How to Use Magic Mushrooms for Managing Anxiety

Anxiety is an ongoing issue for a large number of Canadians. Approximately 1% of the population has a diagnosable anxiety disorder and approximately 12% of the population report having a mood and/or anxiety disorder in any given year and these numbers appear to be steadily growing. Treatment for anxiety is challenging and often expensive. A person typically invests a lot of time and money into expensive therapy and often takes medication that always comes with a list of side effects. Research is beginning to uncover the long term therapeutic impacts of psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) as one dose appears to have lasting impacts.

That does not mean that mushrooms are a complete alternative to traditional treatments as the research is still preliminary and most studies include psychotherapy as an important role involved in the therapeutic process. 

Description of Anxiety

Anxiousness and worry are normal emotions that every person experiences, though the level of severity and impact varies significantly between individuals. Anxiety is considered a disorder when it becomes excessive and difficult to manage (ie. impacts ones ability to perform basic day-to-day activities) and persists for an extended period of time, typically a minimum of six months (as defined by the DSM-5). 

Anxiety is characterized by the following symptoms: 

  • Edginess or restlessness
  • Tiring easily
  • Impaired concentration or feeling as though the mind goes blank
  • Irritability 
  • Increased muscle aches or soreness
  • Difficulty sleeping (due to trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, restlessness at night, or unsatisfying sleep). (source)

Magic Mushrooms for Managing Anxiety 

Preliminary research on psilocybin and anxiety has focused on end of life care for cancer patients, though it is assumed that this evidence could likely be transferable to other populations with anxiety. 

The first pilot study focused on the use of psilocybin as a treatment for anxiety in patients with advanced-stage cancer in recent years was conducted in 2011. This double-blind, placebo-controlled study looked at the effects of a single, moderate dose of psilocybin on anxiety. In this study, they established the feasibility and safe administration of moderate doses of psilocybin which led to more research in this area.

In a landmark study in 2016, cancer patients with anxiety and depression were treated with single-dose psilocybin (0.3 mg/kg) in conjunction with psychotherapy. Symptoms of anxiety and depression were significantly reduced, and the impacts were maintained seven months later in 80 percent of the participants. It’s also interesting to note that 70 percent of those involved in the study reported that this was the most (or top five most) meaningful experience of their life. 

A follow up to this original 2016 study by researchers at Grossman School of Medicine – New York University found that these results may last up to five years. Which indicates that psilocybin is a useful tool used in conjunction with psychotherapy and may be a better alternative to traditional medications such as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor). 

Despite this evidence, research is still in its preliminary stages, therefore the mechanisms by which psilocybin influences anxiety is not fully understood. Some researchers believe its effects are a result of a dampening of the default mode network which is involved in creating our sense of self. They believe that psilocybin facilitates flexibility in the brain and increases our receptivity to new ideas and thought patterns. 

In relation to the experience of anxiety, the default mode network appears to be hyperactive which is associated with rumination, worry, and rigid thinking that leads to anxiety. Therefore, a dampening of this network that leads to increased flexibility and a broadened perspective would indicate a relief of some symptoms of anxiety, particularly if the experience is also paired with psychotherapy. 

How to Use Magic Mushrooms for Anxiety

A person can take a full psychedelic dose or smaller, more regular microdoses (where the user does not experience the hallucinogenic effects). Since the research is still in its preliminary stages there is no consensus on the best ways of consuming psychedelics for treating anxiety. The experience simply appears to be different and may appeal to different people. 

A full psychedelic dose generally allows a person to have a more ‘mystical’ experience, something that is often called ‘ego dissolution’ or ‘ego death’, which has the potential to change a persons thinking about, and relationship to, trauma and anxiety. This is where most of the research has been focused to date. Though keep in mind those who participated in psychedelic research studies had psychotherapy accompany their experience. 

If you’re considering taking a psychedelic dose here are some tips on how to prepare

Others are choosing to microdose for numerous reasons. 

Microdosing for Anxiety 

Most of the evidence we have to date on microdosing is anecdotal. Although a number of people have found similar results what’s been reported with a full psychedelic dose. That being said, some have also experienced an increase in anxiety as a result of microdosing (the same is true of a psychedelic dose).

In terms of microdosing, the increase in anxiety is often a result of experiencing more of a high than anticipated. In order to manage this, it’s recommended you take your first microdose on a day with no obligations. You can also always err on the side of caution and take a slightly smaller dose the first time. 

Typically a person will microdose every three days or so because you will likely still feel the positive impacts a day or two after the microdose and it helps to prevent building up a tolerance. Read more about other microdosing regimes here

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