Are magic mushrooms addictive? | leafy

A mushroom journey can be life-changing, but can the experience of a cosmic, transformative journey also inspire a desire to do it over and over again? Psilocybin, the main active ingredient in mushrooms, is currently a Schedule I drug in the US, meaning the government believes it has a high potential for abuse. However, DEA planning lags behind the latest clinical data.

Recent research highlights psilocybin’s safety profile and low potential for abuse, and indeed a burgeoning area of ​​psilocybin research is focused on how the compound can be used to treat various addictions. In other words, psilocybin is more likely to help you kick an addictive habit than it will get you hooked on a new one.

Let’s talk about whether psilocybin can be addictive, psilocybin tolerance, and why it may be uniquely suited to treating addiction.

What is addiction?

People can become addicted to almost anything that feels good or relieves stress and discomfort — including sugar, shopping, or even work. However, substance use disorders are the most common form. These occur when a person continues to use a substance, regardless of adverse effects on their relationships, health, work or ability to participate in daily life, and various other criteria, according to the DSM.

Addiction experts generally agree that addiction is a cyclical process that has three clear phases.

  • First Stage: The user becomes intoxicated by a substance, resulting in a surge of feel-good dopamine and activating the brain’s reward centers. Most addiction researchers agree that dopamine plays a major role in the development and persistence of addiction.
  • Second Stage: The user experiences withdrawal symptoms that lead to negative effects such as panic or anxiety.
  • Third Stage: The user experiences intense preoccupation and anticipation that makes it difficult to resist the urge to use or consume the substance. Use of the substance releases this intense preoccupation/anticipation and also allows for a surge of dopamine (as experienced in stage one).

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Is psilocybin addictive?

Classic psychedelics that primarily affect the brain’s serotonin receptors, such as psilocybin, are not considered addictive, mainly because their effects are long-lasting—a psilocybin trip, for example, can last up to six hours. This long duration of action can desensitize the brain’s serotonin receptors, resulting in rapid tolerance that minimizes the possibility of abuse. It’s also worth noting that classic psychedelics don’t directly affect the brain’s dopamine system; As mentioned above, dopamine stimulation is required for a drug to become addictive.

In studies of psilocybin addiction, animals trained to self-administer psilocybin – a common way to test whether a substance could be abused in human populations – have shown that the substance has very low abuse potential. The majority of these animals chose not to perform a certain behavior, like pushing a lever, in order to be rewarded with psilocybin. Large-scale population surveys of people who have tripped magic mushrooms also provide similar results, finding no link between lifetime psilocybin use and addiction.

In light of this evidence, researchers are calling for a recategorization of psilocybin from its current Schedule I status to Schedule IV – substances known to have low abuse potential and limited risk of physical or psychological dependence.

For Nicholas Levich, co-founder of Psychedelic Passage, a platform that facilitates psychedelic trip-sitting experiences, psilocybin mushrooms deliver an experience that is essentially anti-addiction. “Psilocybin, especially in high doses, produces effects that are so profound and typically unpleasant that the general feeling is something like, ‘Well, that was intense, and I don’t need to do that again for a while – if ever,'” he said.

However, Levich also warns that any substance can be abused, so it’s important to use psilocybin mindfully and intentionally. “It’s more about establishing healthy psilocybin consumption patterns than whether psilocybin is chemically addictive.”

Addiction problems often arise from substances like alcohol because they can mask pain, according to Mike Ljubsa, business director and facilitator at MycoMeditations, a company that offers psilocybin-assisted wellness retreats. Psilocybin does not have this effect.

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“If anything, psilocybin can force a person to be with their pain at an even deeper level than they normally are,” he said. “A person can certainly have an unhealthy relationship with psychedelics, but they’re not addictive in the truest sense of the word.”

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Can you develop a tolerance to psilocybin?

While there is a prevailing consensus among experts and researchers that psilocybin is not addictive, evidence suggests that repeated use of psilocybin over a short period of time can quickly build tolerance. But tolerance is different from addiction, abuse, or dependency, and is not necessarily a bad thing.

Developing a tolerance to a substance means that the dose you normally take is no longer as effective as it used to be, and you need to take more to get the same benefits or effects as before. Tolerance is common to many substances and can occur after your body has been exposed to a substance, even a few times. In the case of psilocybin, a tolerance can be formed after a single session.

“In my view, this is the other reason psilocybin isn’t addictive — your tolerance builds up so quickly that you’d have to consume 2-3 times the previous day’s dose to feel an effect,” Levitch said. He recommends travelers wait at least a day or two between doses.

“Breaks allow users to protect themselves from tolerance and ensure that the slightly altered states they are experiencing are actually altered states,” said Derek Chase, founder of LA-based entheogenic wellness company Psilouette.

He believes the benefits of microdosing come from switching between a psilocybin-affected state and a sober state of consciousness, as it allows glimpses into different ways of being.

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Can Psilocybin Treat Addiction?

Some of the most compelling psilocybin research to date examines its ability to treat substance use disorders such as tobacco and alcohol addiction. Treating addiction is a major reason why many people use shrooms.

In a recent clinical study of people with an alcohol use disorder, psilocybin, combined with psychotherapy, resulted in a significant reduction in heavy drinking — by 83%, compared to a 51% reduction in people receiving an antihistamine placebo. (Heavy drinking was defined as four or more drinks per day for women and five or more drinks for men.) Eight months after the first psilocybin dose, nearly half (48%) of those who had psilocybin stopped drinking completely.

The mechanisms by which psilocybin may help treat addiction remain unclear. However, researchers have identified a variety of factors, such as: B. an improved ability to manage cravings, the alteration of neural networks that can help reset the brain’s reward system, or the transformative potential of a “mystical experience” during the trip.

Mystical experiences appear to be a particularly therapeutic element in the treatment of addiction and can evoke feelings of connection, transcendence of time and space, a deep positivity, a sense of awe, and a belief that what has been revealed has authenticity and validity has. While researchers still don’t fully understand why mystical experiences are so powerful, experts theorize that the intense sense of personal meaning they can create can help people break addictive habits.

“Psilocybin is incredibly helpful in creating distance between us and our compulsive patterns,” Levitch said. “Plus, it can often shed light on the root cause of these compulsive behaviors.”

Part of psilocybin’s potency as an addiction treatment may be its ability to help people cope with trauma.

“Trauma is at the root of most addiction problems,” Ljubsa said. “When psilocybin is taken in safe settings, with the right intention and reliable support, a person can address the traumas underlying their addiction.”

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