Filled Under: magic mushrooms
LONDON (Reuters) – Scientists studying the effects of the psychedelic chemical in magic mushrooms have found the human brain displays a similar pattern of activity during dreams as it does during a mind-expanding drug trip.
Psychedelic drugs such as LSD and magic mushrooms can profoundly alter the way we experience the world, but little is known about what physically happens in the brain.
In a study published in the journal Human Brain Mapping, researchers examined the brain effects of psilocybin, the psychedelic ingredient in magic mushrooms, using data from brain scans of volunteers who had been injected with the drug.
“A good way to understand how the brain works is to perturb the system in a marked and novel way. Psychedelic drugs do precisely this and so are powerful tools for exploring what happens in the brain when consciousness is profoundly altered,” said Dr Enzo Tagliazucchi, who led the study at Germany’s Goethe University.
Magic mushrooms grow naturally around the world and have been widely used since ancient times for religious rites and also for recreation.
British researchers have been exploring the potential of psilocybin to alleviate severe forms of depression in people who don’t respond to other treatments, and obtained some positive results from early-stage experiments.
In the United States, scientists have seen positive results in trials using MDMA, a pure form of the party drug ecstasy, in treating post-traumatic stress disorder.
People who use psychedelic drugs often describe “expanded consciousness”, including vivid imagination and dream-like states.
To explore the biological basis of these experiences, Tagliazucchi’s team analyzed brain imaging data from 15 volunteers who were given psilocybin intravenously while they lay in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner.
The volunteers were scanned under the influence of psilocybin and when they had been injected with a placebo, or dummy drug. The researchers looked at fluctuations in what is called the blood-oxygen level dependent (BOLD) signal, which tracks activity levels in the brain.
They found that with psilocybin, activity in the more primitive brain network linked to emotional thinking became more pronounced, with several parts of the network – such as the hippocampus and anterior cingulate cortex – active at the same time. This pattern is similar to when people are dreaming.
They also found that volunteers on psilocybin had more disjointed and uncoordinated activity in the brain network that is linked to high-level thinking, including self-consciousness.
“People often describe taking psilocybin as producing a dreamlike state and our findings have, for the first time, provided a physical representation for the experience in the brain,” said Robin Carhart-Harris of Imperial College London’s department of medicine, who also worked on the study.
“I was fascinated to see similarities between the pattern of brain activity in a psychedelic state and the pattern of brain activity during dream sleep, especially as both involve the primitive areas of the brain linked to emotions and memory.”
(Reporting by Kate Kelland, editing by Mark Trevelyan)
JONES: Taking magic mushrooms can create a transformative experience
By Dillon Jones on August 30th, 2013 opinion
The next time you see your drug dealer, ask for some magic mushrooms.
Now there’s a strong chance this column will become classified as “another column saying YEAH DRUGS!!! WOOOO DRUGS ARE GREAT! GO DO ALL THE DRUGS!” To do so would be a mistake, because this is not a blanket endorsement of drug use. This is an endorsement of careful, practical and safe use of a particular drug: Psilocybe semilanceata, i.e. magic mushrooms. My central argument is that if any recreational drug should be done in college, it is magic mushrooms.
There are a few assumptions I make that form the foundation of this column. The first is that the majority of people reading this can talk and read about recreational drugs without giggling uncomfortably. The second is that most people who read this will have come into contact with recreational drugs at some point in their lives up to this moment. This doesn’t mean you used the drug, only that you were in the same room as the drug while it was being done. The third is that using drugs is not morally objectionable and that in some cases drug use can deliver significant health benefits. I also assume that there are people reading who either do recreational drugs on the regular, casually or once every full moon — or perhaps they’re just waiting to summon the nerve. Bracket any biases or prejudices you may have, at least for the duration of this column.
A short definition: a magic mushrooms is a mushroom that contains the chemical psilocybin. When ingested, this chemical produces mind-altering effects during a short period.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that taking mushrooms can result in horribly random and awful things. If you were to Google “taking magic mushrooms = horribly random and awful thing happens” you’ll get few interesting results. Back in May, a student at the University of Colorado Boulder went on a hiking trip with her friends, tripped mushrooms, stripped naked and tried to fight her friends. In June, an Ohio man attempted to rip off his penis and scrotum with his bare hands, while high on mushrooms. And two days ago, a 20-year-old man walking his dog in his quiet Florida neighborhood, naked, tripping on mushrooms, was tasered three times by the police after he tried to attack them when they approached him.
So, yes, some who have taken mushrooms have personally mutilated their genitals, had naked fistfights with their friends and been tasered, while naked, and in front of their dog. However, this is the exception to the general rule. In fact, magic mushrooms numbers among the recreational drugs that have potential health benefits when consumed safely — like marijuana and ecstasy, for example.
A 2011 study on the effects of psilocybin conducted by the John Hopkins University School of Medicine concluded that, when taken at the right dose, magic mushrooms could result in long-lasting psychological and spiritual growth.
Of the 18 adults who participated in this study, “94 percent … said it was one of the top five most meaningful experiences of their lives; 39 percent said it was the single most meaningful experience.” In addition, “their friends, family member and colleagues also reported that the psilocybin experience had made the participants calmer, happier and kinder.”
The whole study is worth a read, but again the takeaway here is that, at the right dose, this drug can have a ton of benefits.
Mushrooms have even received an endorsement from a technological entrepreneur, following in the tradition of famous tech entrepreneur’s endorsing psyedelic drugs. Here is Evan Reas, co-founder of a social network called Circle on why you should take mushrooms:
“It completely changes how you think. … About your problems, about yourself, everything. It forced me to ask, ‘Is what I’m doing important?’” This is what you can expect to hear from most people who’ve taken mushrooms.
This is probably also a good place to acknowledge that I’ve personally ingested magic mushrooms, several times. At no point during any of my experiences, did I feel the desire to rip off my penis, fight my friends or strip naked and walk my dog.
Clearly, though, these things can happen. There are a few ways to mitigate the potential for self-mutilation, public embarrassment or dangerous encounters with law enforcement: take the recommended dose; make sure you’re with a small group of people you trust; make sure there’s at least one other person who’s planning on taking the mushrooms with you.
The most important thing to consider when doing mushrooms is the atmosphere. Who you’re with and what you’re doing can be the difference between having a good trip versus a bad trip. I’ve only ever taken mushrooms in small groups with close friends, and all we did was walk around in the sun talking about what was happening to us (and it was incredible). My mushroom experiences forced me inward. They broke down my various internal defenses and forced me to take a long hard look at myself. What I saw, I didn’t like: and I was forced to ask myself why. Mushrooms forced me to do years of personal work I’m not sure I’d have done otherwise.
For me, like the participants in the John Hopkins study and the Circle co-founder, taking mushrooms was transformative. This is also something I’ve heard many people say, and it can come off trite or cliche. But rather than trivialize or romanticize the experience, it shows how difficult it is to describe. However, it’s worth noting that mushroom experiences are intensely personal and subjective, and that my experience might not resemble yours.
There’s one more thing you should know: In encouraging you to take mushrooms, I’m explicitly telling you to break the law. Possession of mushrooms will get you arrested. In addition, it’s not unheard of for people to mistake magic mushrooms for another poisonous mushroom. There’s risk involved here. So don’t be stupid. If you receive mushrooms from someone you don’t know, it’s not a good idea to take them. Similarly, if they can’t verify that the mushrooms are safe to eat, don’t eat them.
But let’s say you do decide to try mushrooms. Let’s say you know a guy who knows a guy. Be safe. Do your own research. Don’t get caught. And don’t mention my name.
Dillon Jones is a senior English major. Follow him @doornut_jazzy, and reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org