Microdosing Psilocybin Mushrooms - Risks vs Rewards
Updated: Jun 28, 2019
Having completed a course of private Kambo treatments for an old friend of mine recently, she told me about her experience with microdosing magic mushrooms over the last year. Having done larger doses of “shrooms” in the past when I was in Amsterdam I was totally amazed by what she told me.
In a nutshell - It almost completely did away with her depression, made her anxiety 80% better and helps her to be more social.
That’s some pretty bold statements to make but I trust this person’s opinion and decided to delve a little deeper into this topic to see if I could find out how microdosing psilocybin mushrooms could be so powerful. Of course this brings up some concerns such as, “Are there any risks associated with it?”. Let’s take a look and find out.
What I found was pretty astounding.
Psilocybin has profound positive effects on brain chemistry
Psilocybin is one of the safest psychoactive substances one can consume
There is a two-fold effect of the benefits - relieving negative mental states and promoting creative and novel ones
What is microdosing?
Microdosing means to take very small, sub-perceptual amounts of psychedelics, like Psilocybin Mushrooms, LSD or Ayahuasca. Sub-perceptual means that the effects are very subtle and barely noticeable on a day to day basis but can have a powerful influence on your life over the longer term. Typically, people integrate the tiny doses into their weekly routine using some kind of appropriate schedule depending on the substance. “Microdosers” often report feeling more physical energy, increased mental focus, higher levels of creativity and improved relational skills.
What is psilocybin?
Psilocybin is a powerful psychedelic alkaloid found in certain species of mushroom. These species are of a group of fungi that contain any of various psychedelic compounds, including psilocybin, psilocin, and baeocystin.
Psilocybin mushrooms have been used for psychedelic purposes throughout history and usage dates all the way back to religious rituals 6000 years ago. There is a strong history of use among the native peoples of Mesoamerica for religious communion, healing and entering into altered states of consciousness.
The effects of psilocybin mushrooms come from psilocybin and psilocin. When psilocybin is ingested, it is broken down to produce psilocin, which is responsible for the psychedelic effects.
When taken in large “breakthrough” doses these mushrooms can give the user a profound and life-changing psychedelic experience. Experiences like these, while valuable, can be too much for some people and require a certain level of mental strength and experience. One needs to work up to these large doses in order to be able to handle the sheer power and radical dislocation of reality that they provide.
Ego loss, vivid hallucinations, auditory distortion and direct communication with seemingly alien entities and communication with the mushroom itself are common experiences when working with psilocybin to its fullest potential.
For many people, there is no desire to go through such an extreme process so microdosing provides a much less intimidating way to work with this substance. One can still reap some of the profound benefits without needing to “trip balls” as the kids say.
How does Psilocybin affect brain chemistry?
With regards to the science of it, interestingly there’s very little research on microdosing specifically. We do know, however how large doses of psychedelics affect the brain.
One class of psychedelics, of which psilocybin is a member, are called “serotonergic” meaning they act on the serotonin system within the brain. Serotonin is one of the most important neurotransmitters in the brain and affects nearly everything we do, from how we feel to how we process information.
The serotonergic psychedelics share a similar chemical structure to serotonin and work by mimicking it. A class of antidepressants called “SSRIs” or “Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors” work by blocking the reabsorption of serotonin in the brain, causing an excess of serotonin to be available to the serotonin receptor. Over time this causes the receptor to grow in size and become capable of absorbing larger amounts of serotonin, thus upregulating the serotonin system and relieving the anxiety and depression related to low serotonin levels.
Psychedelics work more directly, as I’ll explain. When one takes a dose of one of these psychedelics the compound competes with serotonin in the synaptic space and binds to the serotonin receptor. This means that one of their main effects is to stimulate the serotonin receptors. One particular receptor located in the prefrontal cortex is called “5-HT2A.”
The stimulation of the 5-HT2A receptor has two amazing benefits
It causes the production of “Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor” or BDNF. BDNF is like a growth tonic for the brain. It stimulates overall brain function including growth, connections, and activity.
It also causes increased transmission of “Glutamate”. Glutamate is another neurotransmitter. It is by far the most abundant excitatory neurotransmitter in the nervous system and is used by every major function in the brain.
The way in which these two compounds work together is still being understood, but the benefits of having abundant amounts of both have become increasingly clear.
Another thing psilocybin and similar psychedelics do is to down-regulate the activity of an often overused part of the brain called the “Default Mode Network”. This part of the brain is linked to self reflection and ruminating over the past and future. It’s hypothesised that when this part of the brain is overactive it can cause excessive thinking, over-analysis and a lack of connection to the present moment. I don’t know about you, but when I feel anxious it’s always linked to this kind of brain activity.
Although it has a completely different mechanism of action this reminds me of the feeling after a Kambo treatment. Any of you that have done Kambo will know what I’m referring to. That wonderful, meditative state of being in complete “now” presence. Kambo works on the opioid receptors in the brain and is not serotonergic.
This down-regulation of activity based on excessive thinking also allows certain parts of the brain to communicate with other parts of the brain that wouldn’t usually be accessible to each other under normal circumstances. This offers opportunities for novel and unique brain functionality.
It seems abundantly clear that the results of these mechanisms of action would have profound psychological effects and explain why these substances could be used to combat mental and emotional issues such as depression and PTSD. Not only that but the connection to increased creativity through this enhanced brain function is an exciting prospect for the future of mankind in relation to mind-blowing breakthroughs in a multitude of different sectors.
What I’ve explained above is an overview of the mechanism of how psilocybin affects the brain. When used in a microdosing fashion, one can reap the benefits incrementally over time without going through an intense and potentially traumatic psychedelic experience. As I said the research into microdosing specifically is pretty thin but we can draw some pretty strong conclusions as to how these compounds would work in a microdosing regimen.
What are the benefits?
So as you can tell there are many potential benefits to microdosing psilocybin. We can break them down into two categories -
Improving negative mental states and pathologies such as PTSD, anxiety and depression.
Increasing productivity and creativity through novelty and insight
These two will overlap for sure but there’s a wealth of anecdotal evidence that psilocybin works very well for both of these purposes. A quick google search will unearth thousands of personal accounts of how microdosing psilocybin has worked for people in these respects.
Are there any risks?
Of course, I considered that there must be some risks associated with the use of this powerful compound but what I found was that statistically it’s actually one of the safest psychoactive substances one can use, especially at the dosages that would be applicable to microdosing.
Obviously anyone with a history of a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia or psychosis should tread very carefully in relation to any psychoactive substance. The possibility of triggering some kind of episode and making things worse is a very real possibility. Proceed with extreme caution in these instances.
For most people psilocybin should have only positive effects but as with all psychedelic substances there is always an unpredictability with them. These are powerful substances, even at small doses and they tend to amplify one’s current mental state. Taking them when in highly stressed states could lead to even more stress and anxiety so it’s important to assess one’s mental state before using them.
The other consideration is the legality of psilocybin use in your country of residence. Although times are changing and the legalisation of magic mushrooms seems to be looming, in most countries they are still illegal to possess so one needs to do their own research in this respect and look at potential ways one can use this medicine safely and legally. In the Netherlands, for example, truffles, which are a type of psilocybin mushroom that grows underground are legal to buy and can be purchased from the headshops. There are also organized retreats where one can go and experience full dose experiences as well as microdosing.
To sum things up it seems that psilocybin has fantastic potential to be used as a safe therapeutic tool especially when used in a microdose regimen. As with any substance it’s always advised that you do your own research and come to your own conclusions as to whether this is something you would want to use.
I hope you found this article as interesting to read as it was to write!
More to come soon….
P.S If you're interested in learning more about Kambo, check out the link below for details on our upcoming training courses.