‘Magic Mushrooms’ Can Improve Psychological Health Long Term

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The psychedelic drug in magic mushrooms may have lasting medical and spiritual benefits, according to new research from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

The mushroom-derived hallucinogen, called psilocybin, is known to trigger transformative spiritual states, but at high doses it can also result in “bad trips” marked by terror and panic. The trick is to get the dose just right, which the Johns Hopkins researchers report having accomplished.

In their study, the Hopkins scientists were able to reliably induce transcendental experiences in volunteers, which offered long-lasting psychological growth and helped people find peace in their lives — without the negative effects.

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“The important point here is that we found the sweet spot where we can optimize the positive persistent effects and avoid some of the fear and anxiety that can occur and can be quite disruptive,” says lead author Roland Griffiths, professor of behavioral biology at Hopkins.

Giffiths’ study involved 18 healthy adults, average age 46, who participated in five eight-hour drug sessions with either psilocybin — at varying doses — or placebo. Nearly all the volunteers were college graduates and 78% participated regularly in religious activities; all were interested in spiritual experience.

Fourteen months after participating in the study, 94% of those who received the drug said the experiment was one of the top five most meaningful experiences of their lives; 39% said it was the single most meaningful experience.

Critically, however, the participants themselves were not the only ones who saw the benefit from the insights they gained: their friends, family member and colleagues also reported that the psilocybin experience had made the participants calmer, happier and kinder.

Ultimately, Griffiths and his colleagues want to see if the same kind of psychedelic experience could help ease anxiety and fear over the long term in cancer patients or others facing death. And following up on tantalizing clues from early research on hallucinogenic drugs like LSD, mescaline and psilocybin in the 1960s (which are all now illegal), researchers are also studying whether transcendental experiences could help spur recovery from addiction and treat other psychological problems like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

For Griffiths’ current experiment, participants were housed in a living room-like setting designed to be calm, comfortable and attractive. While under the influence, they listened to classical music on headphones, wore eyeshades and were instructed to “direct their attention inward.”

Each participant was accompanied by two other research-team members: a “monitor” and an “assistant monitor,” who both had previous experience with people on psychedelic drugs and were empathetic and supportive. Before the drug sessions, the volunteers became acquainted enough with their team so that they felt familiar and safe. Although the experiments took place in the Hopkins hospital complex in order to ensure prompt medical attention in the event that it was needed, it never was.

As described by early advocates of the use of psychedelics — from ancient shamans to Timothy Leary and the Grateful Dead — the psilocybin experience typically involves a sense of oneness with the universe and with others, a feeling of transcending time, space and other limitations, coupled with a sense of holiness and sacredness. Overwhelmingly, these experiences are difficult to put into words, but many of Griffiths’ participants said they were left with the sense that they understood themselves and others better and therefore had greater compassion and patience.

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“I feel that I relate better in my marriage. There is more empathy — a greater understanding of people and understanding their difficulties and less judgment,” said one participant. “Less judging of myself, too.”

Another said: “I have better interaction with close friends and family and with acquaintances and strangers. … My alcohol use has diminished dramatically.”

To zero in on the “sweet spot” of dosing, Griffiths started half the volunteers on a low dose and gradually increased their doses over time (with placebo sessions randomly interspersed); the other half started on a high dose and worked their way down.

Those who started on a low dose found that their experiences tended to get better as the dose increased, probably because they learned what to expect and how to handle it. But people who started with high doses were more likely to experience anxiety and fear (though these feeling didn’t last long and sometimes resolved into euphoria or a sense of transcendence).

“If we back the dose down a little, we have just as much of the same positive effects. The properties of the mystical experience remain the same, but there’s a fivefold drop in anxiety and fearfulness,” Griffiths says.

Some past experiments with psychedelics in the ’60s used initial high doses of the drugs — the “blast people away with a high dose” model, says Griffiths — to try to treat addiction. “Some of the early work in addictions was done with the idea of, ‘O.K., let’s model the ‘bottoming-out’ crisis and make use of the dark side of [psychedelic] compounds. That didn’t work,” Griffiths says.

It may even have backfired: other research on addictions shows that coercion, humiliation and other attempts to produce a sense of “powerlessness,” tend to increase relapse and treatment dropout, not recovery. (And the notorious naked LSD encounter sessions conducted with psychopaths made them worse, too.)

Griffiths is currently seeking patients with terminal cancer to participate in his next set of experiments (for more information on these studies, click here); because psychedelics often produce a feeling of going beyond life and death, they are thought to be especially likely to help those facing the end of life. Griffiths is also studying whether psilocybin can help smokers quit.

Griffiths and other researchers like him are hoping to bring the study of psychedelics into the future. They want to build on the promise that some of the early research showed, while avoiding the bad rep and exaggerated claims — for example, that LSD was harmless and could usher in world peace — that became associated with the drugs when people started using them recreationally in the 1960s. The resulting negative publicity helped shut down the burgeoning research.

This time around, caution may be paying off. Dr. Jerome Jaffe, America’s first drug czar, who was not involved with the research, said in a statement, “The Hopkins psilocybin studies clearly demonstrate that this route to the mystical is not to be walked alone. But they have also demonstrated significant and lasting benefits. That raises two questions: could psilocybin-occasioned experiences prove therapeutically useful, for example in dealing with the psychological distress experienced by some terminal patients?

“And should properly-informed citizens, not in distress, be allowed to receive psilocybin for its possible spiritual benefits, as we now allow them to pursue other possibly risky activities such as cosmetic surgery and mountain-climbing?”

The study was published in the journal Psychopharmacology.

22 comments
SandyBern
SandyBern

I had relief in pain on very low dose. I have fibromyalgia, or ME/CFS affliction. I struggle in moving any muscles because it feels like there's too much gravity pressing on me every minute of every day. The small dose lifted gravity off me it seemed. I experienced much pain relief for several hours. How I wish I could be prescribed this for daily use!!

rochelle87
rochelle87

I was going through a rough time and got ahold of some mushrooms. I had tried them before, but under different circumstances. anyway, this last time was amazing! For the first time in my life I felt no anxiety. I couldn't even remember what it was I worry so often about. I remember telling myself that at that moment I was infinite. I've never felt such peace. Afterwards I found my anxiety slightly decreased overall. Can you rewire your brain during these transcending experiences? That's a study I'd love to see done. I wish I could feel that amazing peace of mind forever!!!

RonTaylor
RonTaylor

For those asking for the dose...I am someone who has extensive experience with mushrooms.  I have led countless people on their first mushroom trips.  I always keep the dose low and people have a great experience.


My suggested dose is 1 to 1.5 grams of dried psilocybe cubensis mushrooms.  Cubensis is the most common type of "magic" mushroom.

KevinFisher
KevinFisher

wtf was the doses?! an shroom strains?

DJRR
DJRR

I'm glad I found this!!! I just experienced this exact thing, it was so uplifting and incredible, praise the Lord and blessed be all you people out there, this is not for everyone but I recommend it for those hitting rough times like I did. I drank OJ when I did this (highly recommended) and smoked marijuana for the last time. I believe these are natural herbs and plants that are gifts from God and you must take them in reasonable amounts, smoking itself is whats negative and pollutant to the human body. I gained so much insight on life and even within myself after this, thank you for all those who listened to my 100% TRUE STORY!!

JeffreyCyrill
JeffreyCyrill

Read Dr. Rick Strassmans "DMT: The Spirit Molecule", an incredible insight into the works of psychedelics.

AnthonyVanBuren
AnthonyVanBuren

 Research like this will help culture awaken to the intimate & removed symbiotic  relationship  our young Species had with psilocybin containing mushrooms. The very chemical catalyst to launch the monkey mind from the matrix of nature into the realm of self reflection.  

SidneyBalaban
SidneyBalaban

Does anyone know what this dosage "sweet-spot" is?

nubwaxer
nubwaxer

they made me sick to my stomach and paranoid.  forty years later i'm still depressed.  i hated psychedelics.  i try dmt recently and the best thing i can say, after puking for a half hour, is that the trip lasts about a half hour.

JBSchim254
JBSchim254

Mushrooms especially is a very spiritual experience, and I think that you may not be obtaining the best information due to the fact that this experiment is being preformed within a hospital. If you would like real results bring the test subjects into a forest. Bring an iPod with them so they can still listen to the music. Over my mushroom experiences I have come to learn that every trip is different, and the environment around you affects the trip greatly. I cant ever imagine wanting to trip inside a hospital while two doctors who don't have a clue in the world to whats going on inside my head, try to examine and study my every move like a rat. If anything that would cause the fear and anxiety. The test subjects need to be with those whom they trust very well. I respect the research being done, but the methods used are incorrect. The experiments need to be preformed in nature, where the mushrooms come from.

forbes.danckwerts
forbes.danckwerts

Having had depression as an adolecent, going through numerous, phycologists, anti depressants and eventually ritilin, my life through high school was not the best time of my life. I was angry, short tempered lacked empathy and always felt I had a brick wall enclosed around me. The only thing that kept me going was my ongoing research of indigo children something that facinates me. However I was introduced to mushrooms by my brother, a person who is very close to me. Whilst on mushrooms, I felt happier, I felt spiritually at one with the earth, I laughed, danced and found conclusions to things I'd always wanted to before. My mind opened up. After I took the mushrooms my life changed, unknowingly to me I have been wondering why I have become a much more relaxed, happier and a lot less angry, iv began to learn to empathy, see the good in situations and take peace out of all situations. Friends, family and myself have wondered what's happened to the new "forbes" upon reading your article I now understand why.. Thank you for the insight and I hope more people will be exposed to research like this as I truely believe it is and will be beneficial to so many people!

benedictusk
benedictusk

@rochelle87

That's really good to hear. My advice is to just spend a lot of time thinking about the world and about yourself and the people you love. Keep an eye out for what's truly important, but don't worry so much about doing something wrong - there's always time to get better at everything. I'm still young and learning, but I pretty much always have that feeling of peace and pure happiness in my mind and soul. Only done shrooms once, and while I was on them, I wished they would last forever, but I feel like once you've tapped their power, you don't really need it anymore; the future is in your hands (but really in your heart). Still, I do plan on doing them again with different friends in the future. 


P.S.

I wrote a book on my life and how I see the world. It's called 2014, and I loved writing it and I think it's really good. I did shrooms with a friend for the first time as I was finishing the book, and am almost done with a sequel that explores the world using the perspective and wisdom I've gained. 

Send me an e-mail at beni.kestel001@gmail.com if you want me to share what I wrote. 

Also send me an e-mail if you just want to talk about stuff. Or anime. Would love to talk about anime :D


Peace

Love

Cyaz

JBSchim254
JBSchim254

@SidneyBalaban and eighth to a quarter honestly. Bad trips occur when the user takes a smaller dosage actually because the brain may still resist the drug. When a higher dosage is taken the brain will loose the power to resist the trip and therefore providing a much more enjoyable trip. I have never taken over 4.5g but have heard of people enjoying a quarter (7.5g) i have never experienced a bad trip and have tripped 5+ times.

BillGray
BillGray

@nubwaxer All I can say is the entire comment you posted is obvious lies, you made it all up. People like you are responsible for substances like these becoming illegal and medicinal research an almost impossibility. I have used psilocybe funghi for many many years. Sure I had a bad trip on them once because I was greedy and underestimated their potency. But at least I was man enough to realize that and not use a childish excuse. 40 years you are depressed because of that one episode? LOL what BS! In point of fact you actually may need Psilocybe mushrooms for that depression lol. You are talking complete crap regarding DMT. First of all to "puke" you need to drink it as a stewed brew called ayahuasca and its not even the DMT that makes you "puke" its the MAOI thats brewed with the DMT containing leaves or bark to activate it before drinking. The trip lasts 30 minutes you say ? Again BS ! Ayahuasca can last for 5  - 12 hours. Smoking DMT you DO NOT puke and it lasts 7  - 15 minutes. You sir are full of it and you have been found out. Take your laughable lies and excuses elsewhere to some idiots foolish enough to buy it.

BillGray
BillGray

@forbes.danckwerts I'm really glad you have found that psilocybin works for your mental health. This research was conducted in the 60's / early 70's before it was banned and the tests showed profound positive results on the test subjects on their condition after administration of psilocybin and LSD. Because the substances were banned so rapidly the research was brought to a swift halt and those sufferers had to find treatment by other means and hope elsewhere thanks to the blanket orwellian ban. Psilocybin also has incredible profound results on cluster headache sufferers and works rapidly. Usually a cluster headache can last for 3-5 hours in excruciating agony that can take 2 whole pure oxygen tanks to empty before you get any relief but is no guarentee. This person in question has to knowingly break the law for LSD or Mushrooms for this rare, relentlessly agonising headache. The hallucinogens react with the seretonin receptors in the brain, which is a common link with people with drepression, cluster headaches. Psilocybin research is starting again in the UK but is incredibly hard to get funding and approval from the home office with its silly, un-scientific, politically motivated ban. MDMA is another substance that should be re-studied for medicinal use as was the case in the 80's where it was available for prescription for psychiatry for administration to patients who found it hard to open up and properly explain their past and their feelings to their psychiatrist. It was then called ADAM. The drugs war was lost upon its launch. More and more coutries are fed up fighting this unwinable war and the devastating impact it's having to their economy and populations. The sooner drug policy moves from a home office issue to a health issue the better. Google Break the Taboo.. Good Luck to you :)

Decriminalisation of drugs must begin !

JohnFurr
JohnFurr

@JBSchim254 @SidneyBalaban Your words are true of experienced psychanauts.  However, I sincerely hope you aren't people's first encounter with these substances.  Alway's start low.  The poster above that recommended 1-1.5 grams of dried cubensis for a first trip was spot on.  Any lower than that and you never break past the anxiety stage.  Higher than that and a lot of people are very uncomfortable with the loss of control...and no you can't just shoot people past it and expect it to be all blissful... experienced people understand the anxiety fades and can cope with it.  New users not so much...typically.



MycoMikeJarvie
MycoMikeJarvie

@JBSchim254 @SidneyBalaban  For many people loosing the power of the trip provides a much WORSE trip. Its always better to start low to at least get a sense of what a higher, more invasive dose will be like. I've taken half an eighth for years and never had a bad experience, in fact the ONLY bad experience was a full eighth my first time, and its not just me. Talk to anyone, and they'll tell you that, if anything, the higher the dosage the more likely it is that irreversible badness will set in and, if it does, will be harder to remove or reconcile with while your mental boundaries are dissolving all around you. 

BeepBoopScience
BeepBoopScience

@BillGray @nubwaxer Everything you just said was correct, but you could've left out the condescension. You just closed off somebody's mind in an attempt to get through to them.

iammkstevens
iammkstevens

@MycoMikeJarvie @JBSchim254 @SidneyBalaban I actually would assess that both arguments are valid. Everyone is different. For me, I've just recently found the perfect combination of mushrooms and cannabis: 5 grams of mushrooms mixed in lime juice for an hour, 1/4 of an edible cannibutter cookie (not sure the dosage, but it's still pretty high), and a joint or two to be smoked over the night. After about 8 trips (all in the span of a year), I believe I've found my sweets-pot.


However, more goes into it as well. I have a ritual. I fast for at least 12 hours, upon creating the lime/mushrooms concoction - juicing the limes, grinding the mushrooms into the finest powder possible, I give thanks for to the universe (as well as thank the individual ingredients for their sacrifice - I know, sounds silly, but it works). After I mix the mushrooms and lime juice together, I let it sit in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour to let the lime juice do it's job. I then sit and reflect on the amazing opportunity I'm going to experience. At the 30 minute to hour mark, I take the 1/4 of the cookie... then at the hour mark, I swallow the juice concoction and step outside. I then do a small ritual where I look up into the sky, be it day or night, and thank the universe for the opportunity I'm about to have. I remind myself that it's only a trip and that it will end at some point and that anything I think, hear, see, etc., is all part of the journey and something that I'm needing to look at if it arises. I then put on some chillstep (headphones if I'm alone) and about 20-30 minutes later, I'm lifted off into amazement. Like I said though, everyone is different. And because of that, they need to figure out what works for them.


My first trip was 2g in tea, which was great, but pales in comparison to where I am now. I've had on friend have a life altering trip on 2g in lime juice (and no weed), which personally, would never have worked for me. 


I think when it comes down to it, it's all about mental stability. I'm very much an introvert. I've spent years dissecting who I am and who I want to be. I've extensively gone within, conversed with my own personal demons and angels, with and without the help of mushrooms and come out a stronger person. For me, and I can only speak for myself, it's all about pushing the limit, finding that balancing point of sane and insane. However, I know that what works for me, doesn't necessarily work for others, and thus, the only advice I think is useful is to find your own ritual and not give up until you are happy with it.


Mushrooms are one of the greatest things I've done in my life, and I'd hate for others to never try them again after one bad trip (although I may not be qualified to say that because I've never had a bad trip before). And perhaps because I'm a control freak in regular consciousness, the feeling of lacking control is possibly what really makes the trip for me. Anyway, thanks for reading this. If anyone wants to continue this conversation, let me know and I'll post my contact info.