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Q&A: In the dark about psilocybin mushrooms

A vendor bags psilocybin mushrooms at a cannabis marketplace in Los Angeles in this Friday, May 24, 2019 photo. (Associated Press)
A vendor bags psilocybin mushrooms at a cannabis marketplace in Los Angeles in this Friday, May 24, 2019 photo. (Associated Press)
By Rob Mejia EVERCANNABIS Correspondent

Dear CannaCurious,

Lately I have been seeing a bunch of articles about psilocybin, which I understand mean psychedelic mushrooms. Are these the magic mushrooms I remember from the 1970s, and why are we talking about them again? Signed, A Fun Guy

Dear Fun Guy,

If you follow cannabis news, you are probably seeing related articles about magic mushrooms/psilocybin (pronounced nsy-lə-SY-bin) because mushrooms and cannabis share some common attributes and may be attracting a similar consumer base. Here are some basic facts about mushrooms:

• Mushrooms are fungi, but not all fungi are mushrooms

• Mushrooms are 90% water

• Over 10,000 types of mushrooms have been identified, but many more remain undiscovered

• Mushrooms have been used for centuries for both medicinal and spiritual reasons

• Researchers think that mushrooms containing psilocybin (over 200 species) cause a “hyperconnected brain” where parts of the brain that don’t usually communicate begin to make connections

Another reason you are reading about mind-altering mushrooms is that several municipalities, namely Denver in Colorado, and Oakland and Santa Cruz in California, recently decriminalized the possession and use of psilocybin mushrooms. This month, the state of Oregon and Washington D.C. will be voting on decriminalization as well.

But we still have a long way to go towards national decriminalization or legalization of so-called magic mushrooms. Psilocybin mushrooms remain illegal in most of the U.S. and, like cannabis, are considered a Schedule 1 drug – a substance that has a high risk of addiction and no recognized medical use.

But advocates tout mushrooms as a safe drug with numerous health, psychological, spiritual and emotional benefits. And those benefits are being taking seriously. Johns Hopkins University is currently conducting research on types of mushrooms to see if they can help with conditions such as depression, nicotine dependence, Alzheimer’s, anxiety, opioid addiction and PTSD.

Mushroom parallels to cannabis in many ways. Just like cannabis, the method of consumption makes a difference as to time of onset and how long the experience lasts. As with cannabis, factors such as size of dose, setting, product taken, individual health factors, and expectations may also influence the experience.

Mushrooms are often eaten dry or fresh (dry mushrooms are more potent than fresh mushrooms), sometimes mixed with food or consumed in tea. Effects start in 5 to 10 minutes if taken in tea, and in about 30 minutes when ingested. The mushroom high lasts for 4 to 6 hours, but some users report a longer duration, but you won’t feel any lasting effects after 24 hours.

One increasingly popular service in the mushroom space is the use of “mushroom guides” who are experts in dosing, safety, species types and the ability to explain what will happen. As with each person, an experience can differ widely. But generally, with a modest dose defined as .5 to 1.5 grams, the user may feel the following effects which occur in phases:

• Sounds, colors, and objects may begin to look and sound different

• Some people may experience what are called “visuals,” or mild hallucinations

On the positive side, psilocybin mushrooms can make you feel giggly, euphoric, bring on feelings of awe and connection, and provide energy.

On the negative side, consumers may feel nauseous, anxious, paranoid and overwhelmed. But the negative experiences and feelings are usually traced back to the user’s state of mind when the journey began. To promote a positive outcome, approach the experience with a feeling of safety, confidence, and the willingness to surrender to the crossing.

Another reason to work with an experienced mushroom guide is to avert the ingestion of poisonous mushrooms that can look very similar to a magic mushroom. Every guide will tell you to avoid using substances such as alcohol, cannabis, and other mind-altering drugs at the same time in order to focus solely on your psilocybin adventure.

Overall, the experience of using mushrooms can best be described as a focused, connected way to interact with and examine your inner life. You will make connections that have never occurred to you. You are likely to appreciate those around you and nature in a more profound way. You will feel grounded and part of the earth. You may laugh, you may sing but you will definitely emerge as a different person. May you travel safely and peacefully.

Rob Mejia is president of the cannabis education company Our Community Harvest and Adjunct Cannabis Professor at Stockton University. He lives in New Jersey and enjoys tennis, cooking and home repair.

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