Tripping on magic mushrooms may actually free the mind, a new study says. The compounds in the (illegal) mushrooms change the way the brain works.
New research suggests that psilocybin, the main psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms, sprouts new links across previously disconnected brain regions, temporarily altering the brain’s entire organizational framework.
These new connections are likely what allow users to experience things like seeing sounds or hearing colours. And they could also be responsible for giving magic mushrooms some of their antidepressant qualities.
When researchers compared the brains of people who had received IV injections of psilocybin with those of people given a placebo, they found that the drug changed how information was carried across the brain. (Subjects received 2 milligrams of psilocybin; the dose and concentration of the chemical in actual mushrooms — which are eaten, not injected — varies.) Typically, brain activity follows specific neural networks. But in the people given psilocybin injections, cross-brain activity seemed more erratic, as if freed from its normal framework.
When the researchers looked more closely, however, they noticed that the sparks of activity across the brains of their drugged volunteers wasn’t as chaotic as it seemed.
Instead, the activity formed distinct patterns, or cycles.
“The brain does not simply become a random system after psilocybin injection,” the researchers wrote, “but instead retains some organizational features, albeit different from the normal state.”
Picture the information in your brain being shared across an interconnected and heavily-trafficked system of highways. In that example, psilocybin isn’t removing the highways. Instead, it’s simply building new ones.
Visualisation of the brain connections in the brain of a person on psilocybin (right) and the brain of a person not given the drug.
These new connections allow parts of the brain that don’t usually talk to one another to communicate. People who use magic mushrooms and see the number 52 as glowing bright blue and red, then, don’t see it that way because the drugs have made them crazy. Instead, they associate the number with colours because the brain region that detects and interprets colour has been chatting it up with the brain region that processes numbers.
This new insight into what psilocybin does to the brain could help explain years of earlier findings on psilocybin’s psychological effects, including how magic mushrooms seem to curb symptoms of depression.
In a 2012 study, Imperial College London neuroscientist David Nutt found that in people drugged with psilocybin, brain chatter across traditional areas of the brain was muted, including in a region thought to play a role in maintaining our sense of self. In depressed people, Nutt believes, the connections between brain circuits in this sense-of-self region are too strong. “People who get into depressive thinking, their brains are overconnected,” Nutt told Psychology Today. Negative thoughts and feelings of self-criticism become obsessive and overwhelming.
Loosening those connections and creating new ones, Nutt thinks, could provide intense relief.
Johns Hopkins psychologists came to similar findings when they induced out of body experiences in a small group of volunteers dosed with psilocybin. Immediately following their sessions, participants said they felt more open, more imaginative, and more appreciative of beauty. When the researchers followed up with the volunteers a year later, nearly two-thirds said the experience had been one of the most important in their lives; close to half continued to score higher on a personality test of openness than they had before taking the drug.
Nick Fernandez, a former cancer patient and psychology graduate student who took psilocybin as part of a New York University study, experienced those same feelings of freedom and positivity.
“For the first time in my life, I felt like there was… a force greater than myself,” Fernandez told Aeon Magazine. “Something inside me snapped and I experienced a… shift that made me realise all my anxieties, defenses, and insecurities weren’t something to worry about.”
For centuries, « magic » mushrooms have been both celebrated and reviled for their mind-expanding properties.
Research and popular use of psychedelic drugs like mushrooms and LSD surged in the 1960s, when the substances first entered the American cultural consciousness on a large scale, and came to define ’60s counterculture. At this time, thousands of studies were conducted to determine the properties and potential therapeutic applications of the drugs. But in 1970, the Controlled Substances Act brought an end to this era of science-based open-mindedness, and greatly limited drug research for the next four decades.
Today, research on psychedelic drugs is experiencing a renaissance of sorts. A growing body of scientific studies from major universities and medical centers suggests that the substances may hold promise as therapeutic interventions for a number of mental health conditions.
‘Shrooms are known to trigger hallucinations, feelings of euphoria, perceptual distortions, inability to distinguish fantasy from reality, and sometimes a mystical feelings of oneness with nature. Because of their ability to temporarily create profound changes in consciousness, and sometimes lasting changes in psychological well-being, mushrooms have been an area of particular interest among both scientists and recreational drug users.
Here’s what else we know about mushrooms, what they do the human brain, and how.
Psychedelic mushrooms grow naturally all over the world.
According to most estimates, more than 180 species of fungus produce psilocybin or psilocin, the two psychoactive substances most commonly associated with psychedelic mushrooms. While not all « magic mushrooms » rely on these compounds to produce mind-altering effects, the majority of fungus now used for recreational and entheogenic purposes are fruiting bodies from the genus Psilocybe, though species in other genera also contain psilocybin or psilocin. Psilocybin mushrooms grow naturally across a variety of climates and on every continent except Antarctica.
Mycologists — biologists who specialize in the study of fungus — believe that psilocybin and psilocin, as well as a number of other naturally occurring compounds, serve as an evolutionary defense mechanism for these species. While many of the psilocybin mushrooms typically consumed by humans don’t contain enough of these chemicals to be fatally toxic, at least to adults, they are potent enough to deter predation by many other species. A trio of goats made news a few years back when they reportedly ate psilocybin mushrooms and started acting strange, for example. The animals were sick and disoriented, according to their owner, but returned to normal after a few days. Humans who eat mushrooms may exhibit similar symptoms of physical discomfort — along with intense psychological effects that the goats obviously couldn’t articulate.
Two of the most common species of psychedelic mushrooms are Psilocybe cubensis, the most popular on the black market, and Psilocybe semilanceata, the most widespread in the wild. Both of these species grow in the United States, though they have been known to appear in different climates. The concentration of psilocybin and psilocin present in each of these species has also been found to range greatly depending on the individual mushrooms.
Mushrooms have been used by humans for their reality-altering properties for thousands of years.
Stone mushrooms were a staple of Mayan art. (Photo by Getty Images)
Fungi have inhabited the earth for more than 400 million years, and early ritualistic use of hallucinogenic mushrooms may date as far back as 9,000 years ago. Some anthropologists have argued that mushrooms held a central place in many early cultures — including Greece, India and Mesoamerican cultures — and have had a profound impact on human evolution. According to one radical theory from philosopher Terence McKenna, the incorporation of psychedelics (particularly magic mushrooms) into primitive diets may have been the catalyst for significant evolutionary advances, including the development of self-awareness and language.
Anthropologists have speculated that magic mushrooms may have been the inspiration for prehistoric rock paintings in the Sahara desert, which prominently feature mushroom imagery. They may have played a role in the evolution of Christianity, as well. Philologist John Allegro, who translated the Dead Sea Scrolls, has presented evidence for worship of psychedelic mushrooms in the early Christian era.
Historically, psychedelic mushrooms have been perhaps most widely associated with the ancient Maya. Mushroom stones and motifs have been found in Mayan temple ruins, and several varieties of psilocybin, as well as hallucinogenic Amanita muscaria mushrooms, were thought to have been available to the Mayans. Mushrooms are a common trope in Mayan art, and their symbolism often connects mushrooms with a “dreamlike state” — for instance, a man with mushrooms all over his feet. The fact that these scenes are depicted in Mayan art and even in the codices suggests that mushroom use was an important aspect of society worthy of recording. Large mushroom stones can also be found throughout areas of Guatemala that were inhabited by the Mayans. While there are different theories to explain the presence of these stones, some have suggested that they were involved in ritual consumption of mushrooms, or that there may have even been cult worship around the mushrooms.
And the taboo surrounding psychedelic mushrooms is nothing new.
Psychologist and writer Timothy Leary conducted experiments on mushrooms in the 1960s through the Harvard Psilocybin Project.
When Western Christian conquistadors swept through Mesoamerica in the 16th century, they suppressed many aspects of traditional spiritual expression, including the use of mushrooms. Historians believe mushroom cults and shamans who used psilocybin to obtain what they believed to be a deeper understanding of the world were pushed underground, not to be widely rediscovered for hundreds of years.
But mushrooms still played an important medicinal and spiritual role in a number of indigenous cultures, despite their lengthy disappearance from the Western record. Fast-forward to 1955, when psychedelic mushrooms entered the American mainstream. R. Gordan Wasson — author, ethnomycologist and vice president of JP Morgan & Co. — and his wife Valentina became the first known non-native-Americans to actively participate in an indigenous Mazatec mushroom ceremony in Mexico. The Wassons published a popular article about their experiences, which appeared on the cover of Life Magazine in 1957. The article inspired psychologist and psychedelic pioneer Timothy Leary to travel to Mexico and try it for himself. Leary and Richard Alpert (now Ram Dass) started the Harvard Psilocybin Project to promote research on psychedelics, which led to their dismissal from the university in 1963.
Leary and others’ popularization of mushrooms led to the creation of a psychedelic underground, associated with the counterculture moment of the 1960s, and an explosion in their non-indigenous usage. It also inspired President Richard Nixon to label Leary « the most dangerous man in America. »
Our understanding of mushrooms has been stunted by decades of prohibitive international and domestic law.
Nixon ushered in a new era of prohibitive law, marginalizing drug use along with research about its potential therapeutic aspects.
In 1970, Nixon passed the Controlled Substances Act as a precursor to what would soon be called the War on Drugs. Psilocybin and psilocin, as well as any « containers, » i.e. mushrooms, holding these psychoactive compounds were determined to be Schedule I drugs, considered to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. A year later, with input from U.S. authorities, the United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances was passed, also making psilocybin and psilocin — though not the mushrooms containing them — Schedule I drugs.
Certain nations are relatively permissive when it comes to psychedelic mushrooms. Until 2008 in the Netherlands, the drugs were sold openly in special shops, though the law has since been changed to permit only the sale of a specific kind of psychedelic truffle. Other nations, like Brazil and Spain, operate on the language of the U.N. convention, which doesn’t explicitly mention psychedelic mushrooms themselves.
In the U.S., laws regulating the growth, possession and harvesting of psychedelic mushrooms vary slightly by state. But it’s safe to bet that no matter where you live, authorities will crack down hard on any and all hallucinogenic drugs, no matter how natural they are.
Which means much of the current debate focuses on recreational use and the black market trade that sustains it.
Homer Simpson goes on a psychedelic spiritual journey in « El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer (The Mysterious Voyage of Homer), » Season 8, Episode 9 of « The Simpsons. »
Psilocybin mushroom grow naturally in a variety of habitats, from grasses and gardens, to rotting wood and animal feces. But with a healthy market for illegal psychedelic fungi, growers have taken to more reliable and controllable methods of cultivation in order to maximize profit.
Indoor operations frequently involve mushroom spores being injected into prepared beds of nutrients that are most frequently stored in jars or boxes. Given the proper conditions, the fungus can be fully grown and picked in a matter of days or weeks. Mushrooms that are specifically cultivated for recreational use are often harvested before they reach full maturity, when they contain more potent concentrations of psilocybin. After picking, mushrooms are dried in order to preserve the psychoactive ingredients within. Mushrooms are then typically eaten or boiled to make a tea.
Street prices for mushrooms vary, but the Drug Enforcement Administration puts them at about $20 for an eighth of an ounce — considered a strong personal dose for a « trip » — and $100 to $120 for an ounce. One particularly large bust of a mushroom growing ring in Ohio in 2013 reportedly turned up 503 pounds of material containing psilocybin, at a street value of more than $800,000.
Modern research has found that psilocybin can, quite literally, expand consciousness.
In a recent brain-scanning study, British researchers found that ingesting psilocybin caused normally disconnected brain regions to communicate with each other. FMRI scans showed that the connections aren’t random — the brain retains its organizational features, but the connections are completely different than they are in a normal brain state. This helps to explain some of the common effects of psilocybin reported by users, such as new insights and world-shattering realizations, synesthesia and nonlinear thinking.
Other research showed that psilocybin dampens activity in areas of the brain associated with sensory processing. Normally, these areas pose constraints on the way we experience the world through our senses, grounding us in material reality. By reducing activity in these areas, the senses are heightened and perception seems to expand. These brain regions are also the seat of the ego and are responsible for giving us our sense of self, so by hindering their activity, users often report experiences of oneness with the universe and interconnection.
Psilocybin also carries potential longterm effects, both positive and negative.
Mushroom users commonly report experiencing enhanced visual perception, with colors appearing more vibrant and surfaces appearing to melt or breathe.
Just one experience with psilocybin can have lasting positive emotional and psychological effects. Psychedelic experiences can make individuals more open-minded, Johns Hopkins researchers found. One “trip” was enough to cause significant changes in the “openness to experience” personality domain — which is associated with creativity, intellectual curiosity and an appreciation for art and beauty — for over a year.
It’s important to note, however, that while the risk of overdose is extremely low (a user would have to ingest over 35 pounds of fresh mushrooms to reach fatal levels of toxicity), experimenting with the substance doesn’t come without risk. Some users report experiences of heightened fear, anxiety and paranoia while tripping — in some cases, if the panic reaction is great enough, they may pose a threat to themselves or others. Research has also found psilocybin to produce a psychosis-like syndrome that mirrors early episodes of schizophrenia, and some experts have suggested that psilocybin may trigger or exacerbate mental health conditions like schizophrenia, mania and depression. More research is needed to determine psilocybin’s potential longterm physical and mental health impacts.
Psilocybin could also have significant therapeutic uses.
The stigma of psychedelics may be slowly shifting as more and more research finds that substances like LSD and psilocybin show promise as therapeutic tools for dealing with a range of mental health problems.
Johns Hopkins researchers found that using small amounts of psilocybin in a controlled setting could lead to life-changing positive experiences that increased longterm psychological well-being. Fourteen months after the experience, a full 94 percent of the study’s subjects ranked taking the drug in a therapeutic setting as one of the top five most meaningful experiences of their lives, and 39 percent said it was the single most meaningful experience of their lives. Friends and family members also reported seeing positive changes in the subjects, saying that the experience had made them calmer, happier and kinder. The researchers said that they ultimately hope to see whether transcendent experiences, facilitated by taking psilocybin in therapeutic settings, could help treat conditions like addiction, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Psilocybin is effective in reducing anxiety among terminal cancer patients, UCLA researchers found, and has also been shown to lead to a reduction in symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
The therapeutic uses could include potential treatment for PTSD and depression.
Magic mushrooms may be particularly promising as treatment for PTSD. A 2013 study found that psilocybin could alleviate the fear response in mice, a finding which may lay the foundation for future research on fear in humans.
By helping people to literally escape destructive thoughts, mushrooms could also be a promising treatment for depression. Depression is associated with over-connectivity of the default mode network — the brain network associated with self-consciousness, rumination and introspection — which can lead to excessive negative self-thought. Recent brain imaging studies from Imperial College London have shown magic mushrooms to quiet down the default mode network.
As Imperial College neuropsychopharmacology professor David Nutt told CNN, “This could create a paradigm shift to help people into a different state of thinking that they can then stay in. »
But we have a long way to go to fully grasp the effects and potential uses for mushrooms.
Currently, the government does not fund psychedelic research, so funding is left in the hands of private organizations like the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies.
While the Western resistance to psychedelic research remains a stumbling block, scientists are optimistic.
« [Psilocybin therapy] is a tremendously interesting model in that a single dose can have therapeutic utility for months, » Stephen Ross, director of addiction psychiatry at New York University Tisch Hospital, and principal investigator on the NYU Psilocybin Cancer Project, told Medscape last year. « That is a novel development in mental health. »
What Happened When a 65-Year-Old Had a Mushroom Trip
The Mind Unleashed
on 14 November, 2014 at 21:36
Cassius Methyl, Guest | In August, a 65 year-old woman named Estalyn Walcoff had a life changing experience with Psilocin, the active chemical in psychedelic mushrooms, or ‘shrooms’, the Psilocybe Family of mushrooms.
Estalyn volunteered to participate in a study of how psilocybin (which turns to Psilocin in the liver) affects the brain in cancer patients with anxiety and depression.
She had severe anxiety from her diagnosis with an unspecified aggressive form of cancer five years ago until her experience with this drug changed her forever, successfully easing her anxiety about cancer.
Watch her story below
Estalyn took a seat in a comfortable room, and she was handed a pill by a few researchers. Without knowing whether or not it was a placebo, she took it, and within an hour she started to trip.
Initially, she felt feelings of intense anxiety and panic. She said
“I experienced great anxiety[…]I experienced it as physical pain and then I began to see that it was actually a level of my mind. And underneath that I began to feel great emotional pain.”
She ended up crying for hours, until a feeling of unprecedented clarity and positivity was left in the wake of the pain.
“The worst pain and the worst fear and the worst anxiety turned into something that has opened, which is the most precious thing I’ve ever known,” she continued to say. “And to think I wouldn’t have known it — oh my gosh I can’t believe I wouldn’t have known it. It was a sense, I wish I could put it into words, but a sense of connectedness that runs through all of us.”
The way psilocybin (psilocin) works, is that it enables a person to make new mental passageways in the brain, and dig deep into the tunnels of the mind for better or for worse.
A person would find the best results with Psilocin exercising the mental strength to handle the ‘tunnels’ they dive down while on shrooms, but even the unprepared are usually left with that clarity at the end of a trip. A person using Psilocin must utilize the ability to connect rarely used parts of the mind for the creation of beneficialthought processes, to have success with it. The construction of beneficial thought processes that are remembered and utilized after tripping, is a major benefit of taking them.
As many of you reading this probably know by now, psilocybin mushrooms can also cause people to do such things as cry for hours, or suddenly start thinking about previously bottled up emotions for long periods of time. This is a common occurrence.
Past trauma and suppressed problems that were never fully solved in the mind or recognized often surface on these mushrooms, and after a person does something like cry for hours or spend their mushroom trip uncontrollably revisiting the bottled up emotions/trauma, the emotions or trauma cease to exist because the individual finally dealt with it.
When your subconscious has to tolerate bottling up things instead of thinking them through and painstakingly untangling the subconscious, you end up jumbled, anxious, experiencing symptoms of a tangled subconscious.
The same feeling of a tangled subconscious can come from having incomplete thoughts, forgetting what you are saying or what you needed to do ect. These mushrooms can untangle your subconscious even if you are initially scared as you trip.
A report was released on October 28th that was covered all throughout the independent and corporate media, showing a chart of brain activity on psilocin. The chart can be viewed below. It quite perfectly illustrates the beneficial function of psilocybin (psilocin) in helping to create new mental pathways.
Paul Expert, researcher at Kings College London Center for Neuroimaging Sciences and author of the study mentioned above, had this to say:
“One of the characteristics of the depressed brain is that it gets stuck in a loop, you get locked into repetitive and negative thoughts,” and “The idea is that using psilocybin might help break the loop and change the patterns of functional connectivity in the brain.”
So why are people still being locked in cages for using psilocybin mushrooms? Because the government does not care if shrooms are dangerous or not, and they do not care for morality.
Please share this with as many people as possible, for the sake of all the people currently rotting behind bars for using, growing, or selling this amazing product of nature.
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