What is Psilocybin?

Psilocybin is the psychoactive compound found in some species of fungi. The effects of this drug vary depending on the dose. At low doses, its primary effect is perceptual distortions and alterations of mood, with the presence of lucid awareness. At high doses, the experience for the user is much more profound, with the subject’s brain exploring thoughts it otherwise never would’ve considered. There is often a sense of connectedness, humour, and wonder. Users stress that the setting and mood prior and during the process greatly affects the outcome of the experience. Peripheral vision often becomes distorted and at high doses, waviness of vision, and hallucinations have been reported. Users have mentioned impaired judgement of time or distance, sense of unreality or even depersonalisation. When the experience is over, one often feels very calm, at peace, but also can feel tired and mentally drained.

After ingestion, psilocybin is converted into the pharmacologically active form psilocin, which is structurally similar to serotonin, and therefore interacts with subtypes of serotonin receptors, but does not interact with dopamine receptors.

There are over 50 species of fungi that produce psilocybin, with most being small brown or tan mushrooms. In the wild, these mushrooms are easily mistaken for any number of non-psychoactive, inedible, or poisonous mushrooms. This makes them difficult, and potentially hazardous, to identify.

Doses of dry mushrooms range from 1–5 grams depending on the species of fungi. Doses of fresh mushrooms are often 5-10x higher in grams. Effects begin 30 min to 1 hour after ingestion and the effects last 4–6 hours.

In 1971, Psilocybin was proclaimed a Schedule 1 drug, however, compared to other Schedule 1 drugs, there have been very few prolific cases that have reached court.

Psilocybin is currently being tested for its medicinal efficacy to treat psychiatric disorders, including chronic depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, drug or alcohol dependency, and also for terminally ill patients to help them deal with the fear of death.

Perhaps the largest potential future use will be microdosing psilocybin. At low doses, psilocybin offers none of the hallucinogenic effects, but does appear to generate creative ideas and innovative answers to problems for its users.

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