Greg did not fit the public stereotype for alcohol dependence. A 42-year old functioning banking executive, who never blacked out or showed fits of rage. He did not struggle at work, and his home was never strewn with empty beer cans. He had never received a ticket for driving under the influence of alcohol. Even though he was able to function, Greg knew he was struggling. He found alcohol rehab programs unappealing for several personal reasons. He was, however, interested in trying magic mushrooms for alcohol addiction.

There is actually no stereotype for alcohol use disorder. Dependence on alcohol is widespread. It spans across both sexes, various ages, professions, and ethnicities. According to the 2018 NSDUH survey, about 14 million adults ages 18 and older had alcohol use disorder. Unfortunately, only about 8 percent of this population received treatment in the past year.

In the 50s through the 70s, magic mushrooms were studied for alcohol addiction. Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) was also shown to help with alcohol dependence. In recent times, researchers have started looking at these substances again. There are pointers that psychedelics such as LSD and magic mushrooms help alcohol addiction.

As an example, a John Hopkins study presented compelling evidence. It showed that psychedelics could lead to a reduction – and sometimes, complete cessation – of problematic alcohol use. The survey results showed a decrease in the number of alcoholic drinks people consumed. This decrease was still present even a year later.

Another study found that psilocybin use leads to fewer drinking days, fewer drinks per day, and fewer cravings.

 

What are Magic Mushrooms (Psilocybin)?

Magic mushrooms contain psilocybin, a hallucinogenic substance. This naturally-occurring psychedelic exerts its effect on the brain via its active metabolite, psilocin.

Magic mushrooms grow in regions like the United States, South America, Europe, and Mexico. They are found in the wild, but can be homegrown and are available fresh or dried.

Psilocybin mushrooms are ingested orally by eating the dried caps and stems. They are also ingested by brewing in hot water and drunk as a tea. Typical doses are usually between 1 – 2.5 grams daily.

Some illegal producers crush the dried mushrooms into a powder and package them in capsule form. In some cases, such capsules come in flavors like chocolate.

 

Street Names

Drug dealers do not sell psilocybin under this name on the streets. Instead, they have more exotic names, such as:

  • Magic Mushrooms
  • Mushrooms
  • Shrooms
  • Zoomers
  • Simple Simon
  • Boomers
  • Cubes
  • Mushies
  • Sacred Mushrooms
  • Mushroom soup
  • Little smoke
  • Purple passion
  • Liberties
  • Blue Meanies
  • Liberty Caps
  • Caps
  • Buttons
  • Magics

 

How Does Psilocybin Work?

This natural hallucinogen activates serotonin receptors in the brain. The part of the brain most activated is the prefrontal cortex. This region of the brain affects perception, cognition, and mood.

After ingestion, psilocybin changes in the body to psilocin. The effects usually take about 30-40 mins to manifest and last about 4 – 6 hours. It can distort how people perceive objects and people within their environment. For some individuals, this can last for several days.

 

Effects of Magic Mushrooms On The Body

Psilocybin effects are similar to those of LSD, another hallucinogen. Some of these presentations are:

  • Changes in mood and feelings
  • Change in the perception of time and space
  • Euphoria (a sense of “high”)
  • “Spiritual awakening.”
  • Feeling of peacefulness
  • Derealization (the belief that your surroundings are not real)
  • Dilated pupils
  • Distorted thinking
  • Visual distortion such as seeing vivid colors and halos of light
  • Poor concentration
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Muscle weakness
  • Confusion
  • Paranoia
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Yawning
  • Hallucinations (seeing and hearing things that are not there)
  • A “bad trip.”
  • Poisoning from mistakenly eating a poisonous mushroom

Some people who use magic mushrooms experience persistent changes in the way they see the world. These changes are usually visual and can be very distressing. Also, they can last for weeks to even years! In the DSM-5, Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder is the term for this condition.

In some cases, individuals may experience a “bad trip.” This condition includes a feeling of despair, confusion, anxiety, panic attacks, and paranoia. Sadly, such feelings may last for several hours to days.

The risks of using psychedelics are mostly psychological, not physical. Physically, psilocybin mushrooms appear to be one of the least toxic drugs known. Deaths from consuming usual doses of psilocybin mushrooms are rare.

Even though physical effects can occur, they are usually mild. Also, they vary from person to person.

 

How Does Magic Mushrooms Help Alcohol Addiction?

The use of psychedelic drugs in addiction treatment appears radical. How is it that one mind-altering substance overrides dependence on another?

According to researchers, magic mushrooms help with alcohol use disorder. It is, however, the nature of the psychedelic experience that predicts long-term success. For alcohol addiction, psychedelic drugs have effects that are more similar to psychotherapy than medications. Even though magic mushrooms interact with the brain, their benefits manifest in the experiences you have from consuming it.

So, what is responsible for the success of magic mushrooms in alcohol dependence? Scientists believe it is the intense nature of the drug’s psychological experience.

Additionally, magic mushrooms are shown to reduce cravings in people with alcohol use disorder. Psilocybin was also shown to be effective in helping long-term smokers quit. It worked better when compared to varenicline, a medication for smoking cessation.

Other than psilocybin, some other psychedelic drugs have benefits in alcohol addiction. An LSD study showed exciting results. “A single dose of LSD, in the context of various alcoholism treatment programs, is associated with a decrease in alcohol misuse.”

Many of the studies on psychedelics indicate that the response is not just due to the drugs. The treatment setting plays a significant role. Also, the therapist performs a considerable function in the response. As such, everything about the experience needs careful planning to ensure maximum benefits.

 

Brain Changes Associated With Psychedelics

How does the psychedelic experience help with alcohol addiction? Does it cause changes to brain chemistry?

These questions are still being researched, but there are theories. According to research, psychedelics affect serotonin, a chemical found in the brain. They cause downregulation of the serotonin system. This process can lead to decreased impulsivity and improved mood.

It is also thought that psychedelics may cause brain cells to change their shapes and connections. This process leads to the remodeling of the brain. As a result, the brain can change the learning process that led to addiction in the first place.

Brain scans show interesting changes in people who take psychedelics. One study revealed a sharp increase in communication between areas of the brain that normally don’t talk to each other.

Psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy is a growing field showing promising results for the treatment of addictions and depression.

 

Psilocybin Is Not Addictive

Magic mushrooms are not addictive.

As a result, physical withdrawal symptoms are not common. Regular use can, however, lead to tolerance to the effects of psilocybin. Tolerance means that there is a need for an increase in the amount of psilocybin to achieve the desired outcomes. It also infers that there is a decrease in the effect with continued use of the same amount of psilocybin.

Interestingly, cross-tolerance can also occur with other drugs like mescaline and LSD.

Even though physical withdrawal is uncommon, psychological withdrawal can occur. This condition usually occurs after using psilocybin for several days. It can cause difficulty in adjusting to reality.

For this reason, researches on this drug occur in a controlled environment with trained personnel.

 

Drug Testing And Magic Mushrooms

Drug testing is sometimes necessary for legal reasons or employment. Such standard testing rarely tests for psilocybin, however. One reason for this is the cost implication. On average, the detection time is about 15 hours for people who only use mushrooms once in a while.

When you consume mushrooms, the body breaks down psilocybin to psilocin. Drug tests can pick up both chemicals. Testing involves urine, blood, or hair.

Due to the low cost and ease, urine tests are the most common way of testing for mushrooms. It is rather unusual to test blood for mushrooms. Blood testing may be done in research settings, though. Hair samples can yield psilocybin even up to four weeks after ingestion. Hair testing for mushrooms is rare, however.

Many factors determine how long psilocybin will stay in the body. Some of these include:

  • Bodyweight
  • Age
  • Genes
  • Food intake
  • Metabolic rate
  • Level of hydration
  • Liver function
  • Kidney function
  • the pH of the urine
  • Type of mushroom
  • Mode of ingestion
  • Interaction with other drugs and medications

 

Conclusion

Magic mushrooms contain psilocybin as the active ingredient. Psilocybin is, perhaps, the best-known naturally-occurring psychedelic drug. This natural hallucinogen activates serotonin receptors in the brain. The part of the brain most activated is the prefrontal cortex. This region of the brain affects perception, cognition, and mood.

In the 50s through the 70s, magic mushrooms were studied for alcohol addiction. In recent times, researchers have started looking at these substances again. There are pointers that psychedelics such as LSD and magic mushrooms help alcohol addiction.

According to research, psychedelics affect serotonin, a chemical found in the brain. This drug causes a downregulation of the serotonin system. Thus, decreasing impulsivity and improving mood.

Magic mushrooms are not addictive. As a result, physical withdrawal symptoms are not common. Regular use can, however, lead to tolerance to the effects of psilocybin.

There is still a lot of ongoing research on psilocybin and other psychedelics. Even though results look promising, some health professionals are skeptical. The dangers versus the benefits are still under review. Perhaps, the use of this drug will be more evident soon. There seem to be lots of possible benefits of psilocybin in the treatment of addictions and mental disorders. Hence, the need to encourage ongoing and new research.

It is also important to note that researches occur in well-controlled environments. Also, the drugs are pure and correctly dosed without dangerous additives. Street drugs, on the other hand, are sometimes “cut” with hazardous substances. Additionally, the doses of these illicit substances are often unknown.

 

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