Psilocybin (AKA magic mushrooms) are often considered a DaNgErOus recreational drug. And if that corny high school video taught us anything, it was to steer clear of them because they’ll lead to intense hallucinations, anxiety and paranoia.
But now, there’s growing interest in microdosing psychedelic mushrooms.
In other words, consuming teeny tiny amounts of psilocybin – not to go on a “trip” – but to boost focus and creativity and treat a range of mental illnesses. It’s an intriguing and largely uncharted space.
So, what do we know about microdosing psychedelic mushrooms so far? Is it legit? And why should you care?
What is psilocybin?
Magic mushrooms (psilocybe cubensis) are one of the most well-known hallucinogenic mushrooms. They have a beautiful bell-shaped cap, often sprouting out of poop and leaf litter in damp environments.
Psilocybin, on the other hand, is the hallucinogenic compound found within these mushrooms (which is what gives you the psychoactive effects).
In Australia, psilocybin is classified as a Schedule 9 prohibited drug, sitting pretty next to heroin and MDMA. Yikes.
And at this stage? We’re still a long way away from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) reclassifying psilocybin for therapeutic use (perhaps rightly so).
You see, to safely administer psilocybin as a form of medicine, we need limits… Rules. Regulations. Boundaries. Training. Because psychedelic mushrooms – while potentially beneficial – still carry a whole lot of risk.
So, make no mistake: we’re not here to advocate for the unconstrained consumption of magic mushrooms. We’re here to present the early research and potential health benefits when used responsibly (read those last three words again).
What is microdosing, anyway?
Microdosing… It’s all in the name.
Microdosing involves consuming minuscule amounts of a psychedelic substance to experience a range of mental health benefits, including improved focus, productivity, creativity, mood and more.
Microdosing should not be enough to give you any hallucinogenic effects (so if that’s what you’re here for, please make a swift B-line for the exit).
The psilocybin (magic mushroom) studies…
Exactly how psilocybin works is still a bit of mystery.
But what we do know is that when it’s consumed, it’s converted into psilocin, a psychoactive chemical that activates our serotonin receptors. This has flow on effects for mood, cognition and perception.
So, what does this mean in practice? Well, here’s what the research shows so far…
Psilocybin for depression and anxiety
Here’s a sobering statistic: 3 million Australians are living with anxiety or depression. Unfortunately, a number that isn’t going away any time soon.
But research on psilocybin therapy shows it could improve or treat symptoms of depression and anxiety when used in combination with psychotherapy. What’s particularly fascinating is the research done on psilocybin to treat cancer-related anxiety and depression…
A double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial looked at 29 individuals experiencing life-threatening cancer and the symptoms of anxiety and depression that came with it. (1)
When used in combination with psychotherapy, the results found psilocybin produced a reduction in anxiety and depression symptoms, reduced feelings of hopelessness and increased quality of life.
Psilocybin for addiction
Studies suggest we could also treat substance abuse (like tobacco, alcohol and other drugs) with low-dose psychedelic mushrooms. It sounds a little out there, doesn’t it? Treating one problematic substance with another…
But a study out of John Hopkins University looked at the treatment of nicotine addiction using a combination of psilocybin and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). The results found that 60% of the 15 participants were still abstinent 16 months later (which is impressive when compared with traditional smoking therapy). (3)
But we’re not out of the woods yet. We’re going to need a lot more studies (and funding) to get some conclusive answers.
Psilocybin for creativity
Creativity is an essential part of the human experience. And we all have it in one form or another (yes, even you, the one who claims they’re about as creative as a cupboard door).
Interestingly, there are plenty of anecdotal reports that psychedelic drugs (like psilocybin) can enhance our spontaneous and novel creativity.
(Your ‘shroom-loving friend has probably told you that once or twice, man).
But more officially? One double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that psilocybin increased feelings of spontaneous creativity, while decreasing task-based creativity. (4)
Which basically means more ‘aha!’ moments, and less deliberate, logical ones.
Time (and further study) will tell.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
A 2013 study out of the University of South Florida found that psilocybin may contribute to the growth of new neurons in the brain, which can support emotions and memory (admittedly, it was a mice study, so we have a long way to go before it’s applied to humans).
But to sum it up, the mice who were given psilocybin overcame their fear conditioning and unpleasant memories far better than mice that were given a placebo.
This is a promising early sign for research into PTSD treatment (which we can only hope will pave the way for further study).
But that’s not all there is to microdosing psychedelics…
Microdosing psychedelic mushrooms to treat depression, anxiety, addiction and PTSD aren’t the only scenarios that have caught the attention of researchers and mushrooms enthusiasts.
Early studies also show the potential for psilocybin to address…
- Anorexia nervosa
- Alcohol dependence
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Cluster headaches
- Other forms of psychological distress
But as with most alternative treatments, we need more study. And to have more large-scale studies, we need more funding. And to have more funding, we need more… well, we’ll stop it there before we get carried away.
But you get the idea – the legalisation of psilocybin for therapeutic use isn’t something that’s going to happen overnight.
The dangers of psilocybin can’t be overlooked
Psilocybin is serious stuff (and illegal).
And while we could talk about the benefits of psilocybin until the cows come home, it would be irresponsible if we overlooked the dangers.
Those that consume higher doses of psilocybin (recreational levels) may experience…
- Euphoria and wellbeing
- Visual and auditory changes (AKA hallucinations)
- Stomach discomfort
- Irregular heartbeat
- Altered mood and perceptions
- Panic or paranoia
… Yikes, what a list. So proceed with caution, folks.
At Natura Mushrooms, we don’t advocate for the consumption of psilocybin for recreational use. Rather, we’re all about shining a light on the research so you can get excited about what’s emerging.
But just like we can’t overlook the clear dangers to psilocybin use, we also can’t overlook some of the fascinating opportunities.
With the potential to treat addiction, depression and other mental disorders – it would be a great shame if magic mushrooms never get the limelight they deserve.
So if you need us, we’ll be tucked away on our mushroom farm in Gippsland, Victoria, keeping a very close eye on the evolving research.
And if you’re interested in our range of (non-psychedelic, totally legal) mushrooms, discover our guide to purchasing medicinal mushrooms today.
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