Psilocybin: History, Effects, Scientific Research

May 25, 2022

Nue Life

Nue Life
This article was medically reviewed by Lynn Marie Morski, MD, JD

Top points

  • Psilocybin is a psychedelic substance that can be found in various mushrooms.
  • Psilocybin has been approved for scientific research under specific conditions.
  • Clinical trials have shown that psilocybin can help with symptoms of depression. It is being researched for the treatment of anxiety, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and addiction.

Psychedelic treatments like ketamine and psilocybin for mental health conditions continue to gain popularity as research shows more and more encouraging results. And while a lot of the research into psychedelics is new, some of the substances have been used for millennia in rituals and other settings.  

Whether you’re looking for an alternative treatment for your mental health symptoms or are just curious about psychedelics in general, keep reading to learn more about psilocybin and its uses for treating mental health symptoms.

What Is Psilocybin?

Psilocybin is a psychedelic substance that can be found in mushrooms native to certain habitats, most typically in Mexico, the United States, and South America. These mushrooms, often referred to as magic mushrooms or shrooms, contain about 0.3 percent of psilocybin and small amounts of psilocin, a psychedelic substance.

During ingestion, the body takes psilocybin and converts it to psilocin, creating psychoactive effects that can alter perception and cognitive function.  

Is Psilocybin Legal?

According to the Drug Policy Alliance, with a special license from the Drug Enforcement Administration, this psychedelic substance can be used for scientific research under specific conditions.

However, there has been a growing movement to decriminalize this compound in the US, and a number of cities around the country have successfully passed resolutions which effectively decriminalize psilocybin.

Thus far, Oakland and Santa Cruz, California; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Denver, Colorado; Washington, DC; as well as Seattle, Detroit, and a growing list of other municipalities have all decriminalized psilocybin. In addition, in November of 2020 voters in Oregon approved a measure to legalize the use of psychedelic mushrooms in a therapeutic setting, making it the first state to legalize the use of psilocybin.

What Is the History of Psilocybin?

There is evidence that the use of psilocybin predates written history. Prehistoric rock paintings and murals in and around modern-day Spain have been discovered with imagery of psilocybin-containing mushrooms and their effects.

There is also evidence that shows magic mushrooms being used for spiritual and religious pilgrimages and ceremonies among many different people groups all across the globe. The first documented account of hallucinogenic mushroom use occurred in Spain in the 1500s.

Scientific research on these psychoactive mushrooms began in the 1950s when a banker from America named R. Gordon Wasson (who also happened to know a bit about mushrooms) went on vacation to Mexico. It was there that he sought out Maria Sabina, an indigenous healer who had been using psilocybin for over 30 years to heal those who came to her.

Wasson made several return trips, and on one trip he brought a French mycologist (a researcher who studies fungi) who sent a sample to famed Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman, the scientist who discovered LSD.

Upon receiving the sample, he and his team quickly started isolating psilocybin and psilocin from the psilocybe Mexicana mushroom, ultimately trying to synthesize the drug. By 1963, they reported a patent for psilocybin and regularly produced and distributed 2mg pills for further scientific study.

These studies significantly slowed down when psilocybin became a Schedule I drug in the Controlled Substance Act of 1970. However, since then, thousands of doses of this particular psychedelic have been administered in a scientific research setting in relation to the treatment of mental health.  

What Is Psilocybin Used For?

In the early years, psilocybin was used mainly for spiritual or religious purposes. Some religious groups believed that the psychedelic effects of these mushrooms open up the brain to new spiritual experiences and awakenings.

Psilocybin, also commonly referred to at the time as magic mushrooms, gained popularity in the 1960s, when many began using them to access deeper parts of their consciousness.

Many since that time have taken psilocybin mushrooms to experience their psychedelic effects, hoping for an altered perception of reality, a euphoric experience, and hallucinations.

Does Psilocybin Have a Medical Use?

The short answer is yes; it does have medical uses. Psychedelics, in general, have shown promising results in the medical community, and psilocybin is no exception.

Clinical trials have shown that when this type of hallucinogenic drug is consumed in the proper settings, it may help address symptoms of certain mental illnesses. Conditions like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and addiction are being studied with varying doses of psilocybin in a controlled medical setting.

Studies have shown psilocybin to be particularly effective at helping with smoking cessation and reducing alcohol use. It’s also proving to help patients deal with existential fears, such as those faced by terminal cancer patients.

Even though studies have shown positive results in several areas, psilocybin use remains federally illegal, and the drug has yet to be recognized by the government as an effective and safe medication.

What Are the Effects of Psilocybin?

The effects of psilocybin can and will be different for everyone depending on a wide array of physical and environmental factors. Here are a few examples:

  • The dose ingested
  • Any other drugs in the user’s system
  • Tolerance or cross-tolerance
  • Strength of mushroom taken
  • External environment (calming or stressful)
  • Mindset of the consumer at the time of consumption

When eaten, psilocybin can take from a few minutes to an hour to take effect. You may feel the effects for the next two to six hours, and the experience may differ each time.

Here are some of the mental and physical effects you may experience after ingesting psilocybin:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Headaches
  • Shortness of breath
  • Euphoria
  • Visual hallucinations
  • Changes in your mood
  • Changes in your perception of the world around you
  • Auditory hallucinations
  • Changes in the way you think
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Depersonalization
  • Stomach discomfort

Among all of these typical effects of psilocybin, hallucinations, elevated blood pressure, dizziness, and depersonalizations tend to be the more common ones.


Hallucinations, by definition, are things that you hear, smell, see, feel, or taste that you think are real but are not actually there. Whether these hallucinations are pleasant or unsettling can be influenced by your emotional and physical state, or mindset, when ingesting the drug.

If you are in a negative mental state or stressful situation when using psilocybin, you may be more likely to experience a more challenging trip with frightening hallucinations or side effects.

On the other hand, if you use psilocybin in a controlled and relaxing environment while in a positive headspace, you may be less prone to a negative experience. However, there is no way to entirely control the type of experience you have when using hallucinogenic drugs.

Dizziness and Depersonalization

Taking hallucinogens like psilocybin can often increase your blood pressure. When using psilocybin (shrooms), other common side effects include dizziness, nausea, stomach problems, and headaches. On top of these side effects, many will also experience severe forms of depersonalization due to the hallucinogenic experience.

Depersonalization can be understood as feeling like you have detached from yourself. This can manifest itself in a multitude of ways and is also known as an out-of-body experience. In many cases, you may feel like you are watching your life from an outside perspective.

Other times, you may feel as though you are trapped inside your body and watching as it does whatever it wants to do. While there are plenty of variations, they can be frightening to some people. This can leave you feeling like the world is fake, meaningless, dream-like, or unfamiliar. Other times, this experience can provide transformative insights, especially when occurring in a therapeutic setting.

Is Psilocybin Safe?

It is safest to consume psilocybin with a sitter or guide so as to minimize the chance of a challenging trip, or so that you can process with the guide should challenges arise.

It should also be noted that while this specific type of drug use does not show dependency or addictive tendencies, a tolerance to it can quickly build, causing you to continuously raise the dosage in order to experience the same feelings. This tolerance is short-lived, and generally means that consuming psilocybin a number of days in a row will render it ineffective, but after a period of abstaining from the substance, the effects should be felt again.

What Are the Side Effects of Psilocybin?

Taking psilocybin, like any other drug, comes with a plethora of various potential adverse effects. Here are a few:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Decreases muscle strength  
  • Psychosis
  • Paranoia
  • Diarrhea
  • Panicked state of mind  

On top of these temporary adverse effects, a challenging trip on psilocybin, without proper set and setting, can leave someone with long-term issues. People who have a bad trip may see, hear, and feel things that may be traumatic.

Using psilocybin without the proper preparation, support, and intention is less likely to support your mental well-being due to the many variables involved in dosage, setting, and source of the psilocybin. However, studies have shown that using psilocybin in a safely monitored therapeutic setting can help with a variety of issues including addiction, PTSD, depression, and anxiety, to name a few.

And while psilocybin is not yet legal in most states, ketamine is a psychedelic treatment that is also showing positive results. Many of the positive effects of psilocybin can be experienced through ketamine treatment, and ketamine treatment is legal and available throughout the United States.

What Is Ketamine Treatment?

Here at Nue Life, we offer ketamine treatment for depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health conditions so that you can experience true healing.

Patients struggling with mental health are commonly prescribed traditional antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). However, SSRIs don’t work for about 40% of people — this leaves a large portion of the population in need of a better solution.

Ketamine treatment is highly effective, with some patients noticing improvements in their symptoms after only one session.

Is Ketamine Treatment Safe?

Ketamine was originally used as a battlefront anesthetic for medics tending to soldiers’ wounds. Its dissociative properties made it the perfect solution for helping patients not feel pain. Since then, the drug has been studied extensively as a treatment for mental health struggles and is considered very safe.

Ketamine has been safely used in the medical field for decades, and, as such, researchers know how it’s likely to impact patients. As the US mental health crisis looms, more and more research is coming to light regarding the drug’s benefits for mental wellness.

Does Ketamine Treatment Have Side Effects?

Because ketamine treatment is administered under the care and direction of health professionals, the side effects are often short-lived.

Ketamine treatment typically happens in six sessions with relatively small doses. So, the risk for long-term side effects is rare, and any side effects experienced during a session are generally very mild.

Side effects may happen during the 2-4 hour period of a session. These can include an altered state of consciousness, nausea, raised blood pressure, dizziness, and raised heart rate. During your consultation, you will work with your provider to review your health history in order to confirm that ketamine treatment is safe for you individually, so any initial concerns you may have can be minimized.

Is Ketamine Treatment Legal?

Ketamine treatment is legal. Ketamine has been FDA-approved for medical use for decades. A form of ketamine called esketamine has been FDA approved to treat treatment-resistant depression. So, ketamine is well on its way to being a widely accepted form of treatment for many mental health-related issues.  

However, ketamine alone still remains a Schedule I drug in regards to recreational use in higher doses. It is important to only pursue ketamine through a licensed provider like Nue Life for a medically supervised experience. When ketamine is prescribed by a licensed provider for mental health treatment it is 100% legal.

What Is Sublingual Ketamine?

While some ketamine clinics only offer IV infusion, which can be intrusive and time-consuming, Nue Life exclusively offers sublingual ketamine for an easier, more convenient experience.

This is a form of ketamine treatment where the ketamine is administered by placing an oral tablet under the tongue and letting it dissolve.

Once placed under the tongue, the ketamine will quickly travel up the bloodstream to the brain. Upon reaching the brain, it will then attach to the NMDA receptor and effectively create new neural pathways in your brain. This allows your mind to divert from the typical paths caused by depression and anxiety, providing long-term relief — potentially after just one session.

And the best part is you can take sublingual ketamine from the comfort of your own home. No need to account for time spent in the car to appointments, and no need to arrange for a ride home.

What Does Ketamine Feel Like?

Ketamine, taken in a calm and relaxing medical setting with the appropriate dose, typically feels relaxing, euphoric, and dream-like. With Nue Life, your ketamine experience takes place right at home, meaning you have total control over the environment. This ensures that you feel relaxed and safe as you begin your session.

Many, while in this dream-like state, will have very mild hallucinations. It will likely feel like you are simply having a relaxing daydream.

It is important to note that you will not be taking large enough doses to cause any wild experiences or even a trip like you would if you took a larger dose in a recreational setting. Most patients equate this type of small dosage to feeling tipsy or even just sleepy. So, all in all, patients often describe it as simply relaxing.

Who Can Benefit From Ketamine Treatment?

Ketamine treatment is intended for those who are struggling with their mental health. Nue Life offers ketamine for the treatment of major depressive disorder, PTSD, C-PTSD, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. If you think ketamine treatment may be the solution you need, you can get started today by scheduling a free discovery call.

What Are the Effects of Ketamine Treatment?

Ketamine treatment addresses the symptoms of the above disorders at their source by working directly with your brain’s NMDA receptor to create new neural pathways. Instead of affecting your serotonin receptors, it naturally trains your brain to divert from unhealthy pathways.

Many patients start seeing significant results after just one session. And by the last one (sixth session), many may never need another session. The effects of ketamine treatment can be long-lasting for many, but follow-up sessions may be recommended in some instances in order for a client to continue to feel the benefits. These follow-up sessions can also help ensure that symptoms do not come back after a treatment program ends.

The Bottom Line

Psilocybin is a psychedelic substance that many have used for spiritual, religious, recreational, and medicinal purposes throughout the years.

While it shows promise in the medical world for treating mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, and PTSD, it is not at present legally available in the United States available. For those curious about psychedelic therapy for improved mental health, ketamine treatment may be the safest and most effective option currently available.

Treatment at Nue Life

Nue Life believes in holistic treatment, which means that what happens before and after your ketamine experience is equally as important as the experience itself. We want to ensure you have meaningful takeaways from your experiences and help you establish positive new neural pathways.

That’s why we provide one-on-one health coaching and integration group sessions with each of our programs. We’re here to help map out the mind and body connections in your brain and help you discover the insights that lead to true healing.


The Therapeutic Potential of Psilocybin

How soon will it be before Oregonians can access legal therapeutic psilocybin? | Oregon Live

Psilocybin Fast Facts | National Drug Intelligence Center  

Are psilocybin mushrooms illegal? | Drug Policy Alliance

What is the history of psychoactive mushrooms? | Drug Policy Alliance

Psilocybin | American Chemical Society

Psilocybin | Alcohol and Drug Foundation

Benefits of Magic Mushrooms

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