Along with a new influx of research into the effects of psilocybin’s therapeutic effects and the decriminalization of magic mushrooms in various states and countries around the world, interest in the use of psychedelics, both recreationally and medicinally has grown exponentially in recent years.
A Trip into the Unknown – Understanding the Effects and history of Magic Mushrooms
Firstly, it’s important to understand magic mushrooms and their potential effects. Psilocybin is the hallucinogenic chemical or compound found in magic mushrooms which causes a number of effects from euphoria to altered perception of our surroundings and self.
Psilocybin activates serotonin receptors in the brain, primarily in the prefrontal cortex which is the area of the brain that controls emotions, perception and cognition. The hallucinogenic effects of psilocybin usually last between 4-6 hours and take effect within 30 minutes to 2 hours of consumption.
Mushrooms can be eaten as raw caps or stems and can be found sprouting up in the wild, although it can be difficult to decipher magic mushrooms from other potentially toxic mushrooms. Mushrooms can also be dried and crushed to consume in capsule form. Many people like to consume mushrooms in the more traditional method of brewing them in tea – this is a personal favorite of mine as I enjoy the process of creating my own “potion”. Today, magic mushrooms are not just limited to being consumed in their natural form. A new wave of products has emerged, taking magic mushrooms to the next level of tasty. Many people are now choosing to purchase mushroom chocolate or gummies as a way to cover up the sometimes bitter taste of magic mushrooms.
Magic mushrooms have been used by various societies throughout the world as far back as 9000BC. There are numerous depictions of magic mushrooms in cave paintings, ancient statues and carvings from all over the world. Magic mushrooms were often used in ritual or ceremony to reinforce social bonds, encourage openness to alternative ideas and ways of seeing the world, and for personal and spiritual growth.
Are magic mushrooms the new Social drug craze of 2024?
Over the past few years mushrooms have been shooting up in research labs, corporate culture and wellness retreats within the Silicon Valley, and beyond. This trend has now trickled down to the masses and, for many, taking small doses of magic mushrooms has become a norm within parties and social gatherings.
In order to better understand the popularity of mushrooms on the social scene, I started interviewing people everywhere I went. Let’s take a look at what some of them had to say about their experiences of using psilocybin at social events and for medicinal purposes…
No Hangover? Yes please
Dashiel*, a Millennial working in client management, says he has chosen to nibble on some mushroom chocolate or a raw cap instead of drinking at social gatherings. Dashiel told me that he prefers the effects he gets from microdosing psilocybin, plus he feels better the next day as he doesn’t get “hangxiety” (hangover anxiety) or have any of the other negative effects associated with an alcohol hangover.
Furthermore, Dashiel says he makes better decisions when microdosing and doesn’t worry about becoming overconfident and impulsive in the same way he does when he is drunk.
Say goodbye to popcorn at a slumber party, and say hello to shrooms night with the sisters
During the UK lockdown, Ruby* tried mushrooms for the first time with her friends, since then she has stopped drinking alcohol entirely and instead opts to munch on some mushroom chocolate or take a small drop off liquid mushroom extract.
When a couple of friends suggested that they try mushrooms back in one of the phases of Lockdown, Ruby said that she was a little taken aback as they are not friends she typically associated with taking substances like this. Ruby told me about how she and her friends got the house nice and cozy, setting up some good playlists that would help elevate their mood and made sure that they felt comfortable and safe in their space. After the first experience Ruby says she understood the intrigue and has since been micro-dosing around once a month.
Ruby informed me that her favorite method of consumption is liquid mushroom extract as she knows the exact strength of the bottle and can easily alter how much she consumes based on things like her mood, the social event she is attending and how long she would like her experience or trip to last.
Like Dashiel, Ruby also said that avoidance of hangovers is a key draw for her and reports that since she has been using mushrooms instead of alcohol she now knows when to call it a night, goes home feeling content, and does not feel groggy or anxious the next day.
From Malibu to downtown – magic mushrooms don’t discriminate
Tommy*, who is in his early 20s and currently living in LA, told me that he regularly goes to parties where mushrooms have become the new norm. Tommy told me about parties he has been attending where, instead of a bar, there is a makeshift “mushroom bar” with products like brownies, chocolate bars, raw caps, and tea on offer.
Tommy explained that in LA there is a broad spectrum of micro-scenes varying from the bougie parties in the mansions of Malibu, to backyard barbecues with live local bands. Tommy said in his experience these parties are not underground sketchy environments which get out of hand, instead the individuals who attend are microdosing with more of a focus around self-optimization, wellness and relaxation.
Magic medicine – psilocybin use in self-care and ritual
45 year old Sarah* uses psilocybin as a plant medicine and uses small doses to concentrate on specific intentions. She said that since starting to use plant medicine and psilocybin her mental health has improved dramatically as she is able to view things from a new perspective and open her mind to alternative views.
Sarah says she was stuck in a cycle of anxiety and depression for many years and could not seem to break this cycle with mainstream medicine or therapies. This all changed when she started using mushrooms to heal herself around 10 years ago. Sarah told me that when she takes mushrooms her internal world changes dramatically and her default mode is turned off or down, opening new pathways in the brain and consequentially, new ways of viewing or interacting with the external world.
Sarah explained that people can not or should not expect immense change with just one trip or psychedelic experience, but can take forward the insights and views into the external world and continue to work on them and practice them in the mundanity of everyday life. Sarah now facilitates plant medicine ceremonies which use psilocybin and ayahuasca in a safe environment to help people alter their consciousness and improve their mental health. Sarah said that she takes great pride in her job and ensures that anyone taking part in a healing ceremony is in a safe and secure environment. Sarah values being able to see other people’s growth overtime and feels happy that she can support people on their journey.
Illegality of mushrooms
Due to the prohibition of mushrooms in the majority of locations across the globe, many of the people obtain their mushrooms through illegal means< This potentially exposes them to issues associated with the criminal underground including violence and an introduction to the criminal justice system if caught and prosecuted. Furthermore, this results in people being potentially less certain of the contents and strength of their products than if they could be purchased through the licensed market.
*The names used in this article have been changed in order to protect the identity of those interviewed.
New to trying magic mushrooms? A word of advice…
“It’s always worth erring on the side of caution when taking any psychedelics, including psilocybin.”
As they are not supplied by a controlled and regulated market, knowing the strength or exact contents of the purchased substance is challenging. It’s good to be mindful of how long it can take for mushrooms, or other psychedelics to take effect (30 minutes to 2 hours) so make sure that you aren’t the person that says “Oh, I don’t feel anything”, takes more, and then ends up in an intense and prolonged trip that they did not anticipate.
The time it takes for shrooms to take effect can depend on many factors including; the method of consumption, how many are eaten, an individual’s metabolic rate, the quantity of food consumed prior, the type of mushroom consumed and what other substances may be in someone’s system at the time.
In short, if you’re new to the world of psilocybin, approach in small doses from a trusted supplier and take the time to ensure you are in a good place both physically, and mentally.
A new way of looking at psilocybin in 2024
Magic mushrooms have a long history of use in humans and society is now starting to view them in a new light and experiment with them in different ways, both inside and outside of the lab.
The hippy stereotype we associate with psychedelic use seems to be on the way out as psychedelics are reaching a broader, more diverse audience as understanding of them grows.
Many people report microdosing magic mushrooms due to benefits in terms of sociality, individual mindset and the lack of adverse effects post-consumption. Many others use psilocybin as a tool to improve themselves spiritually and manage their own mental health conditions.
Mushrooms appear to be popping over many different social scenes and the stigma surrounding them is reducing as the understanding of them grows. Psilocybin has an effect on serotonin receptors and the part of the brain which manages our feelings, cognition and perception – this is why they are now being studied as a treatment for depression as well as other mental and physical health conditions.
Magic mushrooms are the oldest recreational drug known to man and they maintain their place in today’s society through popular culture, individual experimentation, ritual, scientific study, therapeutic use and as the potential next social drug craze of the coming year. It seems evident that mushrooms will continue to be used by future generations and more of their potential is still to be uncovered.
Brusco, Robert. “Tripping through Time: The Fascinating History of the Magic Mushroom.” Ancient Origins, 1 February 2017, https://www.ancient-origins.net/history-ancient-traditions/tripping-through-time-fascinating-history-magic-mushroom-007474. Accessed 13 January 2024.
Fontaine, Dominique, and Kathleen Davis. “Psilocybin and magic mushrooms: Effects and risks.” Medical News Today, 2023, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/308850#what-is-psilocybin. Accessed 15 January 2024.