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Psilocybin mushrooms (also called psilocybian mushrooms or teónanácatl) are fungi mainly of the psilocybe genus 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[1] or shrooms.[2]

History

Early

The writer Carmen Hillier speculated that hallucinogenic mushrooms may have a history that dates back as far as 1 million years ago, originating in East Africa. He suggests that early hominids such as Homo africanus, Homo boisei, and the omnivorous Homo habilis expanded their original diets of fruit and small animals to include underground roots, tubers, and corns.[3] Terence McKenna claims that at this particular time, early hominids gathered Psilocybin mushrooms off the African grasslands and ate them as part of their diet. He suggests that the Psilocybin-containing mushrooms that were thought to have grown on the grasslands at that time were the Panaeolus species and Stropharia cubensis, also called Psilocybe cubensis, which is a famous "Magic Mushroom" widely distributed today.[3]

There is some archaeological evidence for their use in ancient times. 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 possibly depicting the shamanic use of mushrooms, possibly Psilocybe.[4] Hallucinogenic species of Psilocybe have a 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.[5] Mushroom stones and motifs have been found in Mayan temple ruins in Guatemala,[6] 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 "divine mushroom" - agglutinative form of teó (god, sacred) 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.[7] Bernardino de Sahagún reported ritualistic use of teonanácatl by the Aztecs, when he traveled to Central America after the expedition of Hernán 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 quickly suppressed.[6] 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.

The first mentioning of hallucinogenic mushrooms in the Western medicinal literature appeared in the London Medical and Physical Journal in 1799: a man had served Psilocybe semilanceata mushrooms that he had picked for breakfast in London's Green Park to his family. 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."[8]

Modern

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.[9] 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 compounds 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, authors Terence McKenna and Robert Anton Wilson, 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.

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. Maya shamans in villages in the Chiapas region of Mexico such as San Juad de Manchula often administer mushrooms as a treatment for mental and psychological disorders. However, as far as it is known, Mayans do not use mushrooms recreationally.

Effects

Psilocybin mushrooms are non-addictive although they do create short term increases in tolerance of users.[10] Poisonous (sometimes lethal) wild picked mushrooms can be easily mistaken for psilocybin mushrooms, but true psilocybin mushrooms are very non-toxic, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a branch of the Center for Disease Control, rated psilocybin less toxic than aspirin.[11][10] When psilocybin is ingested, it is broken down to produce psilocin, which is responsible for the hallucinogenic effects.[10]

As with many psychedelic substances, the effects of psychedelic mushrooms are subjective and can vary quite a bit among individual users. The mind altering effects of psilocybin-containing mushrooms typically last anywhere from three to eight hours depending on dosage, preparation method, and personal metabolism. However, the effects can seem to last much longer due to psilocybin's ability to alter time perception.[12][13]

Physical

Depending on the amount of mushrooms ingested, many physical reactions can be experienced: a loss of appetite, coldness in the extremities, increase of heart rate, numbness of the mouth and adjacent features, nausea, elevated blood pressure, weakness in the limbs (making locomotion difficult), muscle relaxation, yawning, swollen features and pupil dilation.[12][14]

Sensory

Noticeable changes to the audio, visual, and tactile senses may become apparent from between ten minutes to an hour after ingestion. These shifts in perception, visually, include enhancement and contrasting of worldly colors, strange light phenomena (such as auras or "halos" around light sources and other beings), increased visual acuity, surfaces that seem to ripple, shimmer, or breathe; complex open and closed eye visuals of form constants or images, objects that warp, morph, or change solid colors; a sense of melting into the environment, and trails behind moving objects. Sounds seem to be heard with increased clarity; music, for example, can often take on a profound sense of cadence and depth. Some users experience synesthesia, wherein they perceive, for example, a visualization of color upon hearing a particular sound.[15]

Emotional

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, although neither side of this binary is without exception.[16][17]

In 2006, the U.S. government funded a randomized and double-blinded study by Johns Hopkins University which studied the spiritual effects of psilocybin mushrooms. The study involved thirty-six 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 that the experience was the single most spiritually significant moment of their lives 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 well-being or satisfaction; friends, relatives, and associates confirmed this.

Despite highly controlled conditions to minimize adverse effects, 22% of subjects (8 of 36) had notable experiences of fear, some with paranoia. However, the authors reported that all these instances were "readily managed with reassurance".[18]

Medicinal use

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,[19] 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 up to months at a time, compared to current medications which often have both limited efficacy[20] and frequent undesirable side-effects.[21] One such study states:

"Developing drugs that are more effective and faster acting for the treatment of OCD is of utmost importance and until recently, little hope was in hand. A new potential avenue of treatment may exist. There are several reported cases concerning the beneficial effects of hallucinogenic drugs (psilocybin and LSD), potent stimulators of 5-HT2A and 5-HT2C receptors, in patients with OCD (Brandrup and Vanggaard, 1977, Rapoport, 1987, Moreno and Delgado, 1997) and related disorders such as body dysmorphic disorder (Hanes, 1996)."[21]
"[I]f it can be established that this class of drug can indeed lead to rapid and substantial reduction in OCD symptoms, then it opens the way for a variety of future studies with new drugs that might possibly have the anti-OCD but not the psychedelic effects. [...] Psilocybin, LSD, and mescaline are extremely potent agonists at 5-HT2A and 5-HT2C receptors and their binding potency to these receptors is correlated with their human potency as hallucinogens (Glennon et al., 1984). The acute improvement in symptoms described in the published case reports (Brandrup and Vanggaard, 1977, Rapoport, 1987, Moreno and Delgado, 1997) suggests that interactions with 5-HT2A and 5-HT2C receptors may be an essential component of anti-OCD drug action. The observations that administration of the non-selective 5-HT antagonists metergoline or ritanserin exacerbate OCD symptoms further supports this view."[21]

Dosage and legality

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 2.5 grams,[22] while about 2.5 to 5 grams[22] dried mushroom material is considered a strong dose. Above 5 dried grams is often considered a heavy dose.

Alkaloid Concentration of Dried Psilocybin Mushrooms[23]
Name Psilocybin [mg/g] Psilocin [mg/g] Baeocystin [mg/g] Total [mg/g]
Conocybe cyanopus
9.30–4.50
0.70-0.00
0.30-1.00
10.3–5.5
[24]
Conocybe smithii
n/a
n/a
0.40–0.80
0.40–0.80+
[25]
Panaeolus cinctulus
1.50–6.00
0.00
0.01–0.05
1.51–6.05
[26]
Psilocybe azurescens
1.78
0.38
0.35
2.51
Psilocybe baeocystis
0.85
0.59
0.10
1.54
Psilocybe bohemica
1.34
0.11
0.02
1.47
Psilocybe semilanceata
0.98
0.02
0.36
1.36
Psilocybe cyanescens
0.85
0.36
0.03
1.24
Psilocybe tampanensis
0.68
0.32
n/a
1.00+
Psilocybe cubensis
0.63
0.60
0.025
1.26
Psilocybe weilii
0.61
0.27
0.05
0.93
Psilocybe hoogshagenii
0.60
0.10
n/a
0.70+
Psilocybe stuntzii
0.36
0.12
0.02
0.05
Psilocybe cyanofibrillosa
0.21
0.04
n/a
0.25+
Psilocybe liniformans
0.16
n/a
0.005
0.17+

Psilocybin and psilocin are listed as Schedule I drugs under the United Nations 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances.[27] Schedule I drugs are deemed to have a high potential for abuse and are not recognized for medical use. However, psilocybin mushrooms themselves are not covered by UN drug treaties.

From a letter, dated September 13, 2001, from Herbert Schaepe, Secretary of the UN International Narcotics Control Board, to the Dutch Ministry of Health:[28]

As you are aware, mushrooms containing the above substances are collected and abused for their hallucinogenic effects. As a matter of international law, no plants (natural material) containing psilocine and psilocybin are at present controlled under the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971. Consequently, preparations made of these plants are not under international control and, therefore, not subject of the articles of the 1971 Convention. It should be noted, however, that criminal cases are decided with reference to domestic law, which may otherwise provide for controls over mushrooms containing psilocine and psilocybin. As the Board can only speak as to the contours of the international drug conventions, I am unable to provide an opinion on the litigation in question.

Psilocybin mushrooms are regulated or prohibited in many countries, often carrying severe legal penalties (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).

The prohibition of psilocybin mushrooms has come under criticism because psilocybin mushrooms are considered soft drugs with a low potential for abuse, very low toxicity, and no risk of addiction.

Magic mushrooms in their fresh form still remain legal in some countries including Spain and Austria. On November 29, 2008, The Netherlands announced it would ban the cultivation and use of psilocybin-containing fungi beginning December 1, 2008.[29] The UK ban introduced in 2005 came under much criticism, however was rushed through at the end of the 2001-2005 Parliament. Before 2005 magic mushrooms were sold in hundreds of shops and on internet web sites throughout the UK.

New Mexico appeals court ruled on June 14, 2005, that growing psilocybin mushrooms for personal consumption could not be considered "manufacturing a controlled substance" under state law. However it still remains federally illegal.[30][31]

See also

Notes

  1. Kuhn, Cynthia; Swartzwelder, Scott and Wilson, Wilkie (1998 & 2003). Buzzed: The Straight Facts about the Most Used and Abused Drugs from Alcohol to Ecstasy. W.W. Norton & Company Inc. pp. 83. ISBN 0-393-32493-1. 
  2. "Taking care of ourselves". Cornell University: Women's Resource Center. http://wrc.dos.cornell.edu/handbook/Chapter5.html. Retrieved 2007-04-04. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 McKenna, Terrence (1993) [1993]. Food of the Gods: the Search for the original Tree of Knowledge. Bantam. pp. 336. ISBN 0553371304. 
  4. "The oldest Representations of Hallucinogenic Mushrooms in the World.". www.samorini.net/. http://web.archive.org/web/20060116104741/www.samorini.net/doc/sam/sah_int.htm. Retrieved 2007-04-04. 
  5. John M. Allegro"The Sacred Mushroom And The Cross"
  6. 6.0 6.1 Stamets, Paul (1996) [1996]. Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World. Ten Speed Press. pp. 11. ISBN 0898158397. 
  7. Stamets, Paul (1996) [1996]. Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World. Ten Speed Press. pp. 7. ISBN 0898158397. 
  8. Everard Brande (1799). "On A Poisonous Species of Agaric". London Medical and Physical Journal 11 (November 16): 41–44. http://www.erowid.org/references/refs_view.php?A=ShowDoc1&ID=6331. 
  9. Wasson RG (1957). "Seeking the magic mushroom". Life (June 10).  article reproduced online
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 "Psilocybin Fast Facts". National Drug Intelligence Center. http://www.usdoj.gov/ndic/pubs6/6038/index.htm. Retrieved 2007-04-04. 
  11. The Good Drugs Guide. "Magic Mushrooms–Frequently Asked Questions" (htm). Frequently Asked Questions. The Good Drugs Guide. http://www.thegooddrugsguide.com/mushrooms/faq.htm#01. Retrieved 2007-01-04. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 Erowid and contributors (2006). "Effects of Psilocybin Mushrooms" (shtml). Erowid. http://www.erowid.org/plants/mushrooms/mushrooms_effects.shtml. Retrieved 2006-12-01. 
  13. The Good Drugs Guide. "Psychedelic Effects of Magic Mushrooms". The Good Drugs Guide. http://www.thegooddrugsguide.com/mushrooms/psychedelic.htm. Retrieved 2006-12-01. 
  14. Soochi (2003). "Physical Effects of Mushrooms". Shroomery. Mind Media. http://www.shroomery.org/6265/Physical-Effects-of-Mushrooms. Retrieved 2006-12-01. 
  15. D.M. Turner"Psilocybin Mushrooms:The Extraterrestrial Invasion Of Earth"
  16. Stamets, Paul (1996) [1996]. Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World. Ten Speed Press. ISBN 0898158397. 
  17. Simon G.Powell"The Psilocybin Solution:Prelude To A Paradigm Shift"
  18. "RR Griffiths, WA Richards, U McCann, R Jesse. Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences having substantial and sustained personal meaning and spiritual significance" (PDF). Psychopharmacology 187(3):268-83. August 2006. http://www.csp.org/psilocybin/Hopkins-CSP-Psilocybin2006.pdf. Retrieved 2008-09-25. 
  19. Clusterbusters. "Psilocybin Mushrooms". http://www.clusterbusters.com/hallucinogens.html. Retrieved 2006-12-01. 
  20. "Effects of Psilocybin in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder". http://www.sex.org/research/psilo/azproto.html. :"In spite of the established efficacy of potent 5-HT reuptake inhibitors in the treatment of OCD ... the length of time required for improvement of patients undergoing treatment with 5-HT reuptake inhibitors appears to be quite long ... and the percentage of patients having satisfactory responses may only approach 50%, and most patients that do improve only have a 30 to 50% decrease in symptoms (Goodman et al., 1990)"
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 "Effects of Psilocybin in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder". http://www.maps.org/research/psilo/azproto.html. 
  22. 22.0 22.1 Erowid (2006). "Dosage Chart for Psychedelic Mushrooms" (shtml). Erowid. http://www.erowid.org/plants/mushrooms/mushrooms_dose.shtml. Retrieved 2006-12-01. 
  23. Approximate Alkaloid Content of selected Psilocybe mushrooms (www.erowid.org)
  24. "The Psilocybe Mushroom FAQ, Version 1.2". www.sporelab.com. http://www.sporelab.com/faq-psil.htm#Panaeolus%20subbalteatus. Retrieved 2010-01-04. 
  25. "The Psilocybe Mushroom FAQ, Version 1.2". www.sporelab.com. http://www.sporelab.com/faq-psil.htm#Panaeolus%20subbalteatus. Retrieved 2010-01-04. 
  26. Panaeolus subalteus
  27. "List of psychotropic substances under international control" (PDF). International Narcotics Control Board. August 2003. http://www.incb.org/pdf/e/list/green.pdf. Retrieved 2007-06-25. 
  28. UN's INCB Psilocybin Mushroom Policy
  29. "RTÉ News: 'Shrooms to become illegal in Holland". RTÉ News. November 2008. http://www.rte.ie/news/2008/1128/mushrooms.html. Retrieved 2008-11-28. 
  30. "FindLaw". caselaw.lp.findlaw.com. http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=nm&vol=05ca-099&invol=2. Retrieved 2010-01-03. 
  31. "Erowid Psilocybin Mushroom Vault : Legal Status". www.erowid.org. http://www.erowid.org/plants/mushrooms/mushrooms_law.shtml. Retrieved 2010-01-03. 

References

  • Allen, John W. (1997). Magic Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest. Seattle: Raver Books and John W. Allen. ISBN 1-58214-026-X. 
  • Letcher, Andy (2006). Shroom: A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom. London: Faber and Faber Limited. ISBN 0-060-82828-5. 
  • Nicholas, L. G; Ogame, Kerry (2006). Psilocybin Mushroom Handbook: Easy Indoor and Outdoor Cultivation. Quick American Archives. ISBN 0-932551-71-8. 
  • Stamets, Paul (1993). Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press. ISBN 1-58008-175-4. 
  • Stamets, Paul; Chilton, J.S. (1983). Mushroom Cultivator, The. Olympia: Agarikon Press. ISBN 0-9610798-0-0. 
  • Stamets, Paul (1996). Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press. ISBN 0-9610798-0-0. 
  • Kuhn, Cynthia; Swartzwelder, Scott; Wilson, Wilkie (1998 & 2003). Buzzed: The Straight Facts about the Most Used and Abused Drugs from Alcohol to Ecstasy. New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc. ISBN 0-393-32493-1. 
  • R. Gordon Wasson, The Wondrous Mushroom: Mycolatry in Mesoamerica
  • Alvaro Estrada, Maria Sabina: Her Life and Chants
  • Terence McKenna, Food of the Gods
  • Ole Högberg, Flugsvampen och människan. Section concerning the berserker myth is published online [1] (In Swedish and PDF format) ISBN 91-7203-555-2

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