Man and Psychedelics – Psilocybin Mushrooms and Effects on the Brain


Magic Mushrooms are used recreationally, for spiritual purposes, as entheogens, and they have a powerful sensation – but what causes this?

Read Man and Psychedelics Part I

Read Man and Psychedelics Part II

Read Man and Psychedelics Part III

Psilocybin containing mushrooms are used recreationally and for spiritual purposes.  Mushrooms are entheogens, and this class of “drugs” contain many psychoactive substances used in religious, shamanic or spiritual contexts. Psilocybin mushrooms are in the truest sense an “entheogen” (translated to “God inside us”)  and have been used for thousands and thousands of years. Some believe it is the stumbling across this sacred mushroom that catalyzed early man’s brain growth from a typical forager and fruit eater into a hunter gatherer and eventually a farmer with the ability to make abstract plans, separating himself from the beast.

Few people ever think about the possibility that psychedelic mushrooms might have had in steering the course of human evolution. However, an investment banker named R. Gordon Wasson was very interested in the study of mushrooms by diverse cultures. His research uncovered in the Vedic literature a description of a “red fruit leading to spontaneous enlightenment for those who ingested it.” He made the claim that this was actually a mushroom.

Aristotle, Plato and Sophocles participated in religious ceremonies at Eleusis where upon entering the temple they were served with a fungal concoction, after which the pilgrims to this temple “spent the night together and reportedly came away forever changed.” Forever changed? Spontaneous enlightenment. How is this physically possible without the admittance of some sort of supernatural, magic, mystical other-worldy force?

Psilocybin is a member of the indole and tryptamine classes. Magic mushrooms affect the brain, quite powerfully, by distorting the way the five senses work, thus changing ones impression of time and space. The conscious mind when altered by psilocybin has a tendency to not know what is real or illusion.  I interviewed a man who grew up in Palos Verdes, California who had experimented with magic mushrooms throughout the course of his adult life who said “the first time I took them, I couldn’t zip up my own jacket. I knew I was cold, hell, I was shivering but, for the life of me, I just could not figure out how to zip up my jacket. Nothing made sense. It was cold. But the next time I took them… I was a genius. Like Einstein.”

Nerve cells called neurons, have special places on them where chemical messengers called neurotransmitters are supposed to attach. When they do this causes changes in the nerve cells. This communication system is very important to let the body be accurately aware of the world around them. When hallucinogenic mushrooms enter the body this communication system is disrupted and the way one senses the world around them is changed. Vision is heightened. Sense of smell. Sound these all become heightened and simultaneously distorted. 

Generally the effects of psilocybin resemble a shorter 4 to 6 hour trip, verses the exhausting 10 to 14 hour LSD trip. Hallucinations are milder and there seems to be a bigger focus on the spiritual and mystical side to things, with ridiculously lengthy, multifaceted trains of thought and visualization. One partaker said “It’s like looking at a Rubik’s Cube, with what is normally six sides, but then all of  sudden you see an invisible “underneath,” a mystical dimension reveals itself and all of a sudden there are thousands of sides to the once six sided cube.”

It is this multi dimensional approach to viewing things, to looking at problems, and patterns that psychologist and scientist are keenly interested in with this current resurgence in psychedelics. In the United States an FDA approved study supported by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies began in 2001 studying how patients with obsessive compulsive disorder respond to psilocybin. Psychedelic hallucinogens are gaining ground as an acceptable treatment for clinical depression; I believe that this ability to look at the cube, normally with only six angles, now with the ability to see almost an endless amount of angles, will result in unforeseen medical advancements in both the psychological field as well as countless others.
 

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