Psilocybin: Equal Parts Magic and Medicine

Psilocybin: Equal Parts Magic and Medicine

For many decades certain drugs have been banished from the world of legitimate science. Condemned as illegal, with no medical benefit, many of these drugs have been nearly impossible for scientists to legitimately investigate. A handful of ground-breaking minds, however, have been working tirelessly to bring these drugs back into the awareness of medical communities. A whimsically named “psychedelic renaissance” is slowly but surely seeing these drugs being returned to the hands of doctors and researchers alike.

Psilocybin is a naturally occurring compound that is manufactured by more than 100 different species of mushrooms. When you eat these mushrooms, the psilocybin is then converted into a chemical known as psilocin. The psilocin produces mind-altering effects similar to other hallucinogenic drugs such as mescaline, DMT, and LSD. Psilocybin is classified as a hallucinogenic or “psychedelic” drug.

History

Psilocybin: Equal Parts Magic and Medicine

Terrence McKenna, a noted ethnobotanist and author (among other things), was considered to be both influential, and controversial. His “stoned ape” hypothesis of human evolution rests on the hypothesis that it was the addition of hallucinogenic mushrooms to the diet of our long-ago ancestors (as recently as 100,000 years) that is actually responsible for our transformation from Homo erectus to Homo sapien. McKenna proposed that the consumption of magic mushrooms acted as a springboard, not only affecting the higher consciousness that led to the formation of language, religion, and art.

Effects of Psilocybin

The effects of taking psilocybin can vary widely. They depend mainly on the person and the context in which the drug is used. What that means is if you are in a negative, angry, or scared state of mind, now is not the time for you munch on a handful of mushrooms. Wait until you are feeling happy, energetic, or excited. Only positive emotions should be around if you are going to consume magic mushrooms. Whatever you take in there with you is what you will find. 

Cryptic warnings aside, some other side effects of mushrooms include:

  • Spiritual experiences. Inner peace. Enlightenment. The ability to see how all things are connected, write it down so you don’t forget, and then never find the paper ever again.
  • Psychological regression to earlier experiences/states.
  • Hallucinations for every single one of your five senses.
  • Changes in perception of time. Keeping track is pointless.
  • Intense emotions and sensory experiences. See my earlier warning.
  • Synesthesia. The senses get jumbled and you are able to see sound or hear colors.

Medical Uses

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland released a study in 2011 that involved small groups of subjects in a strictly controlled and monitored clinical setting. Psilocybin was distributed randomly to patients. Researchers found that a single dose of the drug resulted in an extremely positive personality change in almost 60 percent of the trial subjects. One round of psilocybin, after it was ingested, successfully raised many of the individual’s sense of openness and, in some cases, even lasted at least a year.

In a study that was conducted at New York University, 29 subjects with advanced-stage cancer were given either a single dose of psilocybin or a common vitamin called niacin. After seven weeks, the subjects switched treatments. In 80 percent of the subjects who were receiving the doses of psilocybin, relief from distress occurred immediately and lasted, in some cases, over six months.

The reawakening of interest in psilocybin research is inspiring, not just in how it possibly can offer new healing treatments for a multitude of conditions, but also in how it may eventually transform how we think about medicine and about drugs.

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