Psilocybin is a hallucinogenic drug. It is the main psychedelic compound in hallucinogenic mushrooms, but it is also used as a drug on its own.
The main natural sources of this chemical are certain mushrooms, notably the genera Psilocybe and Copelandia, collectively called “hallucinogenic mushrooms”. It is through dried preparations of these mushrooms that psilocybin and its associated active substance, psilocin, are most commonly ingested. Psilocybin mushrooms are believed to have been used in spiritual ceremonies and rituals in some indigenous cultures around the world for thousands of years.
Aside from eating whole mushrooms, psilocybin can be taken recreationally and psychedelically in a variety of ways. Fresh mushrooms are sometimes boiled to make a psilocybin-infused “tea. They can also be dried, ground into a powder and then placed in capsules.
In 1958, Albert Hoffman (the Swiss chemist who discovered the hallucinogenic drug LSD) first synthesized psilocybin in the laboratory. At the time, there was extensive research into the use of hallucinogens such as LSD and psilocybin to treat mental illness. Synthetic psilocybin was given to patients in pill form or otherwise, including mental health patients and prisoners.
But in the mid-1960s, most of this research was stopped and the production of synthetic psilocybin ceased because the effects of these chemicals on the human mind were unpredictable.
Psilocybin became a very popular recreational substance during the psychedelic hippie movement of the 1960s, mainly in its natural form (mushrooms).
This growing use of the drug led many states to ban it in the 1960s.
Since then, the use of psilocybin and hallucinogenic mushrooms has declined sharply, but they are still used illicitly by recreational drug users seeking a psychedelic experience.
Psilocybin is said to create a similar experience to LSD, but in a more “natural” and less intense way. However it enters the body, it travels through the bloodstream and reaches the brain’s serotonin receptors, where it binds. This disrupts normal brain function, resulting in a hallucinogenic “trip” in which individuals are often subject to hallucinations, distortions of time and other perceptions, euphoria and a number of other brain dysfunctions.
Psilocybin is mostly consumed via mushrooms containing this compound, including Psilocybe Semilanceata and Psilocybe Cubensis. These can be collected in the wild or bought on the black market. On the street, these psilocybin mushrooms are called hallucinogenic mushrooms, magic mushrooms, champis, psilos or mushs.
Before the mid-2000s, when psilocybin was illegal, fresh mushrooms containing it were still legal in many countries. But it is now illegal to sell or possess these fresh and dried mushrooms.
Dried preparations of psilocybin mushrooms can be sold as a powder, sometimes called “mushroom dust”. This powder also comes in capsule form.
Although it is theoretically possible to manufacture synthetic psilocybin (phosphorylated 4-hydroxydimethyltryptamine), it is rarely produced for the black market because of its high cost, low demand, and the existence of psilocybin in mushroom form.
As a hallucinogenic drug, psilocybin provides a “psychedelic experience” or “trip” that alters the normal state of consciousness.
These trips vary in intensity, depending on the amount of psilocybin taken and the individual. The most common effects are visual and auditory hallucinations, altered cognitive perceptions, feelings of euphoria and amplification of the senses.
Legitimate research on psilocybin has been halted and the drug has been deemed medically unnecessary by U.S. authorities because its effects are so unpredictable. It is impossible to say whether a user will experience a happy, positive trip or a traumatic, disturbing “bad trip. Even those who have already taken this substance several times and are generally sane can have a “bad trip”, i.e. nightmarish hallucinations.
These “bad trips” can last up to six hours and the unpleasant hallucinations can be accompanied by intense anxiety, paranoia and delusions.
Even without a “bad trip,” psilocybin-induced hallucinatory states can be dangerous for users. The distortion of their perceptions of the outside world can put them at greater risk of accidents. They may also make poor and risky judgments based on their state of mind while under the influence of the drug.
Regular users of psilocybin and other psychedelic drugs may lose touch with reality, to the detriment of their lives, mental health and relationships. For people with existing mental health problems, taking psilocybin can trigger or worsen their condition.
In the past, synthetic psilocybin was produced in fairly large quantities for the experimental treatment of psychological disorders. This was particularly true in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when the substance was administered in pill or capsule form. But once it was established that psilocybin was too unpredictable to be used for this purpose, its academic, scientific and psychiatric use declined.
Due in part to the negative connotations of its recreational use, psilocybin has since been the subject of little scientific research and it is unlikely that large quantities of the synthetic substance have entered the black market through this route. As a Class A or Schedule I substance, like heroin and LSD, psilocybin is tightly controlled and its illicit production is subject to severe penalties.
Although information on the chemical reactions required to produce synthetic psilocybin is readily available, there is no evidence that it has been manufactured in large quantities in clandestine laboratories, as with other psychoactive drugs. This is partly due to the complexity of the process of extracting natural psilocybin from mushrooms, but also to the fact that such production is unlikely to be profitable for criminal organizations.
Small-scale independent synthesis may occur in “home laboratories” but there is insufficient evidence to confirm this. However, it is known that unrelated legal drugs and other illicit psychedelics have been misleadingly sold as “synthetic psilocybin.
The main source of psilocybin is hallucinogenic mushrooms.
A number of mushrooms growing wild around the world are known to contain psilocybin. These include Psilocybe Semilanceata (“psilo”), Psilocybe Cubensis and Psilocybe Baeocystis.
People who ingest hallucinogenic mushrooms for their psychedelic effects can obtain them in a variety of ways. In areas where these mushrooms grow wild, consumers may seek out and collect the psilocybin varieties. This practice can be very dangerous, even fatal, as it is easy to misidentify a mushroom and pick up a very poisonous and deadly one.
Before the law changed in the last decade, the possession and sale of fresh, unprocessed psilocybin mushrooms was perfectly legal in countries like the United Kingdom. They could be purchased in some stores and stalls. But they have since become illegal in all their forms, making distribution and sale clandestine.
Like many mushrooms, hallucinogenic species are relatively easy to grow with the right knowledge. Moreover, the legality of the spores of psilocybin varieties remains more or less ambiguous. Since these spores do not contain psilocybin, they can be purchased legally for research purposes, and it has been found that a number of people are growing psilocybin mushrooms illegally in their homes. Larger-scale cultivation has also been found in abandoned buildings or similar locations, but it is less common than with other illicit drugs.
FACTS AND STATISTICS
- Psilocybin is a hallucinogenic drug, which is the main psychoactive substance in hallucinogenic mushrooms.
- Ingestion of psilocybin induces a “trip” similar to LSD. The effects include visual and auditory hallucinations, delusions and perceptual distortions. In some cases, a “bad trip” can occur, in which the person concerned is temporarily caught up in a nightmarish hallucinogenic experience.
- Psilocybin is strictly illegal in most countries, as is the possession and sale of wild mushrooms containing it.
- In the United Kingdom, psilocybin is a Class A controlled substance. Possession is punishable by up to seven years in prison. Sale or distribution, even to friends, is punishable by life imprisonment.
- In the United States, psilocybin and mushrooms containing it are considered Schedule I substances, as they are considered highly addictive and have no known medical use.
- Psilocybin is not considered chemically addictive, but some users may develop an emotional or psychological dependence. They may use it regularly to escape reality or to access quasi-spiritual experiences beyond our everyday consciousness.
- One of the main risks of using hallucinogenic mushrooms is picking the wrong varieties.
- Only a small number of mushroom species contain psilocybin. The others are mostly inert but can also be poisonous or deadly.
- Although psilocybin mushrooms have been used ritually by some cultures for thousands of years, the substance was first isolated and synthesized by chemist Albert Hoffman in 1958.
- When taken orally, the effects of psilocybin may appear after 20 to 30 minutes. In some cases, it can take up to two hours for the effects to be felt, which may lead users to take too much to compensate.
- If pure psilocybin is injected directly into the bloodstream, the effects will appear much faster, but this method is rare in illicit use.
- A trip can last anywhere from 3 to 6 hours, depending on the amount and strength of the dose taken.
- In general, hallucinogenic mushrooms contain 0.2% to 0.4% psilocybin (US authorities figures).
- According to a 2011 UK crime survey, 1.3% of 16-24 year olds admitted to taking hallucinogenic mushrooms in the past year (drug use statistics).
- 7.2% of Britons aged 16-59 reported having used hallucinogenic mushrooms at least once in their lives. 0.4% of them reported having taken them in the past year.
- An estimated 29,000 to 49,000 Britons aged 16 to 59 had taken psilocybin mushrooms in the month before the study.
- In 2008, a raid on a private property in South Carolina resulted in the seizure of 73 kilograms of psilocybin mushrooms, many of which were dried and ready to be shipped.
- The amount of dried mushrooms needed to generate psychedelic effects varies widely but is estimated at 1 to 5 grams.
SIGNS OF ADDICTION
At present, there is no evidence that psilocybin or hallucinogenic mushrooms are physically addictive in a chemical sense. However, they can be used regularly for recreational purposes, often as part of a psychedelic-type polyaddiction that may include other illegal hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD (acid) and mescaline.
A regular user of psilocybin mushrooms may have strange views and beliefs that seem far removed from the physical reality around them. These people may act in unusual ways, appear to be delusional and “jaded” and lose interest in important matters.
If they are physically under the influence of a hallucinogenic mushroom trip, the signs will be very noticeable: they may react to stimuli that do not really exist, appear disoriented and sleepy or nervous and agitated. In addition, they will probably have difficulty engaging in normal conversation. However, many of these signs are also symptomatic of taking another hallucinogenic substance, such as LSD.
The use of pure synthetic psilocybin is particularly rare, but if it is used, it will be in the form of a white crystalline powder or tablets containing the powder. Psilocybin is most often consumed in the form of dried and ground mushroom powder or capsules containing it.
The use of this substance most often involves the consumption of hallucinogenic mushrooms. These can be fresh if they have just been picked or dried, ready to be eaten. Documents on wild mushrooms, mushroom spores or other related topics can be found in the consumer’s business
Although not chemically addictive, psilocybin can still be a strong psychological addiction.
For many people, the use of hallucinogenic mushrooms and other psilocybin products is a one-time experience or an occasional treat. But for some people, psilocybin and psychedelic drug use can lead to a poly-drug addiction that is harmful to their mental health and lives.
Regular users may develop a tolerance to psilocybin and require increasingly higher doses to achieve the desired psychedelic effects. There are few studies on the long-term effects of psilocybin on the body when used in large quantities over a long period of time. No significant physiological effects have been found, but there are limited and anecdotal psychiatric reports that it may cause psychosis in some users.
However, because psychedelic drug users tend to try and use a variety of drugs on a regular basis, it is impossible to determine to what extent psilocybin may be responsible for these effects.
Because of the intense and overwhelming subjective experiences generated by psilocybin, some users may be disturbed or traumatized. Others may experience severe delusions, which will persist even after the drug is stopped. In this case, psychological treatment or counseling may be necessary to help these people regain mental balance.
Finally, psilocybin and other psychedelic drugs can trigger latent mental illnesses and personality disorders, or exacerbate previously identified conditions.
These individuals may require more specialized psychiatric help and support, including diagnosis by a mental health professional.
Recovery from psilocybin use does not require any specific detoxification program. Because psilocybin is not chemically addictive, there are no significant withdrawal effects when the drug is discontinued, as there are with opiates.
However, the psychological urge to take more drugs can be strong and lead to relapse without proper support. If the person wishes, he or she can enter a detoxification center, but this is not essential for treatment. The most important thing is that the person is able to overcome and admit their psychological dependence on the drug.
She will benefit from talk therapy and counseling sessions aimed at identifying the root causes of her addiction, helping her regain conscious control of her life and adopt healthy habits.
The “normal” state of a heavy psilocybin user is very different from the one he or she would have if he or she were living daily without the drug. For this reason, the patient may need help to readjust to a more ordinary reality. One of the main steps may be to find another way to deal with the desire to escape from reality.
If the user was taking psilocybin with other drugs, this will need to be taken into consideration in treatment.