In this article, we review basic harm reduction principles and guidelines for consuming magic shrooms safely. This is perfect for the first-timer and the experienced psychonaut alike.
What are Magic Mushrooms?
Magic mushrooms, also known as psilocybin or shrooms, are psychedelic mushrooms consumed for their hallucinogenic effects. The primary ingredient in magic mushrooms which is different from other mushrooms is psilocybin. When consumed, psilocybin is metabolized into psilocin, the molecule that creates the well-known psychedelic mushroom experience.
Researchers have discovered over 200 different species of psilocybin mushrooms, and each species has numerous strains. There are differences between mushroom species and their subsequent strains, creating a parallel to the variations of strains found within cannabis.
As with cannabis, each psilocybin strain can have varying potency and may exhibit different qualities affecting the overall flavor, shape, and potency. Some strains may emphasize visual hallucinations, while others may produce stronger emotional reactions. Importantly, the dose to achieve desired effects can vary across mushroom species.
Some common magic mushroom strains are:
- Golden Teacher
- Albino Goldies
- Psilocybe azurescens
- Allen Strain
History of Magic Mushrooms
Magic mushrooms have been consumed for thousands of years by indigenous people worldwide for medicinal and ceremonial use. Historians discovered North African and European cave paintings from 9,000 BC depicting mushrooms. In Northern Australia, rocks etched with mushroom imagery date to 10,000 BC. The ancient Greeks consumed mushrooms in ritual ceremonies, and numerous Egyptian artworks depict mushrooms which they called “food of the gods.”
Research into the therapeutic use of psilocybin began in the 1990s and continues today. In 2018-2019 the FDA granted Breakthrough Therapy status for psilocybin to treat major depressive disorder and treatment-resistant depression. More clinical trials are investigating psilocybin to treat alcohol use disorder, depression, anxiety, headaches, and Parkinson’s Disease. Psilocybin will likely become FDA-approved for depression in 2024.
What are the Effects of Magic Mushrooms?
People generally consume psilocybin in its dried form. Due to its strong flavor, some people prefer to grind their mushrooms and consume capsules, while others may brew a tea or make an edible. Each method of consumption will create a slightly different effect and have varying timelines for onset.
Psilocybin creates a shift in perception, heightened emotions, and distortion of our sense of time. Many consumers report feeling more connected and aware of their feelings and emotions, while some report having mystical experiences. It is not uncommon to feel childlike wonder or feelings of calm detachment.
Visual hallucinations are common and may include light halos, geometric patterns, distorted vision, and tracers. Overall, the psilocybin experience can be extremely positive to incredibly challenging. Post-trip people often describe feeling connected with the universe or even God.
How to Safely Consume Magic Mushrooms
The guidelines below are based on basic harm reduction principles. Harm reduction refers to strategies and principles for drug use that neither encourages nor discourages drug consumption but instead seeks to minimize the negative consequences of drug use.
Harm reduction is just as it sounds; it aims for consumers to avoid harm and employ common sense. Harm reduction presents a non-judgemental approach to people who choose to consume drugs.
Below are simple guidelines for safely consuming magic mushrooms.
What Shrooms are you Consuming?
Unless a laboratory tests your mushrooms or you grow your own, it may be challenging to know what type of mushrooms you are consuming. Knowing the strain of mushroom can help you gauge how potent the shrooms may be. For instance, P. azurescens tends to be more powerful than other strains such as the common cubensis.
Knowing where your shrooms were grown can also give you an indication of potency. Indoor-grown mushrooms boost the potency. Wild psilocybin is exposed to UV radiation, which can diminish potency.
Consider the Set and Setting
Set and setting affect how you will experience your shroom trip. Set refers to your mindset entering into the experience, and setting refers to the physical and social environment. The term set and setting was coined by Harvard researcher Timothy Leary, the infamous Harvard professor psychonaut. His research showed that the set and setting influence the outcomes of people ingesting psychedelics.
Entering into your psychedelic experience with a positive mindset increases the likelihood of a positive trip. Setting intentions and managing expectations may also help. Ask yourself questions like, “What would I like to learn from this experience?”
For the setting, or the environment in which you trip, find a comfortable and familiar space. See that the rooms are clean and uncluttered and that you have somewhere to lie down if necessary. Some people enjoy being in nature during their trip, but this may produce anxiety for others.
Start at an Appropriate Psilocybin Dose
A typical dose of psilocybin is anywhere from one to five grams. One gram is considered a low dose; however, it still produces noticeable effects. Ingesting five grams of mushrooms is a significant or “heroic dose,” a term coined by Terence McKenna. It’s important to note that the psilocybin levels within mushrooms vary from strain to strain and with each harvest.
Unless you are in a clinical setting or clinical trial, you will most likely be guessing how much psilocybin is in your mushrooms. If it’s your first go-around with a batch of mushrooms, you are dosing yourself with shrooms with untested potency. For this reason, go low and slow with your mushrooms and start with one gram or less. You’ll need to have a digital scale to have accuracy with the weight. Note that a 2013 study indicates that the caps of the mushrooms are more potent than the stalks.
Wait until the onset of your shroom experience to get a sense of how intense (or mild) your trip may be before ingesting more. The intensity tends to wane after the first two hours, but the trip can last for four to seven hours.
Do Not Mix Shrooms with Other Medication or Drugs
Mixing psilocybin with other drugs can increase or decrease the intensity of the experience and may have unintended consequences. The effects may be adverse as some medicines may not mix well with your mushrooms. In addition, psilocybin works on our serotonin system, so it is not advised to take shrooms while taking anti-depressants.
Have a Plan for a ‘Bad Trip’
If you or a friend start to have a difficult experience, you may be having a ‘bad trip.’ If so, find a safe and quiet environment to allow you to feel more comfortable. Consider playing soft music to calm your mind and practice deep breathing. If you have a challenging trip, find someone to talk to who can reassure you. Call Fireside Project, the first psychedelic peer support line. It’s free to call or text, and a volunteer will talk to you about your experience in real-time.
Take an Online Psilocybin Course
Psychedelic Support offers a free harm reduction course with more tips on how to stay safe and prepare for your journey. We also have a 9-hour online psilocybin course for more advanced learning.
This free course includes 7 components: the introduction, harm reduction history and major players, principles, and frameworks of harm reduction, risks and potential adverse consequences of psychedelic use, harm reduction strategies, harm reduction for clinicians, and resources and additional information.
This course is perfect for health professionals, guides, or researchers interested in gaining insight into the science and therapies behind psilocybin (or magic mushrooms), a plant-based medicine used to treat mental health conditions.
This online course provides a comprehensive summary of the pharmacology and effects of psilocybin, how it works in the brain, and why people can have mystical experiences and sensory-perceptual shifts. Become knowledgeable on clinical protocols, safety and efficacy results, study participant accounts, and potential risks in both medical and non-medical settings.
· 9 hours of educational content (anyone can take the course)
· CE Certificate for licensed professionals including psychologists, therapists, social workers, etc.
· CME Certificate (AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™) for doctors, nurses, medical professionals, etc.