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When we talk about hallucinogenic mushrooms What are? we are referring to a wide variety of mushrooms that contain a psychedelic substance called psilocybin. There are hundreds of varieties, all in theory capable of producing this chemical substance, even if in reality it is only a small variety of these that is usually consumed for its psychotropic effects. We speak, in particular, of the variety with the gene psiolocybe. (Not to be confused with other products such as the ketamine)

Not funny: some archaeologists have shown that these mushrooms have been used for at least 3500 years, so much so that they are also represented in some works of ancient art.

What are “hallucinogenic mushrooms”?

In fact, we are talking about mushrooms used as a psychotropic substance for recreational purposes. Equipped – the most common ones – with a golden cap and a brown torso, these are mushrooms that grow in large areas of both Europe and the American continent, but also in Asia and Australia. 

Its users tend to consume one or two grams, specifically of dried and rehydrated mushrooms with food or in tea, or, less commonly, in the liquid extract of other psychotropic substances. Effects of just a few grams tend to kick in within 15 minutes and last up to six hours.

What are these effects?

Not just psilocybin. The most common hallucinogenic mushrooms called P. cubensis contain various substances that trigger numerous emotional and sensory responses in the brain. The effects depend on the quantities consumed, the concentration of the active substances, and also on the body of the person who takes them.

Similar to LSD, people who consume mushrooms often experience sensory distortions of vision and hearing, echoing effects and seeing more vivid colors.

But that's not all: you can have the sensation that objects and people change their shape, with an effect that is, therefore, an optical illusion. Furthermore, high doses can lead to a false interpretation of the images that can lead to hallucinations. Effects are also recorded on the perception of time, with periods that may seem longer or shorter than they appear.

In terms of perceived emotions, the intake of these mushrooms increases both the sense of euphoria and that of pleasure, and tends to make one perceive a sense of peace. In many cases, there is a feeling of disconnection from one's body similar to that experienced in dreams. This feeling is often accompanied by confusion and a dry mouth.

Psychologically, there is a dilation of the pupils and a stimulation of the digestive system to produce sensations of nausea, sometimes to the point of making the person vomit. Furthermore, mushrooms, especially on subjects suffering from anxiety or bipolar disorder, can cause people to have high levels of paranoia, or even reactions of extreme fear.

Are hallucinogenic mushrooms dangerous?

The P. cubensis mushroom is characterized by a low level of toxicity, and is considered relatively harmless when its effects are compared to those of all other psychotropic substances. However, as with all other illicit substances that affect how the body functions, there are risks involved.

For some people, the experience of taking it may not be exactly pleasant, and can trigger psychological stress, weakness, and even digestive disorders. If then there are already psychological problems in the person who takes them, mushrooms can lead to remembering traumas or having numerous flashbacks of painful events. For this reason, performing certain activities while under the psychedelic influence of mushrooms can put people at risk of having an accident.

Furthermore, there are risks related to the way it is taken, such as with injections. Furthermore, legally speaking, the substance is allowed only in Oregon, so the trafficking, possession and consumption of the substance can carry the further risk of incurring legal problems.

How can they affect the functioning of the brain?

Our body breaks down psilocybin into psychoactive chemicals. In particular, it is psychocin that affects our nervous system, activating different types of serotonin receptors. This interferes with the functioning of areas of the brain involved in managing various functions. We speak of mood, but also of temperature control, or appetite and the excitement of the senses. 

Another of the frequent effects is that of a different perception of oneself, with effects on self-esteem, and on the way of relating to the surrounding environment. At the same time, however, it has been noted that mushrooms affect brain chemistry by affecting neural networks, which means, or could mean, that psilocybin could have beneficial effects on the brain.

Do magic mushrooms cure depression?

Research on this aspect is proceeding with great caution, and with equal caution they are analyzing the results of taking different doses of psilocybin, also monitoring the whole environment of the people studied, who also receive psychological support. The results so far have shown that psilocybin could have beneficial effects when accompanied by psychotherapy, particularly on depression. Similar effects to antidepressants, but with fewer side effects.

Furthermore, by working on neural cell networks, psilocybin could prove to be a drug with long-term positive effects for treating mood disorders.

However, much more research is awaited on this point, particularly to determine how effective these treatments can be on large groups of people, as well as how healthy and effective long-term intake is. However, it should be noted that, so far, the results of early research appear to be very promising for the treatment of all states on the depressive spectrum.