Knowing the actual effects of psilocybin mushrooms, information on dosing, and resources for handling difficult experiences can help prevent dangerous situations, while enhancing their potential benefits.
Psilocybin Effects and Dosing
Mushrooms used non-medically are usually taken orally either by eating dried caps and stems, or steeped in hot water and drunk as a tea, with a common dose around 1-2.5 grams, though potency may vary regardless of the amount.
Dried mushrooms are typically more potent than fresh ones. Risk of fatal overdose is virtually nonexistent with psilocybin mushrooms, but risky behaviors sometimes occur while people are under the influence.
People attempting to pick psilocybin mushrooms in the wild may accidentally take poisonous mushrooms instead. Similarly, though also very unlikely, poisonous mushrooms are sometimes misrepresented and sold as psilocybin, and these do come with more physical risks, including fatal overdose.
Psilocybin’s effects are usually evident within 30-40 minutes after ingestion, but sometimes may not become noticeable for as long as an hour, with a gradual intensification over the first 1-2 hours. People may think they didn’t take enough so they take more. To avoid what may be an overly intense experience from a high dose, the “start low, go slow” method is best for anyone using psilocybin mushrooms – especially for people inexperienced with them or other psychedelics.
Handling Difficult Experiences
Psilocybin, like other psychedelics, often evokes conscious awareness of subconscious thoughts and feelings, such as repressed memories, feelings about life circumstances, fantasies, or deep fears. Thus, if someone makes the decision to use psilocybin mushrooms, it is important for that person to be prepared to deal with unusual – and perhaps even challenging – thoughts, images, and feelings in an open and thoughtful manner. It is also best to use psilocybin (or any psychedelic) with someone is not under the influence of the substance (a “guide”) who can prevent the user from engaging in dangerous activities.
Predicting what kind of experience a person will have after taking psilocybin is difficult, so experts recommend that people with a personal or family history of mental illness should be aware of their vulnerability to potential latent psychological issues emerging or being triggered.
The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) sponsors the Zendo Project, which provides support at several live music events and festivals for attendees experiencing psychological distress potentially related to drug use, as well as trainings promoting education around psychedelic harm reduction.
To reduce accidental deaths related to drug use, improve public health outcomes, care for vulnerable populations, and protect young people, it is important to prioritize education about potential risks, precautionary measures, and reducing harm instead of zero-tolerance policies and criminalization.