Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that forms after a person experiences a traumatic experience. While these experiences vary, they always leave an individual feeling more depressed and anxious than normal. Unfortunately, not everyone benefits from traditional forms of treatment. With that, some wonder if microdosing mushrooms for PTSD is effective.
Since psilocybin mushrooms (sometimes referred to as magic mushrooms) remain illegal in the United States, this isn’t the most optimal form of treatment. Beyond the risk of legal consequences, the substance isn’t regulated like traditional medication is.
For these reasons, we cannot recommend mushroom therapy for PTSD. Still, we will give you some insight into how effective psychedelic therapy is and whether or not you’d benefit from microdosing mushrooms. At the end, we invite you to ask further questions.
What are Psilocybin Mushrooms?
Simply put, psilocybin mushrooms are a psychedelic fungi that have been used for thousands of years in both spiritual and medicinal practices. Though, it was officially synthesized until 1958 by Dr. Albert Hofmann – the same man who synthesized lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). ²
When consumed, psilocybin produces hallucinogenic effects that cause you to see, hear, and feel sensations that aren’t actually occurring. The details of these effects vary from person to person, with their environment playing a substantial role. ³
Researchers don’t know exactly how psilocybin influences the brain and body. However, we do know it has strong effects on the brain’s prefrontal cortex – the area responsible for mood, cognition, and perception. ⁴ ⁵
It’s also reported that psilocybin affects other areas of the brain, such as those responsible for arousal and panic responses.
Still, we only know so much. Since psilocybin remains illegal in the United States, it’s difficult for researchers to look into its properties legally. With that in mind, most of what we do know about psilocybin’s effects come from self-reports.
Can You Use Psilocybin Mushrooms for PTSD?
Dr. Mathew Johnson, an associate professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, has led psychedelic research concerning various health conditions. While his main body of work looks into depression, he’s also been exploring psilocybin’s potential to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
His curiosity stems from the fact that traditional talk therapy doesn’t always work with PTSD patients. The difficulty is past trauma can lead people with PTSD to distrust others, prevent clear communication, and inhibit one’s ability to grow close with another. ⁶
Since psilocybin can evoke feelings of trust, it’s possible that microdosing mushrooms may be beneficial in a therapy session. ⁷
Furthermore, psilocybin creates an emotional response that forces a person to come face-to-face with their trauma. While this confrontation is intimidating, it’s a necessary step in moving past negative life experiences.
With the right therapist – one who provides empathy and compassion – microdosing mushrooms PTSD may be integral in the healing process.
What Does the Research Say?
As discussed, psychedelic therapy is being researched for a wide variety of mental illnesses, including anxiety, depression, and a substance abuse disorder. With that said, there’s only so much research looking at PTSD specifically.
Still, across all disorders, the therapeutic value of psychedelics lies in the mystical experience that allows an individual to garner a new perspective on life. ⁸ For this reason, studies looking into depression or anxiety may also be applicable for PTSD.
- A 2020 study concerning gay male survivors of the AIDS epidemic took 8 to 10 therapy sessions involving one dose of psilocybin. After 3 months, researchers reported those who took the psilocybin saw significant reduction in symptoms of demoralization compared to a placebo. ⁹
- In a 2020 review (that looked into 24 prior studies), it was reported that 65% of studies found psychedelic substances had the ability to reduce symptoms of anxiety. ¹⁰
- In a 2017 study, people struggling with treatment-resistant depression found psilocybin to help reduce severe symptoms. ¹¹
- A 2016 study looked into people struggling with anxiety and depression due to a cancer diagnosis. Those who took psilocybin saw reduction in anxiety, hopelessness, and dread, even 6.5 months after the therapy session. ¹²
How Much is a Psilocybin Microdose?
Since psilocybin remains illegal, finding the right dosage is difficult. For one, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t approve of its use and has not given guidelines on dosage recommendation. Secondly, when purchasing mushrooms illegally, it’s impossible to determine how much psilocybin your receiving per dry weight.
However, most psilocybin mushrooms contain about 1% psilocybin. With that said, the following chart is based on this standard: ¹³
|Dried Msuhrooms||Estimated Psilocybin|
|Microdose||0.25 grams – 0.5 grams||2.5mg – 5mg|
|Low Dose||1 gram||10mg|
|Medium Dose||1.75 grams||17.5mg|
|High Dose||3.5 grams||35mg|
|Very High Dose||5 grams||50mg|
If you’ve never taken psilocybin previously, we highly recommend only taking a microdose or low dose your first time.
How long does a mushroom trip last?
The effects of psilocybin will take 30 minutes to come on and then last for between 5 to 6 hours. However, you’ll likely feel minor effects throughout the rest of the day and potentially during the following days.
How to Prepare for a Psychedelic Experience
If you’re planning on microdosing mushrooms PTSD, there are a few key things to keep in mind before diving into the experience. These are:
- Ensure You’re in a Positive Mindset – Mushrooms are a very mental experience and hold the potential to trigger psychotic episodes (a “bad trip”). In order to ensure you have a good time, it can help to meditate or destress throughout the week beforehand.
- Have a “Trip Sitter” – It’s best to have a trusted friend by your side who hasn’t taken psilocybin with you. They will be there to not only watch you but also ensure your safety.
- Be in the Right Environment – It’s critical you are in an environment you feel comfortable in and surrounded by people you can trust. The wrong place, people or situation can easily send you into a bad trip.
- Try to Stay in One Location – While it can be exciting to go to different places during your psychedelic experience, it can also be intimidating. If you’re new to psilocybin, it’s best to stay in one place throughout the duration of the trip.
What to do if you’re having a bad trip?
If you’re already in a mushroom trip and it’s not going well, it’s best to surrender to the experience. Most people try to control it and this only heightens anxiety. In order to surrender, you may want to simply listen to calming music or try to meditate.
Since psilocybin is still in the early stages of research, it remains unclear whether or not microdosing mushrooms for PTSD is beneficial. Furthermore, due to the fact that psychedelic drugs can cause a negative experience, it’s not in everyone’s best interest to take them for therapeutic use.
The best step to curing PTSD is through traditional treatment methods – psychotherapies and medication. If you find these practices aren’t working, there are other (non-psychedelic) natural options to consider first.
Still have questions about microdosing mushrooms PTSD?
We invite you to ask them in the comments section below. If you have any further knowledge to share – whether personal or professional – we’d also love to hear from you.
¹ National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
² National Library of Medicine: DARK Classics in Chemical Neuroscience: Psilocybin
³ Studies in Mycology: The good, the bad and the tasty: The many roles of mushrooms
⁴ Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS): Hallucinogen actions on human brain revealed
⁵ Neuropsychopharmacology: Psychedelic effects of psilocybin correlate with serotonin 2A receptor occupancy and plasma psilocin levels
⁶ U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: Effects of PTSD
⁷ Journal of Psychopharmacology: The effects of psilocybin on cognitive and emotional functions in healthy participants
⁹ eClinicalMedicine: Psilocybin-assisted group therapy for demoralized older long-term AIDS survivor men
¹⁰ Wiley Online Library: Historic psychedelic drug trials and the treatment of anxiety disorders
¹¹ Psychopharmacology: Psilocybin with psychological support for treatment-resistant depression
¹² Journal of Psychopharmacology: Rapid and sustained symptom reduction following psilocybin treatment for anxiety and depression in patients with life-threatening cancer
¹³ PLOS ONE: A systematic study of microdosing psychedelics