How Magic Mushrooms Could Potentially Save Us and the World

Image by Emre Öztürk

 

Magic mushrooms have been widely cultivated by individuals for its psychedelic effects to achieve highs called "trips". What causes these "trips" is psilocybin—a naturally occurring hallucinogenic and psychoactive compound. Due to psilocybin, magic mushrooms (or Psilocybe Cubensis in scientific terms) have earned a bad reputation with both local and international authorities.

But are magic mushrooms really that bad? Or are they like cannabis leaves that have medicinal value hiding in plain sight? Let’s take a better look at psilocybin and discover its secrets gram for gram!

The “Magic” Behind Magic Mushrooms

Magic mushrooms have a rich and long history of being associated with self-discovery and spiritual experiences. Shamanistic rituals were performed using these to create a sensation of connection, euphoria, or a skewed sense of time. These mushrooms contain a hallucinogenic and psychoactive compound called psilocybin, which is responsible for the “trips” that users experience.

The psilocybin compound enters the body and gets converted from psilocybin to psilocin, a substance that is believed to influence the levels of serotonin available in the brain. The effects kick in at around 20 to 40 minutes after consumption. Its effects can last up to 6 hours, which is the same time amount of time that psilocin is metabolised and excreted from the body.

Psilocybin’s Nootropic Properties

Nootropics are drugs, supplements, and various other substances that may enhance cognitive functions, specifically executive functions such as motivations, memory, or creativity. Psilocin attaches to the brain’s serotonin receptors, particularly 5HT2a (as well as 5HT1A, 5HT2C, and 5HT1D), which indirectly increases dopamine production, without any direct link to our body’s dopamine system. Dopamine plays an important role in how we feel pleasure, making a person feel happy and generally in a good mood.

However, that’s not all the benefits that psilocybin has to offer because the simulation of the 5HT2a receptor can enhance cortical neural plasticity (the process of reorganising neural connections found in the brain), enhance cognitive flexibility (multi-tasking), enhance associative learning (a type of learning that forms in response to an environmental stimulus), and sustain all of the improvements in a person’s overall well-being.

Possible Medical Use

Some people have a bias towards magic mushrooms, similar to how folks view cannabis leaves, and believe that they are nothing but a bad bunch. But researchers from Johns Hopkins University have actually recommended that psilocybin should be reclassified for its potential medical use. With the use of microdosing, psilocybin can potentially be used to treat nicotine addiction, depression, substance use disorders, anxiety, and cancer-related psychiatric distress. Other possible benefits include an increase in creativity and a boost in the brain’s emotional responsiveness.

Cannabis leaves were once thought to be bad back in the past, but it has now been slowly accepted for its medicinal value. While psilocybin is still not quite there yet we would like to see more studies on the positives and negatives, but we shouldn’t lose hope. There is great potential for its medicinal value and with hard work and studies on its benefits one day we will think of it as part of everyday life.