances can cause a range of emotional and psychological problems like post-traumatic stress. These long-lasting, adverse effects are most common in new users and large doses.
Psilocybin as Experimental Addiction Treatment
Psilocybin has shown some promise as a treatment for alcohol addiction. A 2015 study concluded that the substance helped subjects increase abstinence and limited any potential adverse effects. However, these findings are preliminary and require more study before they can be implemented.
Psychedelic Drug Abuse
There is very low risk of becoming addicted to or dependent on psychedelic drugs like psilocybin spores. However, because the fact that it’s easy to obtain and hard to control, it is highly abused. Despite its non-addictive nature, it can leave long-lasting effects in some circumstances.
If you or a loved one is struggling with drug abuse or addiction, call Ocean Breeze Recovery at (877) 234-3651 to find out what you can do to begin the road towards recovery.