How Psilocybin Works

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How Psilocybin Works

Psilocybin is the "magic" compound found within mushrooms of the genus Psilocybe.

When consumed by humans, it metabolises into psilocin - which acts on the central nervous system to produce a psychedelic effect on the user. Although these mushrooms have been used by humans for millenia, our society is now only just beginning to understand the way they work within the body once consumed. Psilocybin is most commonly consumed in the form of fruiting mushroom bodies or sclerotia, although extracted psilocybin in tablet form has been used in laboratory experiments as a method of ensuring a controlled dosage.

After consuming psilocybin, the user's stomach begins to attack it with enzymes, removing the molecule's phosphate group and leaving us with psilocin - a psychoactive compound that is structurally similar to serotonin. This similarity allows the psilocin to bind to the brain's serotonin receptors, causing it to activate as though a flood of real serotonin has been released. Recent studies have suggested that psilocybin induces a state of "hyperconnectedness" - a state in which new neural pathways are forged, allowing different parts of the brain to communicate that wouldn't normally. These new, re-organized connections are not random, but appear to be organized and stable. Once the drug wears off, the connections return to normal.

“We can speculate on the implications of such an organization. One possible by-product of this greater communication across the whole brain is the phenomenon of synesthesia which is often reported in conjunction with the psychedelic state.”

The way that psilocybin actually creates these neurological changes is not yet known. Researchers believe that this mechanism could potentially be manipulated into creating a functional treatment for neurological disorders such as depression. However, we still do not fully understand psilocybin's effects, and there is much more to be researched before we can begin using it in that way. We do know that psilocybin is safe when used in a controlled environment - however, depending on the psychological makeup of the user and their relationship to the substance, bad experiences can still happen on occasion.

The range of effects can be varied - users might see things in different colours, or overlaid with patterns. Senses can be distorted or blurred, and the chemical can have a profound effect on thought - stripping the ego and allowing users to connect with their deepest feelings and emotions. Often, users report a sense of spiritual communion and contact with alien species or higher powers.

"Psilocybin produced a range of acute perceptual changes, subjective experiences, and labile moods including anxiety. Psilocybin also increased measures of mystical experience. At 2 months, the volunteers rated the psilocybin experience as having substantial personal meaning and spiritual significance and attributed to the experience sustained positive changes in attitudes and behavior consistent with changes rated by community observers. -Griffiths et. al."