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What is a psilocybin experience like? After seeing the popularity of my recent post: What is an LSD experience like? I decided to do a follow up about psilocybin. Psilocybin is the psychedelic compound found in magic mushrooms and truffles, and although very similar to the LSD experience, it does have one or two differences.

As with the LSD post these were taken from a study which looked at aspects similar amongst people‘s psilocybin experiences. All of these findings were presented in a talk by Katrin Preller which you can view online:
How Psychedelics Can Help Us Understand Social Cognition and Self-Experience.

I think the list provides an excellent summary of common psilocybin experiences.

Subjective Effects of Psilocybin

  • Elementary visual alterations
  • Vivid imagery
  • Audio-visual synesthaesia
  • Changed meaning of percepts
  • Experience of unity
  • Blissful state
  • Disembodiment
  • Impaired control and cognition
  • Insightfulness
  • Religious experience
  • Anxiety

The diagram below shows us which of the subjective effects were felt most strongly under the influence of psilocybin. I have ordered the list above in order. As you can see, elementary visual alterations scores highest, and anxiety lowest.

Subjective effects of psilocybin. From Vollenheider & Kometer, 2010.

Course of Subjective Effects of Psilocybin

This chart shows the course of a psilocybin journey including the intensity of the effects over a timeline. As you can see the peak is around 1 hour in with ‘transient peaks of self transcendence’.

Course of subjective effects of psilocybin. From Preller & Vollenweider, 2017.

Psychedelics are not an integrated part of our culture in the West and as such they can be difficult to talk about. There is still social stigma attached to the topic, and even though they are increasingly gaining credibility and acceptance, they are still in many ways taboo.

How easily and openly you can talk about psychedelics of course depends on who you are talking to. If you have a very open minded friend then perhaps it is no problem to speak with them about your interest or experience with psychedelics. However, if you come from a conservative background then it may be very difficult to speak about with family members and even bringing up the topic might start ringing alarm bells.

Selective Sharing For Integration

When it comes to a successful integration of your experience, selective sharing is an important point. Just as you have certain friends that you might speak to about certain things like music or philosophy, in the same way you probably have friends that would be more open and receptive to the topic of psychedelics.

Choose carefully who you will share your experience with and how much you will share. The experience can lose some of its magic if not held properly by the listener. A highly skeptical or even mocking response can really dampen what was a very personally meaningful experience and detract from it’s power to catalyze positive change in your life. In some cases it may even cause you to doubt what you experienced and and be encouraged to brush it off as nothing more than a weird drug experience.

Know Your Crowd

Selective sharing should also take into account which aspects of your experience you choose to talk about. If you had a spiritual experience and you have a friend who is very firm in their material mechanistic worldview, then it may not be worth speaking to them about the spiritual aspects of your experience or connecting with the divine. Most likely it will be written off and rationalised by someone who at the end of the day did not experience what you experienced. However, you may be able to speak to that same friend about some of the positive changes you have felt since the experience. You could talk about how you feel or think differently and can even reference some of the science which has shown the changes that happen in the brain. Referencing some of the scientific research that has been done may provide a perspective on the experience that your friend will more readily trust.

 

With this in mind it may not be that with some friends you can speak about psychedelics with and others not. It is more a case of choosing how you speak about psychedelics with each individual.

Opening a Conversation

A good entry to a conversation about psychedelics is to ask a question. Rather than opening up with “I had an amazing experience last weekend on LSD“ you could open up with:

  • “did you ever try LSD?“
  • “did you have any experience with psychedelic drugs?“
  • “do you know anything about psychedelic drugs?“

Entering into a conversation this way is a good way of putting the feelers out. You can get a gauge on persons perspective without commiting yourself to anything and can proceed accordingly in the conversation. If it seems like you do not want to go any further you can say “oh I just read something interesting about it the other day and it got me quite interested.”

Choosing a time to share

If there is someone who you would really like to speak to but are afraid of their response, try to choose a time when they are in a more open and less judgemental state. Generally if someone opens up or shows a vulnerability to you then they will be in a more open frame of mind. Another good sign is when they are really listening to you and asking questions that come from a place of curiosity rather than challenge.

Shifting the landscape through conversation

Talking about psychedelics is an important part of shifting the cultural conversation around the topic and moving the psychedelic movement forwards. With that in mind I would like to share a quote from my friend and Altered founder Dax DeFranco from an interview I did with him back in 2017:

“I think the most important thing is to use and talk about them in an honest way. There’s a lot of talk about ‘coming out of the psychedelic closet’ – like I mentioned before, when you’re the only person who’s experimented with x, it’s hard to talk about it or make it a part of your identity, but the more people that do, the less pressure and fear others feel to identify that way. I think the simple act of being a psychedelic person who’s honest about being a psychedelic person is extremely powerful.”

The quiet room is something I picked up from friend and New Moon colleague Tuk a few years ago and is something I always try to arrange for group sessions whether it’s in a house or an apartment.

The Quiet Room

The quiet room is basically a designated room in which there is no talking and no music playing. It functions as a place anyone can go to for some quiet or solo time and is normally used as a secondary room to the main room where people will be together.

Quiet space is very useful when:

  • Being in a group or in a sociable setting is too much or becomes uncomfortable
  • If someone doesn’t want to or is finding it very difficult to talk
  • Anyone wants some time to themselves
  • Just want some peace

What I love about the quiet room is that you can still have a recreational style trip with friends and still have an opportunity to get introspective. At any time you can head to the quiet space and find some time in the session to do that.

For example, if you are taking truffles with friends then you could at some point head to the quiet room to spend half an hour journaling answers to some questions you have prepared for yourself. In this way you can still get some good introspective and reflective work done without having to devote a whole session to it and without having to choose between either a solo inner work style journey or a recreational style journey with friends.

Setting Up & Guidelines for a Quiet Room

To set up a quiet room all you need to do is suggest the idea to your friends and make sure everyone agrees on it beforehand. I would say its a good idea to agree that there is no talking in the quiet room and have this clear from the outset. This helps to prevent someone coming in and disturbing another while they are wanting some peace and quiet. This type of innocent mistake can happen for different reasons whilst tripping; it could be that someone is extremely excited and wants to share that with everyone, or that someone is worrying about another person who has been quiet for a while. Both scenarios can lead to someone unintentionally bothering another who is fine but just wants to be on their own for a while.

Having the quiet room clearly defined makes it clear that anyone who is in there will not be spoken to and it is fine for two or three people to be in there at the same time, each minding their own business and doing their own thing. It’s useful to remember to keep the door closed to stop noise from spilling in.

Creating Setting

Once you’ve decided which room you will use then the first thing you need is some comfortable places for people to lie down. Mattresses on the floor work perfectly, but otherwise any mats or even floor space for people to lie down and get comfortable. Cozify with blankets and pillows. Creating a cozy space with your fellow journeyers can be a fun activity in itself and building the set together is a great way to begin connecting before journey.

It’s also nice to leave a couple of music players and pairs of headphones in there. Load the music players up with a nice selection of music beforehand and if they are phones, make sure they are on airplane mode or even better, with SIM removed. It can also be nice to leave some pens, papers and art supplies in there for people to use for journaling or getting creative. Finally, equip with some basic supplies like water and snacks.

As with general setting space I would recommend a low lighting and cozy ambience. I would not recommend any open flames such as candles, but rather some nice lamps. With lamps, be careful not to use ones that heat up if they are left on a long time as these can also start flames if certain materials are left on them.

Allowing Space to Check in

The quiet room acts as a kind of designated safe space for group sessions. It can promote feelings of safety and relaxation for everyone involved, knowing that they can retreat if at any time they feel anxiety, social or otherwise. It can give you a chance to step out from the group dynamic, a chance to check in with yourself and really take a look at and see how you’re feeling. It can also be used to step out and actively investigate some things going on in your life that you don’t want to share with the group but would like some time to think about and reflect on. It can also be useful to maybe do some problem-solving by yourself.

A quiet room is definitely a key aspect to creating the setting and I would say it’s useful even if the group session is not a recreational or sociable one. For example, even if the main room is used as a formal ceremony room where journeyers are not speaking to each other, the quiet room can still be very useful because the energy of a group ceremony can be quite intense. Although a being in a group ceremony can be enlightening and a great way to learn about how we relate to others and our own social insecurities, it can still be quite a lot to take in and it can be nice to have the option of stepping away from that. It is something we arrange for retreats with New Moon and it was also nice to see a quiet room put in place when I worked on retreat with Truffles Therapy.

If you are unsure of whether you would like to do a group trip with friends I encourage you to suggest having a quiet room and ask them what they think about that.

Viel Glück!

person nature contemplative

Integration is key to moving forward on the psychedelic path. Although some shifts may happen organically, a lot of it will need deliberate and intentional work.

As I tweeted a while ago:

integration tweet

Returning to twitter after my recent digital detox, I asked the psychedelic twitter crowd:

What would your #1 integration tip for psychedelic first timers be?

There was a great thread which covered many areas important to integration and included: self care, quality rest, community, selective sharing, facing what came up, avoiding distractions, remembering your why, and setting intentions.

Answers came from knowledgable people around the world, including Psychedelic anchor David Wilder, Canadian author James W. Jesso, and mental health writer Sam Woolfe, so I thought I would share some of my favourites here…

Top Integration Tips From Twitter

Take Time Off

Give yourself plenty of time and space to process the experience. During that period, make self-care your top priority.

 

@think_wilder
Turn your phone off, have 2 days. One day for the experience and one to reflect and rest the day after. Remember to breathe and you’re likely more resilient than you give yourself credit for.

@DecrimNatureMN

Get Quality Rest

Get a good night’s sleep after the experience, so enough sleep (7-9 hours) and good quality sleep (avoid cannabis, alcohol, and benzodiazepines, as these can interrupt REM/deep sleep, which are both involved in memory consolidation). The more you remember, the better.

@samwoolfe

Stay with the Experience

Don’t distract yourself for the days after. Instead feel & embody all of the emotions that come up after the experience.

@patti3001
Take time to feel into the emotional impressions left in you by the most significant moments of your journey, really feel into them, and then let yourself wonder about it. Journalling in this context is great, but be mindful to whom and how (and if) you choose to share the story.

@jameswjesso

Find Community

Beforehand, glean information from those you really trust about their experiences. Just like you know who to talk to in your circle about music or whatever, so to for the psychedelic journey. Also, integration can take forever so expect decades not weeks.

@ddaardvark
Find some like-minded people to work with and start a journal or diary for your deepest thoughts. Be prepared to be vulnerable but don’t be afraid of it

@society_welsh

Remember Your Why

Remember why you tripped. Beginning to think about what you wanted from the psychedelic can be an important first step towards using the feelings and thoughts that came up in order for you to transform your life.

@doubleblindmag

Set Intentions

Don’t be afraid of what the mushrooms are showing you. Listen to your mind & heart and proceed accordingly. Set intention. Everyone has their own journey

@TheDailyShroom

You can read the full thread on twitter here. Thanks to all the contributors and commenters.

A recent reader commented on a post that they tried microdosing but it didn’t work for them. My next question was, how much did they experiment with the dose? Finding the right personalised dose can take a lot of trial and error. We are all different and effects can vary substantially between individuals. This is true not just with microdosing but also higher doses and I think that finding the correct dose is an oft underestimated key to using psychedelics.

Consider this:

A medicine can be a poison depending on the dose.

The exact same substance, the same chemical compound, one that could heal you, could also kill you, depending on the dose. Suffice to say that dose can completely change a drug’s effects.

Though the psychedelics psilocybin and LSD are non-toxic, meaning that a fatal overdose is impossible, one could still consider an experience to be ‘poisonous’ in so much that it has negative effects on a persons psyche or wellbeing.

Dosage is, I venture to say, the no.1 reason why people have bad trips. Set and setting has been mentioned, say, people at festivals or parties around large groups of people, loud music, a lot of stimulation. But what about if they had taken a much lower dose? Would it have been overwhelming? Mightn’t they have gotten the enhanced party experience or mind opening adventure they were after?

I have had my own too much experience at a festival, and whilst it was big flashing lights and lack of a quiet space to lie down that could seem to be the problem, I could have had a more pleasant experience by simply being careful with the amount I was taking. Not everyone wants to have a peak mystical experience or deep inner journey, sometimes people just want to enhance their experience of something else they already enjoy. Much in the way coffee would enhance a workday, a mini or museum dose might enhance a party, concert or brainstorming session.

Dosage is More Important than Set and Setting

As has been said by the late, great Boston psychonaut Kilindi Iyi, at very very high doses of magic mushrooms, set and setting doesn’t make any difference whatsoever. So that would mean that dosage is the most important factor in a session.

Though this is on the extreme end, I think it illustrates a good point. Dose is, in my opinion, too often and too easily overlooked when it comes to taking drugs.

Consider for a moment the difference between:

  • a bump of ketamine vs. a big line
  • one small hit of weed vs. one huge bong rip
  • a shot of vodka vs. bottle of vodka

Very different experiences.

So how to get it right? Here’s some practical tips when it comes to exploring substances.

Practical Tips on Dosing

Use scales

Invest in a good set of scales and use them carefully. Especially important when using potent psychedelics that are active in very small doses like 2cb, or those with higher toxicity like MDMA. Eyeballing can be horrendously inaccurate.

Know the dose for specific route of administration

Don’t confuse the intranasal dose with the oral dose, for example. Those can be very different things.

Start out small, increase the next time

Research is good but I’d generally say that it always good to start lower than you’d like and work your way up.

“Those who received a small taster before a higher dose were observed as being even more likely to reap the benefits than those who were only given the higher dose.”

About study participants from John Hopkins’ psilocybin study – Link

The great Czech psychedelic pioneer Stanislav Grof used a step up approach in his psycholytic psychedelic therapy work. After some sessions to build trust between the therapist and patient, he would start patients on 100 micrograms of LSD, and gradually work them up on consecutive sessions until an optimum dose was reached. 

Make use of boosters

You can use a booster, this means adding a second dose on top of the first to boost the effect. The key to getting the booster right is the timing. If you add too early, before the first dose has reached its peak, you risk taking too much. If you time it too late, you miss the chance of adding to the peak of the first dose and just extending the session, or having a second peak that is similar to the first. To counter this this, take note of the time when you take your dose, and consider setting an alarm as a reminder to check in with how you feel and to then make a decision on whether or not to take the booster.

Use volumetric dosing for microdosing LSD

Volumetric dosing enables you to be very accurate and precise with dosage when you have paper tabs of LSD. You can find a guide on how to here.

Keep a drug journal

Logging and tracking has become quite a thing in the self improvement field and for good reason. By tracking our behaviours we get good solid data which we can assess objectively. Using only a scale and a notebook, you can track and log your ingestions and doses and make notes on the effects, gaining precious personalised data. 

Maybe you’ve heard of a food diary to raise awareness of what you are eating. Or a smoke diary for people trying to quit. Logging and tracking raises awareness of our behaviours, feelings, triggers and patterns.

Keeping a drug diary has to have been one of the most useful things I’ve ever done in regards to learning about my relationship with different substances and what doses work for me. The data has been invaluable for deciding doses and finding my sweet spot for different applications and activities. I know my optimum kratom dose to enhance focus on a work day, for example, my LSD minidose for a day out, and my MDMA dose for a session with friends, including booster & timing.

If you wanna know more about drug journaling, take a look at taking drugs like a nerd.

Don’t underestimate the dose. If you’re new, better yet, overestimate the dose!