First off, we’d like to take a moment to welcome you. We know there’s a lot of other pages you could be on, but you picked ours, so welcome to your fungal family! Psychedelic mushrooms have seen a huge uptake in research since the mid 2000s, thanks to highly persistent industry professionals who understood the power locked within these humble little mushrooms.
In order to properly introduce ourselves as a new player on the market, we’d like to start by addressing some basic questions of fact vs fiction when it comes to the mushroom space. With decades of misinformation to debunk, which thankfully most of it has been now, we feel strongly that we should at least start here to answer some common questions, and put them here in one place. Because of the complexity of the topic, we’ll start small with one fiction, and one fact. Future posts will explore more of them.
Without further adieu, let’s mush on!
Fiction – Mushrooms are addictive
This simply isn’t true, as anyone who has ingested large quantities in one sitting will readily tell you. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who took let’s say – 4g-5g of dried mushrooms – who would need to do so every few hours or every day, like for instance a heroin user uses heroin. Although they can cause a heroic experience (more on that later), they do not cause a heroin experience. The reason for this is that the class of psychedelics, in which mushrooms are a part of, do not act upon the dopamine receptor system like opioid based drugs do. Instead, they act upon the serotonin system located in the cortex (the higher brain structure).
Opioids work by flooding the brain with more dopamine than it normally produces on its own, affecting absorption of your “feel good” chemicals. At first, this registers as extremely pleasurable. But you’re soon chasing the dragon. Over time, this changes baseline functions and as tolerances build, natural dopamine production falls, and more drugs are needed to make up the difference to establish the new baseline chemistry – leading to developing an addiction. Because dopamine has a role to play in regulating organ function, this is what causes overdoses, addictions, and even death. When dopamine receptors close, no signals can pass to tell your organs what to do.
Serotonin is much different in function. It is responsible for cognition, emotion, sensory perceptions, mood and neurological functions. Because mushrooms and other psychedelics modulate serotonin rather than affect how much your body has or produces, they fail to carry the risks associated with opioids. What they do however is – as well said by many in the field of psychedelics but in this case by Michael Pollan – “shake the neural snow-globe”. What this means is they dramatically increase neuro-plasticity by opening the floodgates of neurotransmitters allowing multiple portions of the brain – even ones who don’t normally communicate – to suddenly talk to each other at phenomenally high speeds. It’s this effect that produces changes in cognition, visual and auditory hallucinations, and in therapy settings produce the conditions necessary for deep therapy by allowing the subconscious to become conscious.
In brief, the lack of the necessary chemistry to become addictive, coupled with living in wonderland – whether you want to or not – make psychedelics quite safe from a physiological standpoint. However the psychological risks should not be underestimated. Although these drugs are much safer than even alcohol, it is not advised to use them and throw caution to the wind. These incidents are rare but sometimes a heavily contextualized and immersive vision quest could still inadvertently cause you to jump off a cliff or into traffic – so handle with care. Oh, and no – mushrooms don’t make your brain bleed. You can thank Nixon’s administration bribing medical “professionals” in the 1970s for that line.
Fact – Magic Mushrooms Can Heal You
Now that we got the biggest myth out of the way, let’s get to the biggest truth – that mushrooms can heal you. The data are ever growing in support of this. The exact science behind how exactly mushrooms to the healing is still under investigation, but so far we know a few key elements involved. Referencing the “shaking the neural snow-globe” example above, we know that the brain becomes much more active under the effects of magic mushrooms. The reason for this is the psychoactive found in magic mushrooms known as psilocybin. When psilocybin enters the body, it is close enough to serotonin’s molecular structure to cross the blood-brain barrier and enter the serotonin 5HT-2A receptors in the cortex. That’s a sciency way of saying – it melts the walls maannn.
But in this state, something interesting happens – the amygdala is downregulated – which causes the effect known as ego dissolution. Other things happen too, but since this is an introduction we’ll keep it simple.
Now we come to the healing potential of these mushrooms in the therapeutic setting. When properly prepared for it, the loss of the ego in the therapy session becomes a powerful tool in the sense that it allows the subconscious to become conscious. We get to see the source of our pain and the addictions which attempt to mask it. In this moment while under the sway of the psychedelic experience, we’re given the power to change the narrative of that subconscious to a new context – the settling of the snow in the snow-globe if you will. With the therapist, we gain a degree of control in deciding how that neuro-snow settles again.
We’re still in the very beginnings of figuring out what that means for mental health as a whole, but preliminary data suggests that these types of treatments remain effective after a single dose of psilocybin for upwards of 6 months after a session with no additional interventions. This includes people suffering from depression, alcohol or tobacco addiction, trauma, and death anxiety following a terminal cancer diagnosis. For more comprehensive reads on this topic of healing with psychedelics, check out PubMed’s abstracts of verified clinical research data on addiction treatments.
Current mental treatments are widely ineffective. We know because none of us needs to look far to hear a story of inadequate drug based mental health care of someone we know. As the years progress and the medical and legal landscapes evolve, there will likely be many more people outside of a phase trial setting who will benefit from psychedelic assisted therapy.
We hope you will join us in following that journey.
Stay tuned for Fact and Fiction Pt. 2
The Ultimate Guide to Psychedelics and the Opioid Crisis, by Jack Firneno, 2018, https://thethirdwave.co/psychedelics/psychedelics-opioid-crisis/
National Library of Public Medicine Abstracts on psilocybin and psilocybin and addiction