3-(2-Dimethylaminoethyl)-1H-indol-4-yl/ dihydrogen phosphate
“Psilocybin, tryptamine, is in my opinion the means to eliminating the future by becoming cognizant of the architecture of eternity, which is modulating time and causing history, essentially.”
— Terence McKenna
Deeply rooted history
Of all psychedelics, psilocybin typically presents itself as the prime choice amidst both experienced and novice psychonauts, especially common among those embarking upon their first psychedelic experience, and for good reason.
Psilocybin, of which the active element is psilocin, is often considered to be the most natural and primal hallucinogenic substance one can take, with its use pre-dating our recorded history.
Ancient rock paintings, murals, hieroglyphs — they’ve all paid tribute to this enigmatic substance, all around the world, spanning countless cultures through time. Though it seems to be Mesoamerica that could be considered the cradle of our relationship with this enigmatic psychedelic; it’s from here that the most popular strains originate, as numerous peoples all along the South American continent have ritualized the use of the psilocybe genus throughout history.
Given its extensive history, it hadn’t been until the 1950’s that the psychoactive element was fully understood. Thanks to the work of Roger Heim and Albert Hofmann, we now have a well-rounded comprehension of its neurological and psychological effectuations on the human brain.
Psilocybin is the most easily accessed, the most affordable and the most commonly used hallucinogenic in our time and culture, gaining a preferable status due to its exceptional versatility as a tool of therapy, productivity, or supplement to daily living.
It has also cultivated the enthusiastic attention of famous botanists from yesterday — like Terence McKenna — to today, like Paul Stamets, who have built a lifetime of dedication to promoting the unparalleled characteristics of this symbiotic fungi.
As seemingly innocent as it is powerful, psilocybin has evolved alongside our cultures in ways that have benefitted us beyond the scope of our comprehension. While interest in this substance has always remained momentous, it has recently proliferated on the heels of cannabis legalization, so much so that curious consumers are now able to try everything from teas and capsules to a plethora of variable strains, each with their own unique characteristics, reflecting the ritualistic realizations of ancient and contemporary cultures.
Among the more popular strains of Psilocybe Cubensis (the scientific name of the species of magic mushroom), Golden Teacher and Penis Envy tend to stand out as the top choice for consumers, ubiquitous with revelatory experiences, euphoric stimulation and philosophical introspection.
The wonder drug
Like LSD, psilocybin is exceptionally versatile, offering a range of applications that fall in line with our current social landscape.
The therapeutic benefits of psilocybin are being continuously realized, gaining a lot of momentum as of late, as the psychedelic is quickly proving itself capable of being able to reconfigure thought processes and/or deal with post-traumatic stress symptomology.
In a self-development context, micro-dosing has become a popular method of altering thinking patterns and proving conducive towards habit formation or deconstruction, particularly helpful with resolving addictive behaviors or creating positive mental outlooks.
With or without the proper equipment, it’s particularly easy to determine a suitable dosage, find a favorable strain, and self-study the effects of psilocybin, making this psychedelic a staple today, as it has been throughout history.
Dosage & Experience
Perhaps most alluring about psilocybin is its inherent versatility with respect to the dosage levels that one can opt for.
Like other psychedelics, micro-dosing with psilocybin is a popular form of consuming the natural compound, often by way of capsules. Psilocybin is typically ground into a powder to not only promote easier consumption (as it can then be encapsulated or added as a supplement to teas or food) but also to ensure consistency, as some parts of the mushroom would typically contain more psilocin - the compound responsible for the psychedelic effectuations.
A micro-dose would range from 100 to 300mg (0.10g to 0.30g), depending on the nature of the consumer and their weight/tolerance. If regimented, an increasing dosage is usually suggested as tolerance is quick to build, taking only a handful of days to become noticeably stronger.
It's during this micro-dose range that users will report everything from accelerated thinking patterns to mental calmness. Expanded perspective is typically an often-reported common-denominator, as psilocybin can provoke deeper levels of thinking, even if ingested in miniscule qualities. Subtle perceptual shifts can be experienced, alongside mild feelings of euphoria, contemplation and a sentimentality of gratitude or optimism. Effects can last anywhere from 2-6 hours.
A low-moderate dose, at which point stronger psychoactive effects can begin to be felt, could be found at the 300mg or higher range, often between 1-3grams of dried psilocybin. It's during this dose level that a greater sense of contemplation can be undertaken by a consumer, along with greater feelings of euphoria or heightened perceptual experiences. A relaxed physical state, synesthesia, visual distortions are all very subtle effects at this dose level. Effect duration will last 2-8 hours.
A moderate-high dose, 3g to 4g, will contain all of the aforementioned effects at a more pronounced scale. Heightened sensations, more noticeable visual distortions, time dilation, euphoria, confusion or paranoia, geometric patterning - these are all typical experiences alongside greater contemplation and revelatory thinking. The duration of effects can last upwards of 8 hours.
A high or 'heroic' dose is typically considered to be upwards of 4g, though many consider the threshold to be 5g - a moot point considering the level of intensity associated with this trip. Hallucinations, if not visual distortions, are expected, alongside time dilation, synesthesia, fatigue, mood variability, disassociations of all kinds and a general ineffability to describe reality. It's typically at this dose level from which most interesting and alarming anecdotes may stem, as many will report divine experiences, ego-death, and other philosophical or existential insights. Trips will typically last at least 6-8 hours and can extend upwards of 12 or more hours.
Once ingested, psilocybin (PY, 4-phosphoryloxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine) is metabolized into psilocin, binding to the serotonin receptors in the brain and effectuating sensory distortions, perceptual alterations, and expanded thought processes. While the duration of effects will vary in accordance with the amount consumed, they’ll typically last between 4-8 hours for a normal or high dose.
Psilocin interacts with the 5-HT receptors as an agonist, activating serotonin receptors, accordingly increasing the flow of serotonin. It's worth noting that, unlike LSD, psilocin does not have any effects upon the dopamine receptor.
Behavioural effects will be dependent upon the dosage level and the individual reactions/sensitivities to psilocybin, along with tolerance, experience and setting.
Most effects will be imposed upon the central nervous system, though subjective effects will vary greatly.
Effects of Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy on Major Depressive Disorder
Published November 4th, 2020 by Alan K. Davis et. al.
About: This study sought to determine whether psilocybin-assisted therapy is effective among patients dealing with major depressive disorder. In a randomized clinical trial of 24 participants who experienced major depressive disorder, psilocybin had been administered in two sessions (session 1: 20mg/70kg & session 2: 30mg/70kg) via gelatin capsules with 100ml of water in the context of a supportive psychotherapy. Subsequently, the authors had concluded that psilocybin with therapy is efficacious in treating major depressive disorder - extending the results of previous studies of this intervention style.
Excerpt: "Of the randomized participants, 24 of 27 (89%) completed the intervention and the week 1 and week 4 postsession assessments... participants who received immediate psilocybin-assisted therapy compared with delayed treatment showed improvement in blinded clinician rater–assessed depression severity and in self-reported secondary outcomes through the 1-month follow-up"
Emotions and brain function are altered up to one month after a single high dose of psilocybin
Published February 10th 2020 by Frederick S. Barrtt et. al.
About: 12 healthy volunteers completed an pilot study which had included assessments 1 day before, 1 week after, and 1 month after receiving a 25mg/70kg dose of psilocybin to test the hypothesis that psilocybin can effectuate enduring changes in neural correlates relating to mood. Preliminary findings suggest that psilocybin may be able to increase neuroplasticity, offering an effective therapeutic target for psilocybin.
Excerpt: "A notable feature of the current report is that the reported effects of psilocybin were observed well after psilocybin would have been eliminated from the body and beyond expected transient effects of receptor trafficking that may be occurring after psilocybin administration... psilocybin may have initiated a dynamic and neuroplastic process that was sustained for at least a number of weeks. It is possible that such a neuroplastic period may allow for a more enduring shift towards positive affective."
A Systematic Study of Microdosing Psychedelics
Published February 6th, 2019 by Vince Polito and Richard Stevenson
About: The authors of this two-part study sought to conduct a systematic, observational investigation of individuals who microdose, tracking the experiences of 98 participants who providing daily ratings of their psychological functioning over a six weed period; 63 of these participations completed various psychometric measures to monitor their mood, attention, well being, creativity and other factors. Findings suggested a general increase in reported psychological functioning, reductions in reported levels of stress and depression, lower levels of distractibility, and increased neuroticism.
Excerpt: "Daily ratings provided a snapshot of participants’ subjective experiences on each day of the study. These ratings revealed that microdosing led to an increase across all psychological functions measured on dosing days, compared to baseline scores... Detailed long term questionnaires revealed several variables that changed during the microdosing period. Broadly these effects could be characterised as improvements in mental health, and alterations in processes related to attention."
Research & Footnotes
A systematic study of microdosing psychedelics
Hallucinogenic Mushrooms Drug Profile
33 Days of Microdosing Psilocybin to Measure Changes to Athletic Performance: A Borealism Study
Clinical potential of psilocybin as a treatment for mental health conditions
Metabolism of psilocybin and psilocin