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Effects of Psilocybin Use: Short-Term, Long-Term, Side Effects, and Treatment

Effects of Psilocybin Use Short-Term, Long-Term, Side Effects, and Treatment

Psilocybin mushrooms, often dubbed ‘magic mushrooms’, spark curiosity and controversy. They’re not your average fungus. 

Here, we’ll explore their effects, both gleaming and grim, and dive into how they’re shaking up positive and negative consequences in mental health treatment.

 

What Is Psilocybin?

Psilocybin is a naturally occurring psychedelic compound produced by over 200 species of mushrooms, collectively known as “psilocybin mushrooms” or “magic mushroom“. When these mushrooms are ingested, psilocybin is converted by the body into psilocin, which is the active chemical that affects the brain. 

Psilocin primarily influences the serotonin receptors, leading to altered perceptions, thoughts, and feelings. It can result in changes in visual and auditory perception, mood swings, and even profound spiritual experiences. Due to its impact on the brain, psilocybin is studied for its potential therapeutic effects in treating various mental health disorders.

How Does Psilocybin Work?

Psilocybin influences the brain by interacting with serotonin receptors, particularly the 5-HT2A receptor. When psilocybin is ingested, it’s converted to psilocin, its active form, which resembles the serotonin molecule and thus binds to these receptors.

This binding disrupts normal serotonin transmission and increases neuronal activity and changes in brain communication patterns. The areas particularly affected include the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in mood and perception, and the amygdala, which plays a role in emotional responses.

The alteration in brain communication is thought to cause the characteristic psychedelic effects of psilocybin, such as visual hallucinations, altered perception of time, and profound shifts in mood and self-awareness. It’s also this interaction that is being studied for potential therapeutic effects, to treat depression or anxiety, as it can offer patients new perspectives on old problems or entrenched mental health issues.

 

Short-term Effects Of Magic Mushrooms

The short-term effects of magic mushrooms can be quite variable, depending on the dosage, the individual’s mental state, and the environment in which they are used. Typically, these effects begin 20 to 40 minutes after ingestion and can last up to six hours.

Here are some of the common short-term effects:

Visual Enhancements

Visual enhancements are a prominent short-term effect of psilocybin. Users experience intensified colors, sharper visual clarity, and vivid geometric patterns. Objects might appear breathing or melting, creating a surreal, dream-like environment. 

These visual alterations are due to psilocybin’s interaction with the brain’s serotonin receptors, influencing perception and sensory experience.

Altered Perception of Time

The altered perception of time is a common effect of psilocybin, where users often experience time dilation, feeling as if time has slowed dramatically. It can make moments seem drawn out, almost as if operating on a different time scale, which can either enhance the psychedelic experience or contribute to discomfort. 

This effect reflects the drug’s impact on brain regions involved in processing time and temporal judgment, leading to these intriguing distortions in time perception.

Enhanced Emotional Insight

The emotional shifts experienced during psilocybin use can be profound and highly variable, ranging from intense euphoria and connectedness to feelings of anxiety or existential dread. These shifts can significantly enhance one’s perception of music, art, and relationships, often leading to deeply personal insights or revelations. 

However, the same intensity that can bring about positive emotional experiences can also lead to challenging ones, making the setting and mental state critical for a favorable outcome before ingestion.

Physical Sensations

Physical sensations induced by psilocybin can vary widely. Many users report feelings of lightness or heaviness in different body parts. Some might experience tingling sensations or a distorted sense of touch, making familiar objects feel peculiarly new. 

Nausea is also a common side effect, incredibly shortly after ingestion, which can detract from the overall psychedelic experience.

Cognitive Changes

When ingesting magic mushrooms, users often experience significant cognitive changes that manifest as altered thought patterns and perceptions. Thoughts may become more fluid, interconnected, or profound, leading to what many describe as a hyperconnected mental state. 

It can result in enhanced creativity or problem-solving abilities, though it can also lead to confusion and difficulty focusing on everyday tasks.

Spiritual Experiences

Spiritual experiences induced by psilocybin often involve a profound connection to something greater than oneself, which can feel like merging with the universe or a sense of universal love. These experiences can lead to significant personal insights and a reevaluation of life’s priorities, and they are often described as life-altering by those who undergo them. 

Such profound experiences are believed to be a key component in the therapeutic potential of psilocybin, helping users overcome deep-rooted psychological and emotional issues.

While many seek out magic mushrooms for these effects, they can also be unpredictable and lead to a “bad trip,” featuring intense anxiety, confusion, and distressing hallucinations. Users need to be in a safe, controlled environment, especially if trying them for the first time.

 

Long-term Effects Of Magic Mushrooms

Long-term Effects Of Magic Mushrooms

Enhanced Mood and Attitudex

Long-term use of magic mushrooms can lead to enhanced mood and attitude, with users often experiencing sustained periods of increased positivity and life satisfaction. These improvements are thought to be due to psilocybin’s ability to reset the brain’s conditioning in people suffering from depression or other mood disorders.

Many report feeling lighter and more open after their experiences, which can significantly influence daily interactions and personal perspectives on life challenges.

Increased Openness

Increased openness is one of the notable long-term effects often reported by users of psilocybin mushrooms. This psychological change can manifest as greater emotional expressiveness, enhanced appreciation for art and nature, and a more open-minded attitude toward different viewpoints and experiences. 

Studies suggest that this effect can be durable, persisting for several months or even years after the psychedelic experience, potentially contributing to lasting improvements in personal and interpersonal well-being.

Psychological Insights

Psilocybin, the active compound in magic mushrooms, can catalyze profound psychological insights, where users report a deeper understanding of their thoughts and feelings. These insights often revolve around personal relationships, life choices, and deep-seated emotional challenges, offering new perspectives that can contribute to significant therapeutic breakthroughs. 

Such experiences can be pivotal, enabling individuals to confront and heal from psychological distress and fostering greater overall mental and emotional well-being.

Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD)

Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD) is a condition marked by the recurrence of perceptual disturbances that were experienced during a previous hallucinogenic effects. Individuals with HPPD may see visual snow, flashes of light, or geometric patterns, and these symptoms can occur without warning and persist for an extended period. 

This disorder can be distressing and disorienting, affecting daily functioning and quality of life for those experiencing these ongoing sensory disruptions.

Psychological Dependence

Psychological dependence on taking magic mushrooms can occur when users start to rely on the substance to escape from stress, cope with life’s challenges, or repeatedly seek the profound insights or emotional highs they associate with its use. Unlike physical dependence, which involves physiological symptoms of withdrawal, psychological dependence is characterized by a perceived need to use controlled substances to function or feel normal. 

This type of dependence can lead to frequent use, impacting personal responsibilities, relationships, and overall mental health.

Cognitive Changes

Long-term use of ingesting psilocybin mushrooms can lead to notable cognitive changes, often altering how individuals process information and perceive the world. These changes can include enhanced creativity, improved problem-solving skills, and a greater ability to think abstractly. 

However, for some, these shifts might also manifest as difficulties in maintaining focus or organizing thoughts, illustrating the complex dual nature of psilocybin’s impact on the brain.

What Are The Side Effects Of Psilocybin

The side effects of psilocybin can vary widely among users, and while some find the experience enlightening, others may face challenges. Here are the primary side effects to consider:

  • Psychological Effects: Anxiety, paranoia, and panic attacks can occur, especially in uncomfortable or unfamiliar settings.

  • Visual and Sensory Distortions: Users may experience intense visual hallucinations, altered sounds, and a distorted sense of time, which can be disorienting or frightening.

  • Physical Discomfort: Common physical side effects include nausea, headaches, dizziness, and increased heart rate and blood pressure.

  • Emotional Swings: The emotional impact can be profound, swinging from euphoria to fear, which can be unsettling.

  • Impaired Judgment: While under the influence, users’ decision-making abilities are impaired, which can lead to risky behaviors.

  • Long-Term Mental Health Risks: In some cases, especially with frequent use, individuals may develop persistent psychosis or hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD), where they continue to have visual disturbances and flashbacks long after taking the drug.

These side effects underscore the importance of understanding psilocybin’s potent effects and the necessity of taking it in a controlled, safe environment, ideally with professional guidance in therapeutic settings.

What Are The Treatments For Which Psilocybin Can Be Used?

Treatment-Resistant Depression

Treatment-resistant depression (TRD) refers to depression that does not respond adequately to typical first-line interventions such as antidepressants and psychotherapy. This condition presents a significant challenge, as patients often struggle with persistent symptoms that impact their quality of life. 

In recent studies, psilocybin has emerged as a promising alternative. It has the potential to facilitate profound emotional and psychological changes that can lead to significant and rapid improvements in mood and outlook. These effects are thought to stem from psilocybin’s ability to reset and reorganize neural circuits associated with depressive symptoms, offering hope for those who have not found relief through traditional methods.

 

What Are The Treatments For Which Psilocybin Can Be Used

End-of-Life Anxiety

End-of-life anxiety, which encompasses the fear and distress associated with dying, can significantly impact the quality of life for terminally ill patients. Psilocybin has emerged as a potential treatment for reducing this specific type of anxiety, with studies suggesting that a single dose can provide lasting relief. 

This effect is thought to be due to psilocybin’s ability to facilitate a deep, meaningful experience where patients often gain new perspectives on their lives and death, thereby reducing the existential dread that can accompany terminal diagnoses.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition characterized by intrusive, persistent thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors (compulsions) aimed at reducing anxiety caused by these thoughts. Traditional treatments for OCD typically involve cognitive-behavioral therapy and medication such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). 

However, some individuals do not respond adequately to these methods, leading researchers to explore alternative treatments, including psilocybin therapy. Preliminary studies indicate that psilocybin may help reduce the frequency and intensity of obsessions and compulsions in OCD patients by promoting a heightened state of “connectedness” and flexibility in thought patterns, potentially resetting some of the rigid mental pathways associated with OCD.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition triggered by experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, and uncontrollable thoughts about the event. 

Psilocybin is being explored as a treatment for PTSD due to its ability to facilitate profound emotional release and insight, potentially helping patients process and integrate traumatic memories more effectively. This emerging approach seeks to enhance therapeutic settings by potentially resetting the patient’s emotional state and reducing the power of traumatic triggers.

Addiction (Smoking, Alcohol, Drugs)

Psilocybin is gaining attention for its potential in treating various addictions, including those to nicotine, alcohol, and other drugs. Studies suggest that psilocybin-assisted therapy can help break the cycle of addiction by providing users with profound, introspective experiences that may lead to a reevaluation of their habits and motivations. 

These experiences, often described as life-changing, can reduce the cravings and compulsive behaviors associated with addiction, offering a novel approach to treatment that could reshape recovery methods.

Final Thoughts

The exploration of psychedelic and dissociative drugs, including psilocybin from poisonous mushrooms, demands a cautious yet optimistic approach. Clinical trials hold promise for understanding their therapeutic potential, but risks, including triggering latent psychiatric conditions, underscore the need for responsible usage.

As research progresses, a balanced perspective, integrating scientific inquiry and ethical considerations, remains paramount in harnessing the benefits of these substances while mitigating potential harms.

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