Before taking any substance for the first time, it’s best to start by asking a few questions. When it comes to psilocybin, one of the first should be “How safe are magic mushrooms?” A key pillar of harm-reduction is education, both the benefits and possible harms.
Psilocybin shares a chemical structure that is very similar to the neurotransmitter serotonin. The serotonin-like molecules trick the brain into exciting pathways related to happiness, well-being, cognition, and learning. The result is a “psychedelic trip” — distortions of perception, time and space.
A psychedelic trip is purely temporary, with no known effects on the structure or health of the brain. The only semi-permanent, physical effect on the brain is the creation of tolerance to serotonergic compounds after a psilocybin trip. If a similar dose is taken within 10 to 14 days of the first trip, a significantly reduced experience is to be expected.
If an individual were to have two, back-to-back psilocybin experiences — which is not suggested — an increase in dose of up to 300% might be required for the second day. This is often cited as the reason that “No” is the answer to “Are magic mushrooms addictive?” This tolerance also applies to other ‘classical’ hallucinogens like LSD and DMT, which hints toward their shared mechanism of action.
At low doses, known as microdosing, effects are not readily noticeable but may contribute to improved creativity and mental flexibility. Psilocybin may also have the power to heal both physically and emotionally.
How safe are magic mushrooms?
Psychedelic compounds like psilocybin are known as “serotonergic” or “classic” hallucinogens, chemicals that directly alter the creation, action, or elimination of the neurotransmitter serotonin. While it seems counter-intuitive, anecdotes suggest that SSRIs — Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors — inhibit the effects of psilocybin and that the combination should be largely avoided.
Otherwise, according to a global drug survey completed in 2017, magic mushrooms were considered the safest recreational drug. “Magic mushrooms are one of the safest drugs in the world,” says Adam Winstock, founder of the Global Drug Survey and consultant addiction psychiatrist. Compared to users of MDMA, LSD or cocaine; users of magic mushrooms were five times less likely to require medical attention.
Magic mushrooms and other drugs
Psilocybin has the potential to interact with some other medications and compounds. Other than SSRIs, MAOIs and other antidepressants are the most common interactors. Depending on the preparation method, mushrooms can also interact with acids like lemon juice and potentiators like Syrian Rue. Extra research and caution is suggested before combining Psilocybin with any other substance, even alcohol or cannabis.
For your first few magic mushroom adventures, it’s best to avoid any substance that might cloud the experience. As always, if you are mixing things up, proceed with caution and consume in moderation.