Psilocybe cubensis – Effects

After the consumption of Psilocybe cubensis it often was reported about a dream-like condition. Due to the often reported parallelism between dreams and hallucinations (Jacobs, 1978), the mushrooms is also called a hallucinogen even though hallucinations occur rarely after intake (Hollister, 1968). After ingesting about 5-10 mg of hallucinogenic substances (e.g., psilocybin or psilocin), numerous effects can appear, e.g., amyasthenia, sudden hysterical laughter, an increased body temperature, compulsive movements, erection of hairs, dilation of pupils, drowsiness, visions of altered shapes and colors, and a pleasant or apprehensive mood. After intake sickness and vomiting can occur within the first 30 minutes, followed by a slight intoxication similar to that after alcohol consumption (20-30 min after intake). The full effect is unfolded after 1-2 hours, and the previously described effects occur. This condition last for about 5-6 hours and after this the intoxication is fading softly and rapidly. Tolerances can be built up if the mushroom is taken in extensively within a short time period and higher amounts have to be consumed to achieve the same effect. This tolerance will disappear after an abstinence of about 1 week. In a clinical study Isbell (1959) studied the effect of psilocybin using 9 patients at the age between 22-40 years. Every subject had a drug history and violated the narcotics act of the US. The following symptoms were described after an consumption of 114 mcgm/kg psilocybin:

„Following administration of psilocybin orally the patients usually spontaneously reported the first subjective effects within 10 to 15 minutes. These effects consisted of vague sensations that things looked, felt, or seemed peculiar, and were accompanied by mild anxiety. After 30 minutes, anxiety became quite definite and was expressed as consisting of fear that something evil was going to happen, fear of insanity, or of death. At this time, changes in mood, usually in the direction of elation (despite the anxiety) and sometimes in the direction of depression, occurred. The patients reported increased keenness of hearing, paresthesia, and blurring of vision. One hour after the drug the reaction was well developed. Anxiety became more marked and, in some cases was intense. Elation, when present, was great and in some patients was expressed by almost continuous gales of laughter. Alterations in practically all sensory modalities were mentioned, particularly in touch, hearing and vision. As is the case with LSD, distortion of visual perception was outstanding, and involved distance, depth, size, shape and color. Visual distortion usually varied rapidly from moment-to-moment. Perception of elementary visual hallucinations were commonly reported. These entoptic phenomena consisted of colored lights which flickered and coalesced to form patterns varying in a kaleidoscopic fashion, or of shadows that seemed to dance on the wall. In sensitive patients, the lights or shadows were perceived as a definite person, object, or animal which the individual could name. The patients reported increased difficulty in thinking, difficulty in concentration, and in carrying out simple arithmetical calculations or reading. They reported a „rush of thoughts“, with one thought replacing another before the first was completed. A feeling of alteration in the individual’s own body occurred consistently and varied from simple feeling of being light or heavy to marked alterations in size, shape or color. Some patients felt they had become very large, or had shrunk to the size of children. Their hands or feet did not seem to be their own, and sometimes took on the appearance of animal paws. At times, patients had the sensation that they could see the blood and bones in their own body or in that of another person. They reported many fantasies or dream-like states in which they seemed to be else- where. Fantastic experiences, such as trips to the moon or living in gorgeous castles, were occasionally reported. Despite these striking subjective experiences, the patients remained oriented in time, place and person. In most instances the patients did not lose their insight, but realized that the effects were due to the drug. Two of the 9 patients, however, did lose insight and felt that their experiences were caused by the experimenters controlling their minds. Reaction usually reached its peak one and one-hMf hours after the drug was given and remained intense for two to three hours. It subsided almost completely five to six hours after the drug was given. “

It is difficult to estimate the content of psilocybin of the mushrooms, as it differs a lot between species and even within; thus, it is not always possible to draw conclusions from the consumed amount of mushrooms on the ingested content of hallucinogenic substances. If a psilocybin content of 0.7% of a fresh mushroom is assumed and about 1 g dried fungus is consumed, about 7 mg psilocybin was taken in. Nevertheless, it is difficult to predict the consumed amount of hallucinogenic substances as the content varied between species and even within species, and so it can happen that the double or even the triple amount was consumed. Generally, the rule of thumb that 10 mg of hallucinogenic substances (psilocybin and psilocin) are contained in 2 g dried Psilocybe cubensis, 1 g fresh 0,5 g dried Psilocybe semilanceata and 5 g fresh Psilocybe cyanescens or Psilocybe azurescens, respectively. After the consumption of about 4 mg hallucinogenic substances a slightly intoxication can be observed. 5-10 mg causes an improvement of motivation and good mood, whereas a biased cognition occurs after the consumption of 10-20 mg. Disorientation, spatial and temporally biased cognition as well as unbalancing appears after intake of 20 mg and more. The maximal dose is 60-100 mg, which is only used for special psychotherapeutical proceedings and under medical control. It is assumed that an amount of 20000 mg is the lethal dose for human beings. To reach this amount a man has to eat the amount of his own weight (fresh mushrooms). After a dose of about 150 mg psilocybin most people experience a totally break from reality, which can bear risks for themselves as well as for others (Brown, 1968).

Side Effects

Although psilocybin-containing mushrooms are not particularly toxic, consumption can lead to psychological or physical damage. It was found that pure psilocybin does not cause organic damage after long-term use of a normal dosage, but other substances present in the fungus may have negative effects, e.g., beaocystin or bufotenin can have neurovegetative effects such as a change in blood pressure, heart palpitations, difficulty breathing or an increase in body temperature. This increased body temperature can lead to a heat stroke; therefore, psilocybin containing mushrooms should not be taken in combination with ecstasy/speed, as these substances cause the same symptoms. One should also note that after taking psilocybin experiences, which were deeply buried in the subconscious can be brought to the surface and can cause panic or anxiety, which statistically is the highest risk of psilocybin consumption. Should it medically be necessary to abort the effects of Psilocybe cubensis, about 5-10 mg diazepam (Valium ®) or 50-100 mg Chloropromazine (Thorazine ®) can be administered to treat psychoses or to calm down (only by a physician). An improvement of the condition usually occurs within the next 6 hours (Mitchell and Bumack, 1978).

Psilocybin vs. LSD

Psilocybin and LSD produces comparable effects after ingestion, but there are huge differences; e.g., the duration of a psilocybin intoxication is much shorter (5-6 hours) compared to LSD producing trips up to 10 hours or longer. Thus, the psilocybin trip is easier to control. Moreover, the risk of bad trips is much lower for psilocybin compared to LSD. In 1982 the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) of the US recorded in 32 cases in which consumers had anxiety and panic attacks due to psilocybin and had to admit into the hospital, whereas 1498 people had to be hospitalize due to LSD consumption (comparable number of consumers during the same period of time). This is mainly due to the fact, that after psilocybin consumption the state of the mind is more stable and sudden changes of the mood are rare. Psilocybin also has fewer neurovegetative side effects; therefore, it replaced the usage of LSD in psychotherapy/psychoanalysis. Wolbach et al. (1962) investigated to what extent the effect of psilocybin and LSD-25 are comparable and they confirmed the above mentioned differences.

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