Navigating Psychedelic Voyages
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When we have questions at Lucid News, we go to the experts for answers. For accurate information about the wise, safe use of psychedelics, some of the best peer-based education comes from DanceSafe. Founded as a nonprofit in 1998, DanceSafe provides harm reduction, health and safety services at festivals and events. This column is the first of a regular series offering advice in response to reader questions by DanceSafe Executive Director Mitchell Gomez and Programs and Communications Coordinator Rachel Clark. Please send questions about navigating your psychedelic voyage through the Lucid News contact page, and watch this space for the answers.
I’ve found that small doses of magic mushrooms make me feel uncomfortable and uneasy- even if I didn’t feel that way before I started. My friend says to take a hero’s dose of 3-5 grams to “break through.” Is this safe? Is there anything I should look out for, and what kind of “breakthroughs” should I expect?
The term “hero’s dose” – or, more commonly, “heroic dose” – can be problematic because it insinuates that you’re doing something particularly valiant by taking more mushrooms. A “heroic dose” isn’t for everyone, especially in the case of people who are prone to anxiety or who have a family or personal history of certain kinds of psychiatric conditions. Taking large doses of any psychedelic poses a risk of psychological complications, especially if you’re unprepared or your environment is not conducive to safe tripping. This being said, psilocybin mushrooms have a very low toxicity profile – in other words, you’re not going to be at risk of physiological harm even if you take a lot (unless, of course, you’re eating an obscene quantity that goes way beyond any level of recreational dosing).
The way that a “breakthrough” is defined is also highly subjective – for some this means becoming unaware of your identity and surroundings (“ego death”), while for others it merely means having a powerful and immersive experience, be it euphoric or challenging. Additionally, what constitutes a “breakthrough” dose of a hallucinogen varies from person to person, and achieving a breakthrough state is complicated by the fact that mushrooms have variable potency in each batch and individual shroom. This makes it incredibly difficult to truly know how much psilocybin content you’re ingesting. One person could experience a breakthrough on 2 grams of mushrooms, while another would need 5 grams or 6 grams to fully depart this reality. This difference could be due to batch potency or their personal brain chemistry/tolerance, and it’s hard to know which.
Remember also that it’s really, really normal to feel uncomfortable and uneasy on mushrooms! Sometimes you need to titrate up or down a little bit to hit the sweet spot. Try scaling your dose by 0.2-0.3 grams per session in either direction. Something to think about: You don’t need to dive into the deep end to have a worthwhile experience on psychedelics – and there are usually lessons to be learned at every tier of dosing. Indeed, perhaps this lesson is in learning how to navigate discomfort more fluidly. The real breakthroughs happen as you integrate what you’ve learned into your sober life, after all.
My friend brewed her own ayahuasca, and wants to try it at home. Is it a good idea to do ayahuasca at home, without the presence of a trained shaman or ceremonial structure?
In general, DanceSafe is hesitant to tell a person how, when or why to take drugs. Assuming that the ingredients used, the physical environment and the amounts taken of a given drug are the same, the risks are the same. From a physiological standpoint, there is no difference between ayahuasca taken at home and ayahuasca taken with a trained shaman in a ceremonial structure. That being said, ayahuasca is a powerful psychedelic with a long time arc, and using it alone entails its own unique risks.
When using any strong, long-lasting psychedelic it is important to create a safe container for that use, including having a sober sitter, especially if it’s your first time trying a new drug. Additionally, the MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitor) that is found within the Caapi vine (one of the primary ingredients in ayahuasca) can react badly with many common prescriptions and over the counter medications, and even some foods. An enzyme called monoamine oxidase is involved in removing certain neurotransmitters from the brain and digestive system. MAOIs prevent this from happening, which makes more of these brain chemicals, and related drugs like NN-DMT, more available to effect changes in the brain.
It is incredibly important to research all possible contraindications for other substances that may be in your system. A trained shaman and ceremonial structure can also help with integration, and ayahuasca in particular has a reputation for the need for a deep integration process. All of that being said, many, many people have used ayahuasca, and ayahuasca analogues (aka, pharmahuasca) without issue, and searching that term will bring up hundreds of trip reports that a person can read. The last thing to keep in mind is that both home-brewing Ayahuasca, and traveling for traditional ceremonies, have been publicly spoken about in terms of a colonialist legacy, and these concerns are worth understanding regardless of which path, if any, you chose.
— Mitchell Gomez
I live in Denver and was thinking of taking mushrooms for my depression since I hear they’re a good alternative to antidepressants. Are there clinics and therapists I can go to since it’s decriminalized here? I’ve never done them before and I don’t know anyone who can help me.
Unfortunately, the short answer to your question is “no.” For the long answer, keep reading! There are quite a few misconceptions about the legal status of mushrooms in Denver. It’s still not legal to possess psilocybin mushrooms in Denver, and it is certainly not legal to distribute them (with or without an exchange of money). The law simply says that punishing people for possessing mushrooms for personal use falls among the “lowest law-enforcement priority.” Sadly, there have been several high profile arrests for people selling mushrooms since the law passed.
Although there are certainly people offering these services, the lack of clarity on the legality of them (or, in many cases the outright illegality) makes finding them quite difficult and risky. Although growing at home is still federally illegal, within the city of Denver limits it seems likely the police are treating personal grows as covered by the “lowest priority” language. How federal officials would respond to a home grow is still unclear, but in terms of enforcement priority that is likely less risky than trying to purchase mushrooms on the illicit market, even though both are clearly still illegal in the state of Colorado.
— Mitchell Gomez