What Psilocybin Does for the Brain
The lingo for psychedelic mushrooms (psilocybin) continues to grow with each generation. Pizza toppings, hongos, mushies, tweezes, Alice, shrooms, and magic mushrooms are among the common names people use. Despite the different names people use for these substances, mycologist Paul Stamets thinks it’s time to leave this slang.
In his interview with CNN, he made it clear that these substances are no longer party drugs or shrooms. Psilocybin mushrooms are life-changing, nonaddictive substances that should be taken seriously.
There are a couple of clinical trials that show that doses of psilocybin in clinical settings offer therapeutic benefits. These can give long-lasting and dramatic changes in people suffering from major depressive disorders. Examples include people with depression that don’t respond to treatment.
Another research from the US Food and Drug Administration shows that psilocybin is a breakthrough medicine.
The intestines convert psilocybin to psilocin, which also has psychoactive properties. Psilocin also shows promising results in treating obsessive-compulsive disorder, anorexia, anxiety, and cluster headaches. There are much data that support the efficacy of psilocybin for depression, cluster headaches, and PTSD.
Psychedelics have a promising future, and this is mostly due to their good safety profile. Also, it’s now possible to study these agents in double-blinded clinical trials.
With that said, let’s take a deeper look at psilocybin and its effect on the brain.
Psilocybin and the Brain
Psychedelics like LSD and psilocybin get to the brain via serotonin receptors, which causes the body to feel good. Serotonin mediates different functions like sexual desire and sleep. It also mediates different psychological states like optimism, happiness, and satisfaction.
Studies show that people with anxiety or depression have low serotonin levels. It also applies to people with anorexia, cluster headaches, smoking addiction, substance abuse, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Treatment is with the use of a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, and the aim is to increase serotonin levels. Despite that, the drugs tend to take weeks to cause significant changes.
However, psychedelics like LSD and psilocybin cause changes in the brain within 30 minutes. Another interesting thing about psychedelics is that they leave dramatic effects on the brain that causes it to synchronize. These are findings from Johns Hopkins Medicine and the University of North Carolina.
Psilocybin causes a unique type of connectivity between different areas of the brain. It also causes local networks in the brain to communicate less. This causes the brain to disorganize, thereby breaking boundaries between visual, sense-of-self sections in the mind, executive, and auditory boundaries. With this, an altered state of consciousness is easily created.
You might want to think that this disorganization is harmful, but it is in fact the therapeutic aspect of psychedelics. One thing to note is that depressed people are mostly self-critical, which is why they tend to ruminate a lot. They tend to go over the same anxious, fearful, and negative thoughts.
Psychedelics disrupt all of these events, which is why it’s easy for people to move out of depression while tripping.
Psilocybin and Growth of Brain Cells
There are so many interesting findings about psychedelics, and researchers now show that it helps brain neurons to grow dendrites. Dendrites are structures that look like tree branches, and their function is to increase cell communication.
The rugs help to promote neuronal growth, thereby increasing neuronal branching and synapses. This is what is called neuroplasticity. Neurogenesis is basically the development of new brain cells from stem cells. However, the generation of dendrites builds and solidifies the brain’s circuit, and this allows for more positive thinking.
Even though these neuronal outgrowths may not increase brain connectivity, it helps people to maintain their insights. SSRIs also increase neuroplasticity, but a trial comparing psilocybin to escitalopram gave new findings.
In the trials, psilocybin was shown to be a more effective substance for increasing neuroplasticity. The SSRIs didn’t increase connectivity in the brain, and well-being like psilocybin did.
Microdosing and What You Should Know
Over the past 40 years, Stamets has been able to discover up to 4 psychedelic mushroom species. He has also written seven books on psychedelic mushrooms, and he’s certain that microdosing is a vital tool.
Microdosing is basically the practice of taking psilocybin in small doses over a specified period. The aim is to create a better perspective on life and maintain brain health.
A microdose is around 0.1 to 0.3g, and this is for psilocybin mushrooms. At this quantity, it’s possible to get the full psychedelic experience. Stamets not only promotes microdosing, but he also practices it. His focus is mostly on stacking, and this involves taking the mushrooms with other substances. That way, it’s possible to easily boost the effect of the fungi.
You can see this from Stamets Stacks, which includes mycelium, vitamin B3, and niacin. There are also different surveys that show that microdosing offers positive benefits.
Need for Caution
Before anything else, a key thing to always remember is that hallucinogenic experiences can be negative. That is the main reason why therapists are included in the trial so that they can handle bad trips. Another thing to note is that there are a few side effects of using psychedelics. It goes beyond having a bad trip.
DMT, mescaline, and LSD can increase body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. These substances are the active ingredients in Ayahuasca tea, and they also induce vomiting. LSD on its own causes weakness, numbness, and tremors, while mescaline can cause uncoordinated movements.
In the case of psychedelic mushrooms, there’s the possibility of hunting toxic mushrooms, which can lead to fatal poisoning.
But these are not the only issues to be cautious of. Another thing to note is that psychedelic treatment is not for everyone. For instance, people currently taking SSRIs may not be good candidates for psychedelic treatment. People diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar diseases and people with a family history of psychosis are not suitable candidates.
Another case is with people who have mental health concerns. Such people should not undergo any psychedelic trip.
Basically, even though psychedelics prove promising and the results of psilocybin use are interesting, it’s important to be cautious. Research is still ongoing to fully explore the benefits of these substances.