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Believe it or not, there are some pretty dramatic differences between psilocybin mushrooms and psilocybin. Here’s what you need to know.
Short answer? Everything and not much.
Confusing as that may sound, it’s true. See magic mushrooms contain psilocybin, in fact it’s one of the key ingredients that make up magic mushrooms that account for those psychedelic trips. So in that respect, there isn’t much about the two that’s different. But if you consider psilocybin as a unique and individual substance, specifically within the realm of medical applications— magic mushrooms and psilocybin are worlds apart.
What makes these two so different are the number of constituent chemicals and the relativity in concentration of psilocybin and associated chemicals of magic mushrooms. To break it down, when a person takes 2 grams of Psilocybin, they are taking 2 grams. When a person takes 2 grams of dried mushrooms, they could be taking anywhere from 0.5 – 2.0% of that weight as psilocybin. Moreover, they are also consuming constituent substances (albeit in much smaller concentrations) like psilocin, baeocystin, and norbaeocystin. The concentration of psilocybin in any one species of mushroom can vary greatly. And not just from species to species, but from batch to batch, depending on growing conditions, preservation methods, and storage systems. Making it much more difficult to clearly define just how much psilocybin is the right amount for certain desired results.
While the main differences between these two substances are minimal, they definitely can come into play, especially if you’re microdosing. Canada tends to view them differently depending on the form they come in. Which makes sense as the concentrations of psilocybin, along with all of the other substances that make up magic mushrooms, will play a main role in dictating the body’s response to the mushroom.
Which is a big reason why scientists and researchers tend to stick to pure psilocybin, often synthetically created. Not because it behaves any differently in the body from the psilocybin that’s found in magic mushrooms, but because they can keep a more accurate account of how people respond to certain doses of psilocybin itself, without having to account for the effects of additional chemicals. This is also a big reason that microdosers choose psilocybin capsules, instead of relying on dried mushrooms. It’s easier to stick to a microdosing guide, and know exactly how much you are taking.
What is Psilocybin
The psilocybin, in its pure form, given to many patients and research subjects, is largely no different from that contained in psilocybin mushrooms. Psilocybin, and it’s. Metabolite (more on that in a minute) psilocin, are considered indolealkylamines. Aside from being a mouthful, indolealkylamines (IAA) are chemicals that are analogs (or identical twins) of the neurotransmitter serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine). This means that in the body, psilocybin functions almost identically to a neurotransmitter that our bodies already produce and rely on pretty heavily.
Anytime we ingest Psilocybin, our bodies (mostly our livers) break it down into psilocin. The psilocin then actively starts to bind to our 5-HT2A receptors in our brains. In fact, before psilocybin is broken down in our bodies to create psilocin, it’s largely thought to not be psychoactive at all, instead leaving all the heady properties to psilocin itself. This is why psilocybin is often referred to as a “prodrug” or something that’s inactive until our bodies activate it.
Despite knowing this, science is still fairly unclear as to why people experience the effects that they do. Not only that, but researchers are just beginning to scratch the surface of how all of these constituent chemicals interact in the body, and any other receptors that psilocin may interact with. So there’s still a ton about psilocybin that we just don’t know yet. And what we experience can often be difficult to put into words.
Is Psilocybin Illegal in Canada?
Another interesting question with a moderately vague and confusing answer.
Can you buy Shrooms? Canada says maybe.
Can you possess or transport them? No.
Okay, but what about growing them? Also no… except that grow kits, spores, and mycelium are all legal.
So how is it that Canada houses a number of mushroom dispensary websites, or that it seems perfectly reasonable to buy microdosing capsules from these dispensaries? And what’s all that business about spores and grow kits being fine, but not being able to cultivate your own crop? Well, in the true fashion of almost any drug policy, things tend to get weird quick. As far as spore kits go, these don’t actually contain any psilocybin or psilocin in the spores, so it would be impossible to regulate spore kits as a psychoactive substance.
As far as mushroom dispensaries and microdose capsules go, Canadaians have largely unfettered access to these substances because the illegality of them is un enforced, largely because the police and judicial systems prefer to focus on more problematic systems like criminal drug activity and trafficking. Fun footnote here, Vancouver city council attempted to pan the sale of online purveyors of magic mushrooms and microdose capsules, but the motion was quickly overturned. Which bolsters the confidence of both buyers and sellers engaging with the medicinal mushroom dispensary industry.
Is Psilocybin Safe?
One of the main reasons that mushrooms and psilocybin is so openly tolerated in Canada is because of how safe the substance has proven itself to be. In fact, according to the Global Drug Survey, shrooms are considered the safest illicit drug to consume. Psilocybin is non-addictive and nearly impossible to overdose on. Those who have sought medical help after consuming mushrooms often had nothing to worry about past a bad trip, or had ingested a number of other substances (we’re looking at you alcohol) that were actually the culprit behind the harm.
Most experts seem to think that the most dangerous thing about magic mushrooms is the fact that they can be pretty easily confused with poisonous varieties by the inexpert picker. So if you’ve found yourself a friendly neighborhood mycologist, or just happen to know of a great shroom dispensary, your chances of fielding any fatal or detrimental effects are incredibly low.
A recent study also showed that psilocybin containing mushrooms are believed to be safe from any adverse cardiogenic effects, so could be deemed safe even for those with heart problems.
The therapeutic index of psilocybin (something we’ve touched on a number of times here) is incredibly high. Which sits at 641 on the scale (higher the number, lower the likelihood of toxic effects). Which says a lot considering that household aspirin, something you can buy at your local shop, has a therapeutic index of only 199.
RTo put it into perspective, research has yet to even discover the lethal dose of psilocybin. But it’s best guess lies well beyond any medicinal or recreational (or realistically possible) dose. So while psilocybin is incredibly safe physically, it can provide some pretty intense emotional and psychological effects, some of which can be long lasting. Despite this being incredibly rare, it’s something to keep in mind and give some consideration to if you’re thinking about microdosing.