This article will go into depth on :
- How Psilocybin, the principal component of magic mushrooms, significantly improves symptoms of depression, anxiety and addictive behaviour from a single dose.
- The age of prohibition of psychedelics is over. Research is picking up again on psychedelics.
- The architecture of perception and the neurology of belief.
- The neurology of how Psilocybin alters perception and rigid belief patterns, thereby enhancing creativity, memory and abstraction ability.
- Risks of psychedelic substances and how to mitigate them.
- Goal-dependant dosages and drug interactions.
- A philosophical framework to determine whether you should give psychedelics a try
“Taking psychedelics was one of the two or three most important things I have done in my life. There are things about me that people who have not tried psychedelics – even people who know me well, including my wife – could never understand” Steve Jobs
Sometimes everything you are trying to battle the vice of depression, anxiety and addiction seems to pale in effectiveness to the rigid mental patterns that drive our daily habits and behaviour.
Research into Psychedelics
Pioneering Research Era (1947-1971)
The results of most of these studies were incredible. One one time administration helped rock-bottom alcoholics never touch alcohol again, it helped patients with depression recover within days and people with anxiety and neurotic disabilities were completely free of any symptoms even months after a one time treatment with psychedelics. Granted, the studies which were done at that time did not have nearly the necessary scientific standards to warrant widespread therapeutic use of psychedelics nowadays.
The scientific dark ages (1972- ca. 2006)
If these findings are confirmed, or other therapeutic effects are demonstrated, in large, powered, randomized controlled studies in a diverse population of patients, then the classification of psilocybin as a Schedule 1 drug should be challenged, for this would represent a treatment modality unlike anything in psychiatry: a rapid and sustained reduction in depression and anxiety with a single dose of a psychoactive compound (combined with guided psychotherapy).
The Physiology of Psilocybin
Thalamus – Gate of Consciousness
The thalamus is the master hub of information.
The Architecture of Perception
There’s a metaphor that’s only been available to us in the past 30 or 40 years, and that’s the desktop interface. Suppose there’s a blue rectangular icon on the lower right corner of your computer’s desktop — does that mean that the file itself is blue and rectangular and lives in the lower right corner of your computer? Of course not. But those are the only things that can be asserted about anything on the desktop — it has color, position, and shape. Those are the only categories available to you, and yet none of them are true about the file itself or anything in the computer. They couldn’t possibly be true. That’s an interesting thing. You could not form a true description of the innards of the computer if your entire view of reality was confined to the desktop. And yet the desktop is useful. That blue rectangular icon guides my behavior, and it hides a complex reality that I don’t need to know. That’s the key idea. Evolution has shaped us with perceptions that allow us to survive. They guide adaptive behaviors. But part of that involves hiding from us the stuff we don’t need to know. And that’s pretty much all of reality, whatever reality might be. If you had to spend all that time figuring it out, the tiger would eat you.
Prefrontal Cortex and the Default Mode Network – The Creation of “Self”
Psychedelics show you what’s in and on your mind, those subconscious thoughts and feelings that are are hidden, covered up, forgotten, out of sight, maybe even completely unexpected, but nevertheless imminently present. Rick Strassman (MD and psychedelic researcher at UC-San Diego)
“Its not the mushroom that unlocks the patients from depression. Its the patient. The mushroom just shows them they key.” – Rosalind Watts-
A psychedelic experience is a journey to new realms of consciousness. The scope and content of the experience is limitless, but its characteristic features are the transcendence of verbal concepts, of spacetime dimensions, and of the ego or identity. Of course, the drug does not produce the transcendent experience. It merely acts as a chemical key — it opens the mind, frees the nervous system of its ordinary patterns and structures. – Timothy Leary
Possible dangers of Psilocybin (and how to manage them)
“If you get the message, hang up the phone.” – Alan Watts on the non-addictive nature of psychedelics.
Self-Harm during hallucination
Unleashing the demon
In general there are three approaches to consuming Mushrooms, or Psilocybin. The first approach, Microdosing, is being used to increase creativity, abstraction, memory and empathy while still being able to go about a normal (business) day. The recreational dose creates pseudo-hallucinations without loss of reality, “ego death”or mystical experiences. The therapeutic dose is in the range being used by clinical studies to break conventional patterns of thought and gaining new insight to liberate parts of you that have been locked. Lastly, the heroic dose is being used to have deep spiritual and mystical encounters.
Many people have successfully used Microdosing to treat their depression or addiction. In the entrepreneurial scene Microdosing is also a widely spread practice, because of its ability to free you from rigid patterns of thought and find new solutions to old problems. Take for example this exercise :
I want you to draw a square with three straight lines.
There are at least two solutions to this simple problem. If you have already found both solutions right away you might not need microdosing to improve your creativity. If you haven’t, there might be some learned boundaries that hold you back from creating solutions.
Solution #1 : “with” vs. “by”
The exercise asked for a square WITH three straight lines. Not BY using three lines. Just as in “I go to the coffee shop with Lindsey”. Me and Lindsey go together. I do not use Lindsey to get to the coffee shop. When you have been asked similar things in the past it was implied that “with” means “by” in that certain case. Your brain did what it does best. It created a pattern. It induced a general rule from this specific case. But while these general rules might be true in 90% of cases in this specific case it was not true. A pattern that made life easier 90% of the time was holding you back in just this case.
Solution #2 : No one said “only”
No one said “only”. You can use as many lines as you want. Four is probably the weapon of choice to draw a square. Same thing here. You assumed that the exercise meant “only” three straight lines. Your brain is great at assuming. Again, these patterns make life easy. But you know what they say about the word ASSUME. When you ASS-U-ME you might make an ASS out of U and ME. This learned pattern of assumption helps us 90% of the time and holds us back in these instances where creativity is necessary. One could argue that creativity is nothing more than looking past our learned patterns of thought.
Solution #3 : Let the mushrooms guide you
I do not have a third solution. But maybe there is one. I am just too rigid to find it or know it. Do you have one?
With Microdosing the effect of enhanced creativity, memory and empathy last for around 6 hours, but consumers report and “afterglow” effect that can last for around 48 hours. They usually take small amounts on Day 1, but feel even better on Day 2. Most “Microdosers” are on a 1 ON, 2 OFF protocol. They take mushrooms one day, have another day of afterglow and then one day off of mushrooms before they start again. One reason for that is that Psilocybin itself is not the drug that makes you high. It is your bodies own serotonine which gets released by ingesting Psilocybin. Serotonine has to be re-synthesised in the body before Psilocybin can have its effect again.
A typical dose for Microdosing is 0.2g – 0.5g of dried mushrooms. The amount of Psilocybin in the mushrooms varies greatly. More so by the amount of nutrients and humidity in the soil than by the various strains of Psilocybe mushroom. So you shouldn’t rely on knowing the strain to exactly gage the effect it will have on you. It is recommended to start with 0.2g and increase by 0.1g every fourth day until you feel the heightened awareness and creativity.
A common dose for healthy individuals to experience psychedelic effects without having any specific therapeutic goal is in the range of 6-20mg of pure Psilocybin. This is equal to roughly 1,5g – 3g of dried mushrooms. Again, it is advisable to start on the low end and slowly increase the dosage. Most people recommend doing a psychedelic sessions once a month. One could start with 1,5g and increase by 1g every 4 weeks.
In most of the studies done on the effect of Psilocybin on depression and addiction, dosages of 20mg – 30mg of pure Psilocybin have been used. This is equal to roughly 3-6g of dried Psilocybe cubensis mushrooms. You should definitely have at least on “sitter” that takes care of you during the session and respect the 6 “S” of psychedelic use.
Terence McKenna, an ethnobiologist who popularised a lot of the recreational and spiritual use of psychedelic mushrooms in the industrial nations, recommended to take a “Heroic Dose” for deeply mystical and spiritual experiences. A heroic dose would be north of 6g of dried mushrooms. In general this NOT recommended as a recreational dose for people without very sensible spiritual goals and a lot of previous psychedelic experience.
The Apple of truth : Should you eat the forbidden fruit?
“Part of what psychedelics do is they de condition you from cultural values. This is what makes it such a political hot potato. Since all culture is a kind of con game, the most dangerous candy you can hand out is one which causes people to start questioning the rules of the game. Terence McKenna
Gerrit Keferstein is a Medical Doctor specialised in Performance & Functional Medicine. He is most known for his work on the optimisation of recovery and adaptation in elite athletes.