Psilocybin changes everything. For those not familiar with psilocybin, it is the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms” that induces a hallucinogenic state and has a powerful and lasting impact on the human brain.
Recent research shows it could be helpful in the treatment of depression, PTSD, addiction, and other conditions and a tool to help terminal patients come to terms with death.
All well and significant, but how does this impact the average person who doesn’t struggle with any of the above conditions? That is what I have set out to discuss today. First, however, I want to talk about a few common misconceptions about psilocybin.
The History of Psilocybin
Despite its classification as a Schedule 1 narcotic, psilocybin is one of the safest psychoactive substances. Historians have traced its use back to some of the earliest known societies, and it has remained a key component of shamanistic rituals across the globe even to this day.
There is even pretty convincing evidence of cave paintings depicting the consumption of psilocybin mushrooms dating back tens of thousands of years.
The only non-theologian researcher on the initial team dedicated to studying the famous Dead Sea Scrolls concluded that early Christians ritualistically consumed psilocybin. He wrote a book about it called “The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross.”
Psilocybin is Far Safer Than Any Other Substance
You can argue that past societies may not have been aware of any potential harm elicited from the substance, but modern statistics lean in the mushroom’s favor as well. You can scour the internet and find maybe one or two fatalities EVER recorded, and those individuals had a pre-existing condition that made consumption of psilocybin dangerous.
Considering the estimate that millions of people use psilocybin each year in America alone, we are looking at a substance far safer than alcohol, tobacco, and the large majority of prescription medications. And no, it is not food poisoning. A small percentage of people who ingest psilocybin experience stomach discomfort, but the neurotoxicity rates for psilocybin are almost negligible.
An Eye-Opening Experience Like No Other
Of course, there is always the possibility of a “bad trip.” For those of you not familiar with this term, it is when the psychedelic experience becomes unpleasant or overly intense. It can happen when people take too large of a dose without proper mental preparation or enter with negative emotional baggage. A person’s setting or surroundings can even trigger it, so adequate preparation is so necessary.
However, all bad trips end, and although the experience may be unpleasant during its duration, many experienced psychedelic users have stated that bad trips can be seen as positive events as they often force people to confront their demons or negative thoughts.
Bad trips can happen, but most people who ingest psilocybin enjoy a pleasurable and reflective experience.
The Growth of New Brain Cells
Enough with the grim and gritty. Why should anyone even bother with psilocybin? The most profound benefit of psilocybin is neurogenesis. Neurogenesis is the growth of new brain cells.
In adults, this can only occur in a few select areas, the hippocampus being the most prominent and essential. What is critical is that neurogenesis in the hippocampus plays a significant role in learning and memory.
This is one reason why psilocybin is being researched to combat depression and PTSD. Suppose new neural pathways can be developed in patients struggling with particular traumatic memories or stagnant learning loops. In that case, we may fight the problem by bypassing the old connections in favor of new ones.
The best part about this type of therapy is that it could be achieved over just a few sessions instead of being on prescription drugs for the bulk of your remaining life. It could be a fix, as opposed to a Band-Aid.
What does this mean for you? Ever been in a tough mental rut? We all have. We suffer from the same external stimuli as everyone else.
Traumatic or unpleasant events can happen to us, and we often allow negative people or thoughts into our lives. This invariably affects us, decreases our focus, and can cause us to plateau or even regress.
Neurogenesis could be the solution. New neurons in the hippocampus mean new neural pathways and ultimately new ways of learning and analyzing past and future memories.
Why are depressed people encouraged to go out and try new things? For this exact reason. If you can develop a new pattern and a new mental pattern, you can bypass all kinds of negative thoughts, emotions, and habits.
This is why psilocybin has also shown to be wildly successful for those individuals trying to break stubborn habits like smokers trying to quit.
Benefits of Psilocybin
Neurogenesis alone is convincing evidence in favor of psilocybin use. However, it does not stop there. Low doses of psilocybin (doses too low to invoke hallucinations) increase visual acuity. Some theories maintain that early hominids took advantage of this to improve their hunting and survival skills.
In addition, psilocybin increases the stretch reflex of muscle tissue, unlike other substances like alcohol that harm your muscular system.
Other benefits of psilocybin:
- Invokes natural curiosity and creativity,
- Induces mystical experiences and
- It has been known to diminish or destroy the ego temporarily.
All of these components help you experience the world in a brand new way, provide perspective and foster deep introspection. It is no surprise that many people who have tried psilocybin consider the experience the single most profound and spiritual experience of their lifetime.
Despite the benefits, many people are not able to distinguish the difference between illegal and immoral. Just because a substance is a Schedule 1 narcotic does not mean that its use is immoral and that those who partake in it are looked down upon. Instead, it is time to take a more critical eye to a select few of the substances on the Schedule 1 list and determine if the benefits of their use outweigh any potential physical or mental harm.
Psilocybin seems to be a clear-cut case to me, and fortunately, there is a growing movement in favor of its legalization. With marijuana blazing the way, the state of Washington has a large support base that is pushing for psilocybin to be the next state-legalized drug currently listed by the federal government as Schedule 1.
A New Era
Only time will tell if psilocybin will follow in the footsteps of marijuana. In the meantime, researchers at John Hopkins University and other renowned establishments will continue to study the substance and determine what long-term medical benefits exist.
So far, the results are promising. I know many of you will look at this information in a skeptical light as it probably runs counter to many of your ingrained belief systems. But I urge you to give this fungus a chance. Open up your mind to just the possibility that psilocybin might have a lasting and positive impact on select individuals and society as a whole.
Be cautious, be skeptical. But go and do your homework. Check out the excellent research that is being performed, and once educated, make your own decision.