Psilocybin: The story of magic mushrooms
The use of psychoactive mushrooms has accompanied man since his beginnings. It is an older practice than writing; in fact, it is older than the beginning of civilization itself.
Unfortunately, much of what has been studied by ancient civilizations about magic mushrooms have been erased by the intense religious and colonization processes in the world.
In this article, we are going to bring you a little bit about what is research in the area, how psilocybin acts on your brain, what effects it causes and how we can prevent ourselves from having a wrong mushroom trip.
Although it is not a widely studied topic, we will also try to talk briefly about the relationship between marijuana and hallucinogenic mushrooms.
Magic mushrooms in human history
The oldest historical record known to use hallucinogenic mushrooms is a painting on the walls of a cave in Australia, estimated to be 12,000 years old.
Such a finding is not a rarity, there are records of the use of psychoactive mushrooms in prehistoric populations on all inhabited continents. It is custom so old and rooted in the history of homo sapiens, that it is almost impossible to pinpoint its origins. Some researchers even draw a parallel between the evolution of the human brain, with the use of psychoactive substances, mainly psilocybin.
This connection with the elevated state of mind was so profound that the records of this practice go hand in hand with the evolution of how man wrote his own history. From the moment that the cave paintings began to appear, there were the drawings that referred to mushrooms and their rituals, like the paintings found in Spain, with more than 6000 years old.
The Mayans, Incas, and Aztecs had Gods and legends based on mushrooms and plants that they believed to have magical powers, thus sculptures, monuments, and temples were erected in awe and respect for the entheogenic wisdom.
The Aztecs called their mushrooms ” teonanácatl”, which means, the flesh of the gods. The rare Aztec records that survived the brutal Spanish colonization, together with records made by European missionaries, show us the importance that “ teonanácatl” and other psychoactive plants had in Aztec society.
They were considered a gift from the Gods, the fundamental gift of life itself, through which contact and the wisdom of higher beings were obtained. They often met to eat the flesh of the gods, laughed, sang, cried, and danced, then shared their experiences and visions.
In ancient Greece, the worship of the Demeter Goddess included the consumption of a drink that is strongly believed to have possessed in addition to other substances, psilocybin.
In Egypt, mushrooms were represented in various art forms, sculptures, statues, and a vast number of words and terms, which referred to mushrooms as “sons of the gods” or “food of the gods”, among others. Because they did not sprout from a seed, the Egyptians believed that magic mushrooms were placed on the ground by Osiris himself, so their consumption was allowed only for the upper classes.
Unfortunately, many of these societies and their cultures have been erased from the face of the earth by wars and colonization processes, and although we have many records of cave paintings and books written before Christ, it is believed that the vast majority of the history of the psilocybin / being relationship human being has been swept away by the rise of the Catholic Church and its demonization policy to that type of culture.
In our modern society, psilocybin began to be officially studied in the 1950s, when Harvard mycologists began to study psilocybin and its effects in Mexico.
They accompanied ritualistic sessions of small tribes that resisted until today and together with the laboratory work that managed to isolate the molecule in that same decade, they took the first step in scientific research around psilocybin.
Due to the taboo that still contaminates our society, very little research has been done since then, always facing political and religious embargoes from the most conservative wings. In recent years, however, we have seen progress.
In 2019 a research center focused on psychedelic substances was opened at John Hopkins University, in the USA. There is also research being carried out to introduce psilocybin to treat severe cases of chronic depression, addiction to opioids, alcohol and other drugs, Lyme disease, post-traumatic disorder, and other ailments.
How psilocybin acts on the brain
What makes the “magic” of a magic mushroom is psilocybin, a molecule that oxidizes when in contact with oxygen, revealing the famous bluish color, responsible for the nickname “blue mushroom”. Psilocybin is inside the mushroom and when ingested it is metabolized into psilocin, which is the activated molecule. This in turn reaches the brain through the bloodstream and acts mainly on the central nervous system.
Psilocin increases serotonin activity and, in addition, because they have a similar structure to each other, psilocin is also picked up by serotonin receptors, further amplifying the activity of these receptors. Much of the hypersensitivity, of feeling, hearing, and seeing what we don’t normally see is due to this phenomenon.
The most incredible thing is that research using magnetic resonance begins to show us the incredible and mystical powers of this molecule. It has already been discovered that psilocybin is capable of creating a state of hyper-connectivity between nerve cells, altering neural pathways, and even increasing our neurogenesis, which is our ability to create new neurons.
It is also noticed a great increase in the activity of the hippocampus and other regions associated with the dream, the areas related to the emotions are also triggered and increase their activity, inducing a sensation of expanded consciousness. The temporary alteration of neural pathways helps us to “think outside the box” and that is why we can find answers in ourselves that without the help of psilocybin we would never find.
The effects of psilocybin
Technically, psilocybin and even LSD do not cause hallucinations, you will not see things that are not there. What happens are distortions of images, colors, shapes, and senses. You probably won’t see pink elephants flying around, like in the movies, but if you’re really looking at an elephant, you might see it pink.
Feelings and emotions can become more intense and time can be felt passing faster or slower. Like all drugs, the effects of psilocybin can be different for each person and much will depend on the dose ingested and the mentality of each one who consumes it.
Regarding the negative effects, all studies in the most renowned research centers have the same result: magic mushrooms are the safest recreational drug that exists, being less toxic than coffee and alcohol.
Studies also indicate that magic mushrooms have little or no dependence, neither physical nor chemical. There is no known lethal dose for psilocybin and it has very little or no organ toxicity. One of the greatest dangers when eating magic mushrooms is related to the ingestion of other mushrooms that are incorrectly collected.
So here’s the tip, never, under any circumstances, collect and eat mushrooms in nature or in pastures. In doing so, you are at serious risk of intoxication and even death. This is very serious!
Although it is a scientific consensus that this is one of the safest recreational drugs and least related to health problems, psilocybin is not free from adverse effects.
The most serious of these is the possible worsening and/or triggering of mental disorders, such as schizophrenia, depression, panic syndrome, and others.
The intention: we have not found any study that proves or suggests that psilocybin has anything to do with the emergence of new mental illnesses, what is known is that it may aggravate pre-existing disorders and syndromes.
Then, if possible, for a precise clarification, consult a medical professional who preferably has real knowledge and interest in entheogens.
Mushroom Bad Trip
The other negative effect that psilocybin can cause, like any other psychedelic drug, is the famous bad trip. The mushroom’s bad trip is, like any other drug, a mixture of negative feelings, anxiety, and an overwhelming desire for the substance’s effect to disappear as quickly as possible. The tip that we are going to give you here is an idea to put in your head: the bad trip is like the “bogeyman”, the biggest evil it can cause you, is the very fear you feel about it.
Rationalize, you ingested that substance of your own accord, looking for a mystical experience, so try to learn from the moment. Maybe this malaise is happening due to some inner anguish, maybe not.
It is up to you to try to stay calm, try to relax and know that the effects you are feeling are the result of a substance that is in your body in a finite amount of molecules. You “travel”, “get high”, because the psilocin is acting on your body. One hour it ends and you are back to normal, with extra life experience in your luggage.
It is always complicated to talk about a bad trip, it is a delicate subject and can involve countless approaches. When we talk about it here, we assume the posture of those who have been through this and have experience with hallucinogenic substances for over a decade and nothing more. We would never irresponsibly take the position of a health professional, so if you want to talk to someone who has a degree to talk about it, look for a specialist.
That said, there are some general tips that we believe help to avoid a wrong mushroom trip:
- Always have a lookout, someone who will not eat the mushrooms and will make sure that no one puts themselves and others in dangerous situations. The presence of a sober person brings calm and security to whoever is taking it.
- Prefer to miss the dose for less than for more. Better to be less stoned than stoned too much. Maybe next time you increase the dose a little, if you overdo it, you may never want the next one!
- Handpick your companies. This tip doesn’t need much explanation, you won’t want to enter one of the most different and unique experiences of your life with someone you don’t feel 110% at ease with.
- Choose your location carefully. Preferably in a controlled environment, avoid taking it outdoors. Contrary to what some people think, a controlled environment such as a living room or bedroom will not give you the feeling of claustrophobia but the feeling of security. Taking in the open air can greatly disrupt the watchman’s life. Also, make sure that no one outside will arrive to disrupt your trip! There’s nothing worse than having to talk to someone who doesn’t understand the situation when you’re having a mushroom wave.
The relationship of magic mushrooms to marijuana