This is an explanation of why and how I currently use psilocybin mushrooms.
I'm sharing this to help remove fears and misconceptions people have when it comes to the magic mushroom and the psychedelic experience in general.
This is not how I've always used mushrooms. My practice has evolved over time and continues to change, but I am confident that how I do it now is completely safe for me personally.
Never do I feel in danger of being either addicted or 'losing my mind.' In fact each time I use mushrooms, which is only a few times each year, I come away with a fresh outlook on my life and increased motivation for the future.
But it's not for everyone, and may even prove harmful for some. I concede that psilocybin could potentially be dangerous for certain people.
A small percentage of the population is allergic to peanuts. Therefore I could not safely recommend a peanut-butter sandwich to absolutely everyone, even if I do find them delicious.
I am not writing this to promote mass consumption of these mushrooms.
My goal is to inform people, through my own experience, that for people such as myself this illegal substance does in fact have the potential to be used as a great tool for personal growth.
synopsis of my use of psilocybin mushrooms
The main reason I use psilocybin mushrooms is to initiate a self-therapy session.
The experience allows me to deconstruct parts of my life in a way that is unavailable in a regular state of mind. In this altered state I am granted new perspective on my relationships, ambitions, and emotions. I'm confronted by aspects of myself that I am unhappy with or fearful of, and it's through the acceptance of these weaknesses that I am then able to work on overcoming them in everyday life.
This is to say that the work is not finished when the mushrooms wear off, in fact it would be more accurate to say this is where the work begins.
I compare the experience to a map.
The map itself is not a shortcut or destination. It simply shows you how to get to a destination. Actually getting there is still up to you.
This is how I regard the mushroom experience. Those who get stuck staring at the map too long don't actually accomplish anything. The real power of the experience comes when I can take the lessons learned, implement them into my life, and change my course for the future.
I am nervous each time I take mushrooms. I don't take it lightly, and often it's not something I especially look forward to.
The distorted visual component is the most talked about aspect in our culture, but that is truly the least noteworthy part of the experience. I actually spend most of my time covering my eyes in an already dark room, with attention focused inward rather than outward to any colorful patterns that may appear.
I do enjoy parts of the experience, and to pretend it can't also be fun would be dishonest. I want to emphasize however that this is not the reason I currently use these mushrooms. I plan it often weeks in advance, and stay in the safety of my own home and not in any sort of public setting.
My use of mushrooms is as a tool and a medicine.
I understand this is difficult to believe for those who have not used them in this way, or have not used them at all.
dosage, setting, and mindset
There are many different strains of mushrooms that contain psilocybin, and even those of the same strain may contain varying amounts of the 'magic' ingredient. For this reason even people with experience should be careful testing a new batch.
Everyone also differs both physically and mentally. If someone were to try mushrooms for the first time I would strongly recommend starting with a very small dose. This may mean trying just one gram and observing the effects.
The species of mushroom I use is called psilocybe cubensis. It's what you'll find in circulation most of the time in North America. Unless you're growing them personally they will also most likely be purchased dried, and when people talk about dose it's generally assumed the mushrooms are dried. Obviously weight increases significantly when fresh and full of water.
In my experience a standard 'full dose' for a regular sized person is 3.5 dried grams.
Noticeable effects can occur with very small amounts, and depending on what I'm seeking I may only take 2 grams. At this dose the experience is lighter, less straining on the body, lasts about three to four hours instead of six, and requires less recovery time afterward.
If I'm seeking a more in-depth and longer lasting experience I generally take between 3 and 6 grams.
To quickly put this into perspective in terms of the physical danger to your body I'll mention LD50 rates.
LD50 stands for the lethal dose for 50% of a population of test animals. They determine this by giving say 100 rats increased doses of a substance until half die.
This isn't a perfect way of measuring lethal doses for people. The physiology of a rat differs from that of a human. Substances which harm a rat may be fine for person and vise versa. So the LD50 is more of a general guideline, but they test it for many substances.
For salt the LD50 on rats is 3g per 1kg, which means a 170lb rat would have to consume half a pound of salt to kill itself.
That same suicidal human-sized rat would have to drink 7 liters of water, eat 5 pounds of sugar, and consume at least 5 pounds of dried psilocybin mushrooms.
My average personal dose is about 4 grams.
There are 28 grams in an ounce, and 16 ounces in each pound. This means I'd have to somehow ingest over 500 times my usual dose to even come close to killing myself. To consume even a single pound of these dried mushrooms would be a completely ridiculous endeavor for anyone.
So in short, excluding severe reactions such as those with peanut allergies, one does not need to worry about dying from psilocybin mushroom poisoning.
That being said, mushrooms are hard on my body.
It's fairly common to experience some level of stomach cramps or queeziness. This may be in part to consuming them in dried form, as they tend to be very leathery and tough to break down. For this reason I make a tea.
I measure out the exact dose on a cooking scale, then place the measured amount into a coffee grinder which turns it into a fine powder. I empty the powder into a mug, poor in hot water, then cover and let it sit for thirty minutes.
While the mushroom tea sits I make another cup of regular tea with a large amount of ginger. Through practice I have found that drinking ginger tea about thirty minutes before the mushroom tea helps considerably with stomach cramps, and for myself actually completely removes them. I have tried other methods, but this is what works for me.
I knock back the entire mushroom tea, powdery bits and all. I will feel the first effects within twenty to thirty minutes. This is much faster than if I ate the mushrooms whole, which can take over an hour to digest. I find that tea also results in a shorter come-down period when it starts to wear off.
When it's time to drink I'm always a bit nervous. Even after I get it all down I find it difficult to sit still anticipating the initial effects. If I haven't done so already I will use the washroom, brush my teeth, turn off my phone, close the blinds in the bedroom, and change the sheets on my bed.
Mushrooms increase my senses, especially smell, and so if I haven't changed my sheets in a few weeks I'll notice, and I do spend most of the experience in bed.
The initial effect is generally tiredness, so if I'm not already there I will soon lie down in my bed. Yawning and a heavy head seem to be the first noticeable physical feelings.
Depending on dose the entire experience lasts between 4 and 7 hours. For a period after the effects wear off it will be challenging to fall asleep for a couple of hours, despite feeling tired. The experience is very draining, and once it's over I feed myself some easily-digestible foods such as salty crackers and fruit.
I will briefly mention set, which is the mindset going into the experience.
Personally I don't do anything too crazy beforehand, as in I don't sit and meditate about my intention for hours. If I'm feeling nervous I may do that for a few minutes, but generally I don't try too hard to shape the experience.
If someone were quite nervous I may suggest that he or she think about stresses in life, and prepare to examine them again if they come up. Anything else that helps a person relax would be great, whether it be meditation, deep breathing, or dancing.
what it feels like
I've mentioned the initial physical effects already: tiredness and a heavy head.
Soon after that I begin to perceive colors as brighter. Patterned clothing or wallpaper may start to jump out as if I'm wearing 3D glasses. Sometimes objects may appear 'breathing', which can be a slow pulsating or waving back and forth.
Queeziness of the stomach is usually felt, and may come and go throughout the experience. Drinking the ginger tea beforehand makes a huge difference for me in this regard.
I also tend to feel cold, even if the room was warm enough beforehand. I may start to shiver a bit and seek a nice blanket to wrap myself in. My skin tends to become moist. It usually starts with my palms, and then eventually feels like all the pores in my body are leaking. Being able to wrap myself with a warm and absorbent blanket helps here as well.
I am also accompanied by a general feeling of comfort which tends to stick around for the entire experience. It's as if my regular old mattress and pillow are replaced with bedding straight from the heavens. This feeling contrasts with some of the more uncomfortable side effects, and helps make them tolerable.
Geometric patterns make appearances, often rotating slowly. I see these with my eyes open if I fixate on a blank surface such as a wall. They are very symmetrical and tribal looking, and are often described as looking similar to Mayan or Aztec imagery.
Next comes the true nature of the experience, and any strange physical sensations tend to be swept aside as the mind begins to open.
While the integration of the experience into my life can be compared to looking at a map, the actual experience is like floating down a river.
With a bed as my raft I do not fear, or steer, as the river takes me where I need to go. My only job is to stay relaxed and let it do so. Attempts to navigate toward shore and fight my way out would be futile and create panic. It's by having faith and trust, in myself and the experience, that I stay afloat and on course.
This can be difficult. The combination of a new perspective, strange physical sensations, and visual imagery is overwhelming at times, especially for a person unfamiliar with the state.
Sometimes it can seem as though my thoughts are flowing right past me. As soon as I start to examine one thing another comes into view, and then it too passes at the thought of another. Words often fail to capture my thoughts during the experience. It seems the speed at which the mind works becomes much faster than the mouth can keep up with.
Despite being difficult to hold on to, the visions that do come are crystal clear.
The part of my mind that pictures things seems to be in overdrive, and I'm treated to an HD movie in my head. The thoughts also tend to be very introspective. This could mean visions of a poor relationship with a co-worker, a loved one who has passed, or of anything else that has been pushed away and not fully dealt with.
This combination of mental clarity and introspection is also accompanied by a new perspective. I'm not just thinking about stresses as I could do any other day, but rather thinking about them as a very wise observer of my life. It's as if I'm looking into a mirror, not for my physical body, but a mirror for my mental and spiritual self.
I think of it as a mirror of truth.
It's difficult to deny having a big red zit on my nose when I'm looking into a mirror, and it's in this way I'm shown the truth of my non-physical side. I see clearly how my anxiety is linked to fear and guilt, and how I frequently project these parts of my self onto others.
If that sounds awful, I assure you that it can be. On multiple occasions I've broken down and said out loud something along the lines of, 'OK. I get it already. I suck.' A person with bad acne on their face probably isn't going to especially enjoy looking into a mirror for hours, and the same is true for someone with a lot of emotional baggage tucked away.
However, it does seem that after eventually accepting these various weaknesses or feelings of pain I can then begin to see my true strengths. This often feels like déjà-vu. It's as if I've been living life not knowing who I actually am, and then finally catching a glimpse of what it's like to be myself.
Other aspects of the experience include waves of energy.
Inevitably there will be a moment I feel a rush, a surge of creative spirit that urges me to get up and go outside, or at least move around my home. It's a feeling of uninhibited self expression, a push to create and display my energy proudly in the world. All of a sudden I want to do my taxes and clean my car. I want to build a snowman, ride my bike, and play soccer in the rain.
I resist all that and I resist going outside. These feelings come in waves, and I know that soon enough I will calm again and yearn to be back in my comfy bed.
There is also a tendency for thoughts to extend out from oneself to the greater culture.
Once I've accepted my own place within my small community, parts of the bigger picture start to appear. Habits people take for granted every day are unraveled from matters of life and death to silly little games we take far too seriously.
The thought of wearing a suit and tie to work every day may ignite fits of laughter. Water leaking out of my eyes when I get sad suddenly seems very peculiar. Paying taxes to fund governments who bring wars to other countries leaves me shaking my head.
Corruption becomes quite transparent on mushrooms. Our culture highlights corruption clearly through vast amounts of rules and regulations, like the drug laws for instance.
Each time I've done mushrooms with someone who hasn't tried them before they each come to a similar realization. They see first that mushrooms are not at all what they had believed them to be, and then it seems rather odd that our government keeps such a potentially beneficial experience from people.
It's for this reason some conclude that these substances are being kept illegal on purpose by those with power, and not simply fear or ignorance.
I've seen again and again the potential these mushrooms have to create change in people's lives, particularly for those who suffer. So I do find it strange that they are illegal, but I don't assume to know why. For all I know it's simply because those in government are afraid of the psychedelic experience for the same reason my mother is, because it's what they've been taught.
If I had to summarize the mushroom experience in a word I would choose 'connection.'
In my own life when I start to feel anxious, or spiral toward depression, it's due to a lack of connection.
Psilocybin mushrooms helps me feel connected to life. I feel a greater connection to myself, my friends, my family, my community and a connection to the greater environment, from this planet to the universe around us.
The most powerful part being that this feeling usually sticks around long after the mushrooms wear off.
THE COME DOWN
Just as soon as my entire life and universe seems to be unraveling before me, with new found clarity and motivation for the future, it starts to fade.
It's always a bit of a bummer at first, because once I get a taste of that connection I want to hold onto it. But as my mind starts to feel regular again, I also become aware of how tired, hungry, and thirsty I am.
Physically the experience is quite draining, and so it takes some effort to eventually get out of bed and walk around again. Once I feed myself some berries or crackers and drink some fluid I eventually get some energy back, but the mind still feels so drained that any complicated activity is out of the question.
If I took a larger dose headaches the following day are not uncommon. It's similar to an alcohol hangover but I'd say more focused in the head than the rest of the body. For this reason I try to plan the experience for a time when I've got two free days: one to take the mushrooms and another to recover.
I'll compare taking a drug to bungee jumping.
Most people would probably accept that certain drugs can take a person to a very connected and clear state of mind. The problem arises when the drugs wear off.
Just as soon as the person thinks they can reach out to that clear water of epiphany, they are shot back to reality with bad whiplash, feeling even worse than when they began. This may appropriately describe a drug like cocaine, but mushrooms are different.
When I'm shot back to reality after a therapeutic mushroom experience it's as if I was not only able to touch the water, but scoop some up to take home.
I usually feel better for days, weeks, and even months after doing mushrooms. It's that feeling of connection I mentioned. An increased focus on my goals and ambitions, and the realization that yes, I can do this.
And that's it.
That outlines exactly how and why I take mushrooms a few times each year. I don't find them addictive whatsoever. In fact I would find it totally unappealing to take mushrooms frequently. I have personally found marijuana and alcohol more addictive in the habit-forming sense than mushrooms.
The mushroom experience can be challenging. There is no doubt.
However for people like me who utilize mushrooms for these purposes, the idea that they should be illegal for responsible adults is outrageous. It's truly silly, but I also understand that the reason people agree with the drug laws is that they fear drugs, and they fear because they don't understand.
They fear magic mushrooms in the same way a mainlander fears the ocean. They've heard stories of folks getting lost at sea, never to return. To them the thought of getting on a boat to sail across a vast ocean seems only foolish and reckless.
I happen to be a sailor. I've traveled across many seas and returned stronger than when I started. I've seen visions of new beautiful lands, and salvation for those who seek it.