History of Mushrooms
Psilocybin, also known as magic mushrooms, is not at all similar to the strain of mushrooms that is sauteed on your filet mignon at dinner. The psychedelic drug has been used for centuries to induce feelings of higher consciousness. Mushrooms have been documented as far as 9,000 B.C. in North African indigenous cultures based on representations in rock paintings.
Other illustrations of the drug have been found in Mayan and Aztec ruins in Central America where the Aztecs called the substance “teonanacatl.” That name is translated to “flesh of the gods,” and many believe this refers to magic mushrooms. Even when Spanish Catholic missionaries came to the New World in the 16th century, they discussed the use of mushrooms in their journals.
While some of the information is highly controversial, some critics say none of this is true and that people see what they want to see. But again, there is no evidence to believe otherwise. What is definitive, however, is that in the 1950s, Westerners began to consume the drug.
- Gordon Wasson who was a mycologist (a person who studies magic mushrooms), traveled through Mexico in 1955 to gather research about how the drug was used and its effects. During his time, he began witnessing and participating in the ritual ceremonies that used magic mushrooms. These rituals were conducted by a shaman of the Mazatec, indigenous people residing in the Oaxaca region of Southern Mexico. He was fascinated by what he witnessed and made his findings public.
- Gordon Wasson’s research led to Harvard University becoming a testing ground in the 1960s to determine the use of mushrooms in clinical psychiatry. During this time, though, a rise of unauthorized use of psychedelic drugs was gaining negative attention from the press, and soon after, psilocybin was made a Schedule I drug by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Once the DEA deemed this drug illicit, it was much more difficult to get the funding necessary to obtain mushrooms for testing. Despite the legal restrictions in the 1970s, mushrooms were known as the entheogen of choice.
Because of a lack of clarity about laws for psilocybin mushrooms, retailers in the late 1990s and early 2000s began to commercialize and market mushrooms in smart shops throughout the Netherlands. Since that time, however, the European Union has strengthened its legislation on psilocybin mushrooms in response to concerns about their prevalence and increasing usage. With that said, are mushrooms a problem? Are mushrooms addictive? Why does the public so scrutinize them? We will examine these questions in depth below, but first, let’s take a look at what mushrooms are.
What are Mushrooms?
Psilocybin, the active ingredient in mushrooms, is a naturally occurring substance that is consumed for its hallucinogenic effects. Mushrooms belong to a group of drugs known as psychedelics because of their ability to alter perception, mood, and thoughts. When psilocybin is ingested, the body converts it to psilocin, which is the chemical with psychoactive properties. These ingredients are found in more than 75 species of mushrooms native to tropical and subtropical areas of South America, Mexico, Southeast Asia, Europe, and the United States.
The potency of mushrooms vary widely between strains, but on average most contain .2 percent to .4 percent psilocybin and only trace amounts of psilocin. Fresh or dried psilocybin mushrooms can be ingested either whole orally, sprinkled on top of food, or after being brewed to make a tea. Dried mushrooms can also be crushed into a powder and prepared in capsule form. In its pure powder form, psilocybin can be prepared in capsules, tablets, or solution. It can also be consumed orally, sniffed, smoked, or injected, though these are less common routes of administration.
How Do Mushrooms Affect the Body?
Mushrooms affect the central nervous system by interrupting the regular interaction of nerve cells, and the functioning of the neurotransmitter serotonin thought to be structurally similar. The effects that psilocybin creates vary from one user to another and depend on several factors from age, type, dosage, and the setting the mushrooms are used. Mushrooms can take 20 minutes to two hours to take effect, and last anywhere from three to six hours.
Physical effects of psilocybin include:
- Increased heart rate/blood pressure
- Pupil dilation
- Lack of coordination
- Dry mouth
- Facial flushing
Psychological effects of psilocybin include:
- Heightened sensory experiences and perceptual distortions
- Auditory, tactile, and visual hallucinations
- Difficulty focusing
- Altered perception of space and time
- Inability to distinguish fantasy from reality
- Impaired judgment
- Melding of past experiences with present
- Feelings of unity with the environment
- Intense spiritual experiences
- Adverse reactions that include frightening hallucinations, confusion, disorientation, paranoia
Mushroom trips have the potential to be dangerous when the user disassociates from reality. When someone believes they are in a different universe, it’s possible they believe they possess superhuman powers and can commit dangerous acts. Unfortunately, this could lead to death. The more someone continues to use mushrooms, the more they increase their odds of a less than desirable outcome.
Can Mushrooms Be Addictive?
Mushrooms are a physically non-addictive hallucinogen but have the potential to be habit-forming. The main problem with the substance is that tolerance can be built up quickly, which reduces the effect of the drug. Tolerance will last for a few days and cause what’s known as cross-tolerance with other psychedelics like DMT (N, N-Dimethyltryptamine), LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide), and mescaline. Since mushrooms are not physically addictive, they are not linked to brain damage. The drug has a low toxicity level, and withdrawal symptoms are not exhibited due to continued mushrooms use.
While it is not physically addictive, there is a chance someone can become psychologically addicted to mushrooms. There have been mentions of its spiritual journey that become addictive, and this will lead people to abuse mushrooms because they seek a higher level of consciousness. The psychological addiction stems from being addicted to taking the trip and feeling a new sense of purpose in the duration of their trip.
Signs of Mushroom Dependence
It can become increasingly obvious if someone has become dependent on or is abusing mushrooms. Since the trips are intense, you will have an easy time distinguishing if someone is high on mushrooms. There are signs to look for that include:
- DIlated pupils
- Changes in personality
- Distorted perceptions
- Loss of appetite
Mushroom Addiction Treatment
Mushrooms do not present a period of withdrawal, though long-term users of the drug may experience flashbacks, depression, and insomnia as a result of stopping use. Treatment provided for mushrooms is much different than what most facilities offer. A user has become dependent on living in a fantasy world, and psychological therapy is imperative to help bring the person back to reality.
An effective treatment will use several methods to implement a personalized program that treats not only the mushroom abuse but any other disorders that could be fueling someone to disassociate from reality. If you or someone you know is dealing with a dependence on mushrooms and doesn’t know where to turn for help, it’s imperative to seek treatment as quickly as possible. Fortunately, at Ocean Breeze Recovery, we are equipped with the highest level specialists to treat any kind of addiction or dependence.