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  • Shrooms – What are They? What are Their Side Effects?

    What are Shrooms?

    Psilocybe cubensis is the scientific name for Psilocybin mushrooms or simply Shrooms. They are a type of fungus that people have been using for over nine thousand years. Presently, people mostly use them as a recreational drug. People often refer to them as “magic” mushrooms due to their “magical” effects on one’s brain. However, the scientific name itself translates to a less flattering name: Bald Head. Shrooms grow in different parts of Europe, Africa, and America. They are probably most famous for their psychedelic properties. Notably, this is because of their two potent substances, psilocybin and psilocin. They are the ones which bring about the psychedelic effects.

    What Are Shrooms?

    Two Potent Chemicals Found in Shrooms — Psilocybin and Psilocin

    Psilocybin and psilocin are the two most important chemicals found in shrooms. They trigger the so-called “shroom trip”. When you eat it, Psilocybin breaks down into the active ingredient called psilocin. Psilocin acts as a blocking agent. In this case, it prevents the reuptake of the neurotransmitter called serotonin. Additionally, psilocin and serotonin are similar in structure. As a result, it means that psilocin can bind and stimulate the receptors in the brain. This type of brain stimulation causes the shroom user to perceive and experience things without any real stimulus. This is what we refer to as hallucinations.

    What does it mean that Shrooms are psychedelic?

    A psychedelic experience is defined as a temporary altered state of consciousness brought on by psychedelic drugs. Such a state is considered elevated or higher than an ordinary experience. The term “psychedelic” derives from two Greek words, ‘psyche’ meaning mind or soul and ‘delos’ meaning to reveal. This term was coined in the 1950s because psychedelic drugs are thought to reveal parts of the mind usually hidden.

    The Various Factors

    The effects of shrooms usually last for an average of around 6 hours during which one’s mindset is altered into a dream like state. Users have tried to explain feeling as if the world was no longer real. Shrooms can have a positive or negative effect on one’s mood. Timothy Leary from Harvard University conducted a study in the 1960s investigating the role of “the setting” on the effects of shrooms. The finding revealed that many things affected the positive or negative experience while on shrooms including the number of people you are surrounded by. Shrooms heighten your suggestibility making the user more susceptible to interpersonal contact and visual stimuli. All of these factors play a part in what kind of experience one has on shrooms. It is also important to note that moods may change rapidly while under the influence of shrooms.

    Once the shrooms are digested there is a wide variety of feelings that may occur, pleasant ones such as euphoria, joy, and awe, or negative feelings of depression, lethargy or disorientation.

    Hallucinations

    With low doses closed eye hallucinations are common, such as seeing geometric shapes and colors. Sometimes these hallucinations include synesthesia, for example being able to hear or taste a specific color. At higher doses, open-eye hallucinations may occur, and though often very detailed they are not commonly confused with reality. At higher doses, people may also revert back to childlike emotional processing and thinking. They may experience a heightened sense of introspection and may see memories from their past with which they hold great emotional value.

    Long-Term Effects

    There was a study conducted in 2011 by Roland R. Griffiths that suggests that a single, high dose of the drug found in shrooms (psilocybin) can cause long-term personality changes in its users.There was an increase in the personality dimension of openness, which was still measurable a year after the experiment. It was suggested that the mystical experiences users have while under the influence may be the underlying cause of lasting change. Studies have shown that psilocybin reliably triggers mystical-type experiences. There are religions still to this day, such as the Native American Church, that incorporate the use of psychedelic substances such as psilocybin into their practices. In this religious context, it is used as a way of communicating with the realm of spirits or included in ceremonies.

    Shrooms in History

    Shrooms are believed to have been in use for the past 7,000 years. Archaeologists found evidence dating back to that time period in the Sahara desert, though there are representations of it in ancient art in different regions of the world. Most commonly it is shown in a religious context, often as part of a ceremony or a right of passage.

    Mesoamerican Culture

    We have evidence of its use in the ancient Mayan and Aztec cultures of Mesoamerica, specifically in Mexico and Guatemala. Once the Spanish conquered the land in the 15th and 16th century they sent out a decree banning the use of shrooms, claiming that their use was primitive and uncivilized. The ban was not successful though, and the Mayans and Aztec continued on using shrooms for 400 years in secret. They defied the Spanish law, therefore keeping their culture and traditions alive.

    Western Culture

    Albert Hoffman, a Swiss chemist, was the first to isolate psilocybin in a laboratory setting in 1957, and a year later was the first time it was produced synthetically.

    He may have been the first to isolate it but the first mention of shrooms in Western culture came to us thanks to 4 children in 1799, who were accidentally fed a species of hallucinogenic mushrooms. That is the first documented case of psilocybin in the West.

    1960’s Counterculture

    In 1957 Time Magazine published a photo essay titled “Seeking the Magic Mushroom” by Gordon Wasson. His apparent obsession with hallucinogenic mushrooms had driven him to travel to Oaxaca, Mexico where he met with members of a Mazatec Indian tribe. There he was introduced to mystic shamanism. He documented his experiences in the Time Magazine article which encouraged two Harvard researchers, Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert, to follow in his footsteps and travel to Mexico themselves. After having their own experiences with psychedelic mushrooms in Oaxaca, they returned and started the Harvard Psilocybin Project. Harvard University did not like that very much and they were both quickly fired. Jobless in 1962  they decided to start a psychedelic movement. That is how shrooms became a staple of the 1960s counterculture.

    The substance was widely unregulated until 1971 when it was listed in the UN’s Convention on Psychotropic Substances and classified as a schedule I drug in the United States. This made it illegal in America as well as a majority of countries, with a few exceptions.

    Currently, the DEA and other organizations have loosened the rules allowing psilocybin to be used in a variety of controlled research trials, producing new evidence as to how it could be used as a therapeutic tool.

    Do “Magic” Mushrooms Have Medicinal Value?

    shroomsIt was as early as 1960 that they conducted various experiments on the positive effects of shrooms. In addition, scientists also studied their potential medicinal value. Unfortunately, researchers were never able to reveal their medicinal properties. However, you could still legally use it in neuroscience to treat various mental diseases. Some professionals claim that psilocin, like LSD for instance, can have enormous beneficial effects on one’s mental health. You can use “magic” mushrooms to treat depression, anxiety, and even addiction. Of course, this is when you use it in a controlled setting, under the supervision of a doctor. The patient needs to consume the proper dosage.

    What are the Effects of Shrooms?

    Shrooms can have three types of effects: positive, neutral and negative. The most common effects of shrooms are different types of hallucinations. They can vary between visual, auditory, or mystical. Mostly, people choose to use shrooms as a recreational drug. As a result, it takes them to a different dimension. Some users have reported experiencing the most profound spiritual journey while consuming shrooms. Meanwhile, others expressed feelings of dissatisfaction. Unfortunately, this is due to their horrid hallucinations.

    Positive Effects

    Some of the shrooms’ positive effects include:

    • Mood enhancing, euphoric state
    • Laughing and giggling, general feelings of happiness
    • Intense flow of creativity, which can occur in different forms
    • Enhanced insightfulness ideas and strong sense of creative energy
    • A strong feeling of wonder and awe
    • Uplifting sensation, spiritual awakening
    • Decreased depression

    Neutral Effects

    You can view the following effects of shrooms as neutral. Of course, this is due to the fact that they don’t carry any extensively negative or positive properties. The neutral effects may include:

    • Becoming fully aware of emotions and sensations
    • Dilation of pupils
    • Ability to retrieve memories
    • Energetic experience (such as buzzing, humming) in one’s body
    • Slightly increased or decreased heart rate
    • “Stretchiness” physical sensation of limbs

    Negative Effects

    Even though Shrooms are purportedly far less harmful than other recreational substances. They include LSD, Marijuana and even alcohol. On the other hand, they can trigger undesirable effects in the body. Some of these include:

    • Headaches
    • Intense fear, followed by paranoia
    • Nausea mostly happens when you eat raw or dried mushrooms
    • Anxiety, due to a higher dose
    • Dizziness and confusion
    • Shrooms can exacerbate mental illness or trigger latent mental disorders
    • Disruption of attention
    • Dangerous repercussions when mixed with alcohol
    • Problems with blood pressure

    One Dose of Shrooms Might Change you for Good

    Shrooms could alter one’s thinking and affect the brain for a staggering 14 months after one consumption. That is more than a year. This is unlike other substances that people choose to abuse for recreational reasons. Some of them take a longer periods to exude their long-lasting effects.

    A 2011 study, found that people who took one dose of psilocybin showed more interest in new experiences.
    Interestingly enough, this went on for about 14 months. On a more scientific note, the explanation might lie in psilocybin’s effects on emotions. According to the majority of people, mushroom trips are extremely profound. They flood the user with various emotions such as joy, euphoria, and connectedness. Furthermore, people report that these illuminating and transcendent experiences linger on for a considerable amount of time. Some may experience it for 3 or 4 hours. Meanwhile, it affected others for even 8 hours after just one consumption of a medium dose.

    Popularity of Shrooms/ Current Usage

    There are over 30 million psychedelic users in the United States alone, psilocybin mushrooms being the most popular psychedelic used by people under 34. It is particularly popular amongst college students. A 2012 study in the US found that nearly 30% of the 400 students it surveyed had tried shrooms at least once. It is interesting to compare usage looking at whether or not the substance is legal at the time of the study.

    In the year 2004/2005, right before shrooms were made completely illegal in the UK,

    almost 340,000 people aged 16–59 admitted to having used magic mushrooms. Now surveys in 12 EU countries have discovered that only 1-8% of people aged 15-24 admit to the use of shrooms.

    Are Shrooms Legal?

    As stated earlier, psilocybin is illegal in most countries. But despite that, some places have found loopholes in the law to allow certain forms of the substance to be purchased. For example in Holland, it is perfectly legal to purchase “magic truffles” which contain psilocybin. Other countries that have found ways to allow psilocybin to be consumed in some form are Brazil, the British Virgin Islands, Jamaica and the Netherlands. Whether it is an unspoken rule, the authorities turn a blind eye or the law does not extend to religious ceremonies (such as ayahuasca), these countries allow certain forms of the substance.

    When not to Take Shrooms?

    If you are a person battling various cardiovascular diseases. They include coronary artery disease (narrowing of the arteries), abnormal heart rhythms, arrhythmias or congenital heart disease. Try to avoid taking shrooms at all cost. Also, if you are pregnant and/or breastfeeding, make sure to stay clear of this type of fungus.