“Magic” Mushrooms

“Magic” mushrooms are mushrooms that contain psychedelic properties. Technically…. all mushrooms are magic…

There is also a class of mushrooms called Amanita Muscaria that are becoming more and more popular. Amanitas are legal, psychoactive and also can contain some psychedelic properties.

However, for the purposes of this section we are going to stick with “magic” mushrooms that contain tryptamines. More specifically… “magic” mushrooms that contain the tryptamine psilocybin. The most popular mushroom that fits this description is the Psilocybe cubensis.  Panaeolus (including Copelandia), Inocybe, Pluteus, Gymnopilus, and Pholiotina are some of the biological genera that include psilocybin mushrooms. 

 

Psilocybin -> Psilocin

Psilocybin undergoes a fascinating metabolic transformation within the human body, primarily in the liver. When someone ingests psilocybin-containing mushrooms the compound is absorbed into the bloodstream through the gastrointestinal tract. Once in the bloodstream, psilocybin makes its way to the liver, where it encounters an enzyme known as alkaline phosphatase.

In the liver, alkaline phosphatase plays a crucial role in the conversion of psilocybin into its psychoactive counterpart, psilocin (4-OH-DMT). This process involves the removal of a phosphate group from the psilocybin molecule. The enzymatic action of alkaline phosphatase catalyzes this dephosphorylation reaction, resulting in the formation of psilocin. Like Psilocybin, Psilocin is structurally similar to serotonin and contains a tryptamine skeleton. Due to the presence of the tryptamine skeleton, psilocin can interact with serotonin receptors in the brain, particularly the 5-HT2A receptors, leading to altered perception, mood, and cognition.

Once psilocin is formed, it readily crosses the blood-brain barrier and binds to serotonin receptors in various regions of the brain, particularly the prefrontal cortex.  The serotonin receptor modulation induces changes in neuronal activity and communication, leading to the characteristic alterations in perception, thought processes, and emotional states that users experience during a psilocybin trip. The intricate biochemical conversion of psilocybin to psilocin in the body highlights the complex interplay between natural compounds and the human physiology, providing insights into the mechanisms underlying the psychedelic effects of certain fungi.

 

Sensory and Emotional Effects

Psilocybin has a profound influence on sensory perception and emotions. This can result in a wide array of perceptual changes, sensory enhancements and emotional effects. These effects play a central role in the overall psychedelic experience.  They can be complex, and they can vary from person to person and across different experiences. Let’s explore the multisensory journey that psilocybin can induce:

1. Visual Effects:

  • Vivid Colors and Patterns: Psilocybin often enhances color perception, making colors appear more vibrant and intense. Users frequently report seeing intricate geometric patterns, fractals, and other visual hallucinations.
  • Visual Tracers: Moving objects may leave trails or “tracers” behind, creating a sense of motion and fluidity in the visual field.
  • Enhanced Detail and Acuity: Some users experience heightened visual acuity, perceiving fine details and textures in their surroundings more vividly.

2. Auditory Effects:

  • Auditory Hallucinations: Psilocybin can alter auditory perception, leading to the perception of sounds, tones, or music that are not present in the external environment.
  • Sound Synesthesia: Some individuals experience sound-to-color synesthesia, where specific sounds are associated with particular colors or visual patterns.
  • Enhanced Music Appreciation: Music often takes on a profoundly emotional and immersive quality, with users reporting that they can “feel” the music on a deep level.

3. Tactile and Bodily Sensations:

  • Enhanced Physical Sensations: Users may experience heightened tactile sensations, such as a heightened sense of touch and pleasure.
  • Body Load: Some individuals report a sense of bodily weight or pressure, while others describe a feeling of lightness and increased energy.

4. Synesthesia:

  • Cross-Sensory Perceptions: Psilocybin can induce synesthesia, a phenomenon where sensory experiences become interconnected. For example, users may see sounds, taste colors, or feel visual patterns.

5. Altered Sense of Time and Space:

  • Time Dilation: Psilocybin often distorts the perception of time, causing minutes to feel like hours or vice versa.
  • Spatial Distortions: Distortions in spatial perception, such as the sensation of expanding or contracting space.

6. Emotional Effects and Integration:

  • Heightened Emotional Responses: Psilocybin can intensify emotions, leading to a profound sense of joy, love, empathy, or, in some cases, challenging emotions. This emotional enhancement often plays a significant role in the therapeutic potential of psilocybin.
  • Confronting Fear and Anxiety: While psilocybin can bring about intense positive emotions, it can also lead to the confrontation of fear and anxiety. This process can be challenging but is often viewed as an opportunity for personal growth and healing.
  • Emotional Release and Exploration: Psilocybin has the capacity to unlock suppressed or repressed emotions, often leading to a cathartic release. Users may encounter unresolved traumas, fears, or past experiences, and this emotional unearthing can offer an opportunity for healing and resolution.  The heightened emotional sensitivity induced by psilocybin can facilitate a profound journey of self-exploration. Users may gain insight into their emotions, thought patterns, and relationships.
  • Enhanced Empathy: Psilocybin is known to enhance feelings of empathy and compassion. This emotional effect has led to its exploration in therapeutic settings, particularly for conditions involving empathy deficits, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Ego Dissolution:  Psilocybin’s ego-dissolving effects can lead to a temporary loss of self-identity, which can evoke complex emotions. Users may experience a sense of ego death and unity with all that exists, profoundly impacting their emotional state.
  • Integration of Challenging Emotions: Many users of psilocybin report that it helps them confront and integrate challenging emotions. This process can lead to personal growth, increased self-awareness, and emotional resilience.

These sensory effects of psilocybin are interconnected and contribute to the overall psychedelic experience. It’s essential to note that both the sensory and emotional effects of psilocybin are highly context-dependent and influenced by factors such as the individual’s mindset, the setting in which the experience occurs, and the dose consumed.  The emotional journey through a psilocybin experience is a deeply personal and transformative one, offering individuals a unique opportunity to explore the inner workings of their psyche and emotions.  Responsible and intentional use of psilocybin, often guided by experienced facilitators or therapists, is essential to optimize the potential for positive emotional experiences and therapeutic benefits. 

 

Therapeutic Potential

The sensory and emotional effects induced by psilocybin play a crucial role in unlocking its psychological therapeutic potential. Psilocybin’s ability to alter sensory perception provides a unique lens through which individuals can reevaluate their experiences and thought patterns. This altered perception often leads to a heightened sense of creativity and a departure from rigid cognitive frameworks, allowing individuals to approach their struggles with newfound flexibility. The emotional effects of psilocybin, including heightened emotional sensitivity and the release of repressed emotions, create an environment conducive to introspection and catharsis. In therapeutic contexts, this emotional release can aid individuals in confronting and processing deeply rooted traumas or unresolved issues. The dissolution of ego boundaries and the induction of states of interconnectedness fostered by psilocybin contribute to a sense of unity and empathy, facilitating a profound reevaluation of self-concept and relationships. These sensory and emotional dimensions, when harnessed within a therapeutic framework, offer individuals an opportunity to explore their internal landscapes, promote personal growth, and potentially alleviate symptoms associated with various mental health conditions.

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