From Silicon Valley execs to college professors, and even moms, the number of those who use magic mushrooms to improve their lives both creatively and productively is on the rise. Magic mushrooms are no longer considered the preserve of hippies and socialites attending cultural festivals like Burning Man, they’re increasingly becoming part of everyday life. Heck, even the government has started taking notice of this trend with cities like Oakland and Denver in the US now moving to decriminalize their use.
What is microdosing?
Microdosing means taking miniscule amounts of magic mushrooms once every few days which are usually dried and ground into a powder. Now, instead of using 100 micrograms of the stuff which is enough to give you a full psychedelic experience or trip, techies, redditors and ordinary folks like your next door neighbor now swallow 10 to 20 grams every so often to alleviate their mental health. Some guys even go to the length of using digital jewelry scales so they can weigh their stash more accurately.
It’s plain and simple, people who don’t want to get high, but are just looking for a way to feel better about themselves will tell you magic mushrooms are the way to go. Not only do shrooms boost their productivity at work, they’re able to handle their kids and relationships better.
How do Magic Mushrooms Work?
Psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, works by binding to serotonin, a chemical that’s produced by nerve cells which sends signals between these cells.
This is how it happens:
- Once the psilocybin reaches your gut it’s converted into another chemical called psilocin.
- Psilocin binds to serotonin receptors called 5-HT2A triggering your brain to go through major changes- essentially a domino effect.
- Consequently, the level of activity in your visual cortex increases, changing the way you perceive things.
- The visual cortex is the part of your brain that’s responsible for abstract thinking, thought analysis, and plays a key role in mood and perception.
In a word, the psilocybin in the mushrooms profoundly changes how the different areas of your brain synchronize with each other- like a conductor guiding an orchestra.
Dr David Erritzoe a researcher at the Imperial College London speaking to The Guardian said, “If we do brain imaging when a full dose of psychedelics is in the brain, a lot of the functional networks that we can measure start to fuse into each other. There’s broader communication between the networks. That could be the biology behind this ‘more-free’ state of mind or perception that people typically report.”
Above: Graphic representation of the brain connections in a person dosed with psilocybin (right) and in someone who’s taken a placebo (left).
What Research Says about Magic Mushrooms
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, magic mushrooms can make you experience the following things:
- Feelings of relaxation similar to what low doses of marijuana make you feel.
- Introspective or spiritual experiences.
- Nervousness, paranoia, and panic reactions
Mushrooms can treat cancer-related anxiety or depression
A study conducted by Johns Hopkins researchers on a group of people suffering from cancer-related anxiety or depression showed that they experienced significant relief for up to six months from a single large dose of psilocybin.
The study found that:
- Almost 80% of participants continued to experience clinically significant reduction in depressed mood and anxiety.
- 83% experienced a higher sense of well-being or life satisfaction.
- 67% of participants ranked their experience with psilocybin as one of the top five meaningful experiences in their lives, while about 70% said it was one of their top five spiritually significant lifetime events.
The effects of magic mushrooms last four to six hours
According to Roland Griffiths a professor of behavioral biology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, a single dose of psilocybin can last for four to six hours but, as the study showed, can produce lasting reductions in depression and anxiety symptoms.
Charles Grob, a psychiatry professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, believes that by contrast, a microdose of magic mushrooms, has far more subtle effects, saying “It kind of enhances sensory perception.” He goes on to explain that microdoses of psilocybin makes colors to appear brighter, gives the user a greater appreciation of nature whereby they’re able to “delve into psychological and interpersonal issues.” He also believes that a microdose allows you to function in your day to day life.
Microdosing mushrooms increase alertness
Cognitive scientist Vince Polito, led a study that was published in the open- access journal Plos One which followed 98 microdosers who were already using psychedelics to find out what their experience was like. The study noted some clear changes. For example, the participants reported decreased mind-wandering, lower levels of stress and depression. The study concludes that “microdosing may lead to more subtle changes characterized by improvements in mental stability, the capacity to sustain attention and increased ability to become engaged in intense imaginative experiences.”
Does Microdosing Work for Everyone?
As the studies above show, yes. However, research is ongoing to prove beyond doubt that the feel-good symptom is more than just a placebo effect of taking the drug. However, there are some folks who say that microdosing works for them best in specific situations. For example it may help with creative tasks like handling people, but may be a distraction when it comes to the more mundane tasks like bookkeeping. Some report that microdosing works better for them when they combine it with other activities like psychotherapy, dieting and regular exercise.
Are There Risks Involved In Microdosing?
David Nutt, a Professor of Neuropsychopharmacology at the Imprerial College London believes that psychedelic drugs like LSD when taken every day could narrow the heart valves, but states that there’s no evidence that psychedelics are dangerous to your health. It’s only the actions of those under its influence that can be harmful.
Psychedelics are not recommended for people who have bipolar disorder or psychotic illness as they can trigger a psychotic episode. You should also shouldn’t mix psychedelics with other drugs or alcohol, for that matter. It goes without saying that driving while under the influence of psychedelics is a big no-no.
Magic mushrooms are showing a lot of promise especially in the area of treating depression and kicking habits like smoking, if the studies done so far are anything to go by. There’s also undeniable anecdotal evidence that microdosing on them improves one’s overall wellness, in the same way as yoga or meditation.