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Psilocybin mushrooms (also called psilocybian mushrooms) are fungi that contain the psychedelic substances psilocybin and psilocin, and occasionally other psychoactive tryptamines. There are multiple colloquial terms for psilocybin mushrooms, the most common being magic mushrooms or 'shrooms.
Additional recommended knowledge
Several mesolithic rock paintings from Tassili n'Ajjer (a prehistoric North African site identified with the Capsian culture) have been identified by author Giorgio Samorini as depicting the shamanic use of mushrooms, possibly Psilocybe.
Hallucinogenic species of Psilocybe have a long history of use among the native peoples of Mesoamerica for religious communion, divination, and healing, from pre-Columbian times up to the present day. Mushroom-shaped statuettes found at archaeological sites seem to indicate that ritual use of hallucinogenic mushrooms is quite ancient. Mushroom stones and motifs have been found in Mayan temple ruins in Guatemala, though there is considerable controversy as to whether these objects indicate the use of hallucinogenic mushrooms or whether they had some other significance with the mushroom shape being simply a coincidence. More concretely, a statuette dating from ca. 200 CE and depicting a mushroom strongly resembling Psilocybe mexicana was found in a west Mexican shaft and chamber tomb in the state of Colima .
Hallucinogenic Psilocybe were known to the Aztecs as teonanácatl (literally "god's mushroom" or, more properly, "mushroom of the gods" - agglutinative form of teó (god) and nanácatl (mushroom) in Náhuatl) and were reportedly served at the coronation of the Aztec ruler Moctezuma II in 1502. Aztecs and Mazatecs referred to psilocybin mushrooms as genius mushrooms, divinatory mushrooms, and wondrous mushrooms, when translated into English. Bernardino de Sahagún reported ritualistic use of teonanácatl by the Aztecs, when he traveled to Central America after the expedition of Herando Cortés.
After the Spanish conquest, Catholic missionaries campaigned against the "pagan idolatry," and as a result, the use of hallucinogenic plants and mushrooms, like other pre-Christian traditions, was forcibly suppressed. The Spanish believed the mushroom allowed the Aztecs and others to communicate with "devils". In converting people to Catholicism, the Spanish pushed for a switch from teonanácatl to the Catholic sacrament of the Eucharist. Despite this history, in some remote areas the use of teonanácatl has remained.
By the 20th century, hallucinogenic mushroom use was thought by non-Native Americans to have disappeared entirely. Some authors even held that Mesoamerican cultures did not use mushrooms as hallucinogens at all and that the Spanish had simply mistaken peyote for a mushroom. Later investigations by Blas Pablo Reko, Richard Evans Schultes, and R. Gordon Wasson demonstrated that hallucinogenic mushrooms were still widely used by several indigenous Mesoamerican peoples, particularly the Mazatecs of Oaxaca.
At present, hallucinogenic mushroom use has been reported among a number of groups spanning from central Mexico to Oaxaca, including groups of Nahua, Mixtecs, Mixe, Mazatecs, Zapotecs, and others. There has not, however, been any confirmed observations of hallucinogenic mushroom use among the Maya peoples, either in the pre-Columbian or post-Contact eras.
According to the BBC, the first documented use of psychedelic mushrooms was in the Medical and Physical Journal: In 1799, a man who had been picking mushrooms for breakfast in London's Green Park included them in his harvest, accidentally sending his entire family on a trip. The doctor who treated them later described how the youngest child "was attacked with fits of immoderate laughter, nor could the threats of his father or mother refrain him."
In 1955, Valentina and R. Gordon Wasson became the first Westerners to actively participate in an indigenous mushroom ceremony. The Wassons did much to publicize their discovery, even publishing an article on their experiences in Life in 1957. In 1956, Roger Heim identified the hallucinogenic mushroom that the Wassons had brought back from Mexico as Psilocybe and in 1958, Albert Hofmann first identified psilocin and psilocybin as the active compound in these mushrooms.
Inspired by the Wassons' Life article, Timothy Leary traveled to Mexico to experience hallucinogenic mushrooms firsthand. Upon returning to Harvard in 1960, he and Richard Alpert started the Harvard Psilocybin Project, promoting psychological and religious study of psilocybin and other hallucinogenic drugs. After Leary and Alpert were dismissed by Harvard in 1963, they turned their attention toward evangelizing the psychedelic experience to the nascent hippie counterculture.
The popularization of entheogens by Wasson, Leary, and others has led to an explosion in the use of hallucinogenic Psilocybe throughout the world. By the early 1970s, a number of psychoactive Psilocybe species were described from temperate North America, Europe, and Asia and were widely collected. Books describing methods of cultivating Psilocybe cubensis in large quantities were also published. The relatively easy availability of hallucinogenic Psilocybe from wild and cultivated sources has made it among the most widely used of the hallucinogenic drugs.
As with many psychoactive substances, the effects of psychedelic mushrooms are subjective and unpredictable. A common misconception, even seen in the professional environment, is that the effects experienced from psilocybin are due to a poisonous nature of the compound, yet the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a branch of the Center for Disease Control, rated psilocybin less toxic than Aspirin. The intoxicating effects of psilocybin-containing mushrooms typically last anywhere from 3 to 7 hours depending on dosage, preparation method and personal metabolism.
The experience is typically inwardly oriented, with strong visual and auditory components. Visions and revelations may be experienced, and the effect can range from exhilarating to distressing. There can be also a total absence of effects, even with large doses. This depends on the species (and to a much lesser degree the strain) of mushroom, substrate they grew from, the quality of the yield and conditions of growth.
As with other psychedelics such as LSD, the experience, or "trip," is strongly dependent upon set and setting. A negative environment could likely induce a bad trip, whereas a comfortable and familiar environment would allow for a pleasant experience. 
Typical doses may cause a number of small effects, such as loss of appetite. Higher doses (typically 2½ grams and above) cause numerous effects such as feelings of coldness, numbness of the mouth and adjacent features, nausea, weakness in the limbs (making locomotion difficult), excessive yawning which usually occurs during the come-up, swollen features and pupil dilation.
As with many hallucinogens, the sensory effects are often the most dramatic of the experience. Common doses cause effects such as a noticeable feeling of heaviness, relaxation, enhancement and contrasting of worldly colors, strange light phenomena (such as auras around lights sources), surfaces that seem to ripple, shimmer, or breathe, and other such visual hallucinations.The sense of smell too can become heightened.
Higher doses elicit a variety of intensified and distinct perceptual changes: complex open and closed eye visuals of form constants or images, objects that warp, morph, or change solid colors (juxtaposed with the free-flowing colors of LSD), a sense of melting into the environment, trails behind moving objects, and auditory hallucinations.
Sounds seem to be heard with increased clarity; music, for example, can often take on a profound sense of cadence and depth. Intriguingly, some users speak about the feeling of their senses overlapping or synesthesia, a rather interesting experience wherein the user perceives, for example, a visualization of color upon hearing a particular sound. The surface detail of everyday objects is viewed with increased acuity. Unusual natural designs, such as wood grain, flow like rivers. Interesting textures can be quite stimulating to some users. A simple action such as pouring water into a glass can be extremely visually stimulating.
Dr. Frank van der Heijden at the Vincent van Gogh Institute for Psychiatry in the Netherlands claims brief psychotic disturbances, such as transient hallucinations and dysperceptions are more common in psilocybin mushroom users than in nonusers.
Feelings of bliss, relaxation, wonder, anxiety, sadness, or fear have all been reported. Some users may experience intense episodes of hilarity, such as laughing for the duration of the psychedelic experience. Emotions can be experienced with increased sensitivity.
Higher doses carry the increased possibility of a surreal event known as ego death, whereby the user loses the sense of boundaries between their self and the environment, creating a sort of perceived universal unity. Users may experience intense feelings of connectivity with a higher power. Contradictory emotions, such as euphoria and despair, can be experienced simultaneously. A sense of paranoia may be present, and if provoked enough, could culminate into a bad trip. However, the possibility of a bad trip happening can be reduced by a comfortable set and setting.
In 2006, the US government funded a randomized and double-blinded study by Johns Hopkins University, studied the spiritual effects of psilocybin mushrooms. The study involved 36 college-educated adults who had never tried psilocybin nor had a history of drug use, and had religious or spiritual interests; the average age of the participants was 46 years. The participants were closely observed for eight-hour intervals in a laboratory while under the influence of psilocybin mushrooms. One-third of the participants reported the experience was the single most spiritually significant experience of their lifetimes and more than two-thirds reported it was among the top five most spiritually significant experiences. Two months after the study, 79 percent of the participants reported increased wellbeing or satisfaction; friends, relatives, and associates confirmed this. The study also found "about a third of subjects reported significant fear, with some also reporting transient feelings of paranoia."
Common experiences typically exhibit changes such as an increased ability to concentrate on memories, feelings of time dilation, abstract and distractive thought patterns (can cause indecisiveness), phonetic experimentation with vowels, consonants, or click consonants (known as glossolalia), and epiphanies about life. In a way, mushrooms allow what would typically be bypassed by the brain's own natural filters to be magnified, along with the ideas and emotions that may accompany such thoughts. This can be seen as both good and bad, as it may allow for an ease of the ability to focus on stressful matters, or it could also lead to a bad trip.
As dose increases, so do the alterations in perception and consciousness. Significant amounts of time can be spent in deep philosophical or introspective silence. This introspective mindset, if negative, can often be painful and uncomfortable for the user to experience and can last minutes to hours. Users can lose touch with reality in varying degrees, and their egos may undergo a number of separations.
Psilocybin mushrooms are non-toxic and non-addictive. Oral ingestion can produce nausea, vomiting and dizziness. The greatest danger from recreational use is a "bad trip" which can cause severe emotional and psychological distress (With heavy use, mental effects resemble those of psychosis.) Also, extremely poisonous wild picked mushrooms can be easily mistaken for psilocybin mushrooms, their ingestion frequently results in death. Mushrooms should be identified by a professional mycologist if ingestion is deemed appropriate.
In 2007 a report surfaced of a 17 year old girl who had consumed a mix of alcohol, marijuana and mushrooms previous to leaping out of a building window. The report also contained details of a rise in non-lethal emergency calls associated with mushroom use in Amsterdam. According to Peter van Dijk, a researcher at the Utrecht-based Trimbos Institute, "a mushroom is not very dangerous, the real danger came from a blend of alcohol, cannabis and mushrooms that led people to do things they normally would not." 
Medical usage investigations
There have been calls for medical investigation of the use of synthetic and mushroom-derived psilocybin for the development of improved treatments of various mental conditions, including chronic cluster headaches, following numerous anecdotal reports of benefits. There are also several accounts of psilocybin mushrooms sending both obsessive-compulsive disorders ("OCD") and OCD-related clinical depression (both being widespread and debilitating mental health conditions) into complete remission immediately and for months at a time, compared to current medications which often have both limited efficacy and frequent undesirable side-effects. One such study states:
Dosage of mushrooms containing psilocybin depends on the potency of the mushroom (the total psilocybin and psilocin content of the mushrooms), which varies significantly both between species and within the same species, but is typically around 0.5-2% of the dried weight of the mushroom. A typical dose of the rather common species, Psilocybe cubensis, is approximately 1 to 2 grams, corresponding with 10 to 25 milligrams psilocybin and psilocin, while about 2½ to 5 grams dried material or 25 to 50 milligrams of psilocybin/psilocin is considered a heavy dose. Fresh mushrooms are approximately 90% water. Drying the mushrooms breaks down the psilocin much faster, thus shifting the psilocybin/psilocin ratio. Exposure to heat generally breaks down the psychoactive ingredients. When eaten dry, 1 to 1.5 grams of mushrooms provide a small "trip" that can last up to 3 hours. The effects then are relatively mild, depending on the tolerance of the subject. With 3 to 3.5 grams one experiences a strong and solid trip which can last more than 5 hours.
Psilocybin and psilocin are listed as Schedule I drugs under the United Nations 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances. Schedule I drugs are drugs with a high potential for abuse that have no recognized medical uses. The classification of psilocybin mushrooms as a schedule 1 drug has come under criticism because "shrooms" are considered soft drugs with a low potential for abuse. Parties to the treaty are required to restrict use of the drug to medical and scientific research under strictly controlled conditions. Most national drug laws have been amended to reflect this convention (for example, the US Psychotropic Substances Act, the UK Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and Drugs Act 2005, and the Canadian Controlled Drugs and Substances Act), with possession and use of psilocybin and psilocin being prohibited under almost all circumstances, and often carrying severe legal penalties.
Possession and use of psilocybin mushrooms, including the bluing species of Psilocybe, is therefore prohibited by extension. However, in many national, state, and provincial drug laws, there is a great deal of ambiguity about the legal status of psilocybin mushrooms, as well as a strong element of selective enforcement in some places. The legal status of Psilocybe spores is even more ambiguous, as the spores contain neither psilocybin nor psilocin, and hence are not illegal to sell or possess in many jurisdictions, though many jurisdictions will prosecute under broader laws prohibiting items that are used in drug manufacture. A few jurisdictions (such as the US states of California, Georgia, and Idaho) have specifically prohibited the sale and possession of psilocybin mushroom spores. Cultivation of psilocybin mushrooms is considered drug manufacture in most jurisdictions and is often severely penalized, though some countries and one US state have ruled that growing psilocybin mushrooms does not qualify as "manufacturing" a controlled substance.
It is not difficult to cultivate Psilocybe mushrooms (esp. Psilocybe cubensis). The legal availability of spores and mycelium varies by country and state. Most of the other supplies needed for mushroom cultivation (mason jars, potting supplements, rye, brown rice flour) are easily obtained. One can also purchase kits through the mail or Internet that include everything one needs for personal growing. These grow kits are often used by amateur growers, with varying rates of success and yields; contamination of the supplies is a common problem.
Because mushrooms can be grown indoors (namely Psilocybe cubensis and Panaeolus cyanescens), they are generally grown within the same national borders as they are sold. There have been few high-profile cases of mushroom producers and traffickers being caught and prosecuted.
The potency of mushrooms can vary greatly depending on the growing conditions, and buyers of mushrooms run the risk of ingesting a poisonous, mis-identified species, or being cheated by substitutions or cutting of the mushrooms with other, non-psychedelic varieties, or by non-psychedelic varieties laced with other psychedelics, most often LSD (in areas where LSD is plentiful, but Psilocybin mushrooms are more difficult to find).
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Psilocybin_mushrooms". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|