Psychedelics, such as magic mushrooms, are making waves when treating complex mental illnesses like major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Approximately 9 percent of Canadians have experienced PTSD in their lifetime, with men being more likely to experience trauma but women more likely to develop PTSD symptoms. Here we will discuss using psychedelics to treat PTSD and what the research says, so far. But first, let’s define what post-traumatic stress disorder is.
PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that results from having experienced or witnessed trauma. Though it is important to note that not everyone who experiences trauma develops PTSD and what is considered traumatic differs between people.
People who have experienced trauma often have intense, disturbing thoughts or feelings related to that experience long after the trauma event(s) have passed.
PTSD symptoms fall into four categories:
- Intrusive thoughts. Repeated, involuntary memories, frightening dreams, or flashbacks of the traumatic event. For some, flashbacks may feel like they are reliving the traumatic experience.
- Avoiding reminders of the traumatic event. This may include avoiding people, places, activities, objects, and situations that bring distressing memories. They may also resist talking about what happened or how they feel about it.
- Negative thoughts and feelings. This may include distorted beliefs about oneself or others (ex., “I am bad,” “No one can be trusted”), ongoing fear, horror, anger, guilt, shame, significantly less interest in activities previously enjoyed, or feeling detached from others.
- Reactive symptoms may include being irritable and having angry outbursts, behaving recklessly or self-destructively, being easily startled, or having problems concentrating or sleeping. (source)
Mental health professionals, such as psychologists and psychiatrists, use various methods to help people with PTSD recover. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is one evidence-based treatment that is often used in combination with medication.
While these treatment methods are effective, many people find that psychedelics provide additional benefits for treating PTSD, particularly since treatment can be fairly complex.
Psychedelics have shown promise in treatment for psychological disorders and received breakthrough therapy status in 2019 for major depression. In Canada, psilocybin has now been approved for end-of-life care use by a limited number of health professionals.
Does the research support the use of psychedelics to treat PTSD?
A 2013 study found psilocybin stimulates neurogenesis (the growth and repair of brain cells) in the hippocampus, the brain’s centre for emotion and memory. In the study, mice given psilocybin overcame fear conditioning far better than mice given a placebo. These results support the hypothesis that psilocybin can help break the traumatic cycle in patients with PTSD.
Other acute effects that substantiate their potential therapeutic role in the treatment of PTSD include:
- Emotional empathy
- Increases in creative divergent thinking
- Enhanced mindfulness-related capacities
- Increased insightfulness
- Reduced avoidance and increases in acceptance and connectedness
- Long-term increases in the personality trait of openness
A 2020 study provided psilocybin therapy and group therapy sessions to survivors of the AIDS pandemic who reported feeling demoralized. At 3 months, researchers saw significant reductions in participants’ symptoms of demoralization.
Psychedelics are not an alternative to traditional treatment methods for PTSD. Those diagnosed with PTSD or experiencing similar symptoms should speak to a mental health professional.
If you decide to use psychedelics to treat PTSD with or without the support and guidance of your mental health professional, please use them responsibly and take the time to prepare for the experience.
Since psychedelics can bring up a lot of feelings, they can leave people feeling vulnerable. Because of this, we stress the importance of taking care of yourself psychologically after the experience. For some, this may mean seeking support from their mental health professional. For others, this may mean seeking support from friends and loved ones and engaging in therapeutic activities such as journaling.
Learn more about integration after a psychedelic experience.
Research has focused on a psychedelic dose of magic mushrooms, but that doesn’t mean that microdosing won’t have similar therapeutic benefits.
Until we know more about using psychedelics to treat PTSD, it’s up to your personal choice if you want to microdose or try a psychedelic dose.
A psychedelic dose may lead you to experience ego death, which can be healing but also may be overwhelming. A microdose may provide therapeutic benefits with less intensity.
Psychedelics are substances that can create hallucinogenic effects that result in a change in perception, cognitive function, and mood, generally referred to as tripping. Psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, has been studied in recent years to improve our understanding of the potential therapeutic benefits.
In Canada, there are currently 16 people—doctors, nurses, and mental health professionals—who were provided with an exemption to use psilocybin with their patients, focusing on end-of-life care. Several organizations across Canada, like TheraPsil in Victoria, BC, continue to advocate for its legal use. These organizations recommend psilocybin be used in conjunction with therapy due to the opening up it can facilitate. Therapy can also support integration of the experience into your life. In the cases where a mental health professional isn’t involved, it’s still important to prepare before tripping to get the most out of the psychedelic experience.
Tripping on psychedelics can result in significant changes to perception that can be overwhelming, especially to the first-time user. Some may have heard of others’ negative experiences with psychedelics and feel apprehensive. It’s normal to feel some nerves.
Others are looking for ways in which they can get the most out of the psychedelic experience. Preparation can help to both optimize the psychedelic experience and help to prevent a ‘bad trip.’
We always recommend preparing, especially for a first-time experience or when adjusting doses. While microdosing aims to take sub-perceptible amounts of a psychedelic substance, like psilocybin, and avoid tripping, that does not mean you won’t experience anything. Emotions still may come up that you’re unprepared for.
It can also be challenging to determine the best dose for microdosing accurately. This can result in experiencing more psychoactive impact than you originally anticipated. If you’re new to microdosing, take the time to consider the best dose to start at and if you’re nervous, er on the side of caution and take slightly less the first time. You can always increase the dose slowly over several hours or several days. Note, if you’re increasing your dose the same day, ensure to wait at least 45 minutes to 1 hour before increasing. Also, take your first dose on a day with no other obligations.
There are several things to consider before participating in a psychedelic experience to help you make the most of it.
Set and Setting
Consider Your Mindset
Mindset is a crucial aspect of tripping and can affect the psychedelic experience. It’s essential to take the time to prepare your mindset in a way that makes you feel calm and confident going into the experience. Yes, there still may be some nervousness due to not fully knowing what to expect, but understand that powerful emotions may arise, and the goal is to learn from these, not to become overwhelmed by them. If concerns about the experience continue to emerge, it may be helpful to talk to someone who has experience with psychedelics.
Remember that no matter what happens, the experience will end, so enjoy the ride.
During the day leading up to the experience, engage in activities that will help bring you calm and take the time to set your intentions for the experience.
Take the time to consider your intentions and what you hope to gain from tripping. Doing so can help you go into the experience feeling prepared and help you to get the most benefit from the psychedelic experience.
Here are some questions to ask yourself that may help consider and set intentions for a psychedelic experience:
- What are your preconceptions about tripping and psychedelic experiences?
- What do you expect to occur during the trip?
- What do you hope to learn? Experience? Understand? Resolve?
- What are your goals? Do you have spiritual goals? Psychological goals? Social goals?
Consider Your Dose
After you’ve taken the time to determine your intentions, use this to consider the best dose for you. Your goals can help determine whether or not you want to take a full psychedelic dose or would prefer to microdose.
Ensure that you take time into account when determining your dose. Allow yourself enough time to prepare for the experience, 4 to 6 hours for the experience, and time for integration.
Set Your Setting Before Tripping
The setting in which you consume psychedelics is important in facilitating a positive experience when tripping. While the ideal environment can vary for different individuals, there are a few things to consider when picking the setting.
- It should be a familiar environment where you feel safe and comfortable.
- Have easy access to water for drinking and a bathroom.
- Have access to comfort items like blankets and pillows and a place where you can lay down.
It can also be helpful to consider the ambient sounds and other external stimuli. This could include choosing calm and soothing music; for many people, this is classical music or something else without lyrics and removing any potential interruptions.
Consider a Trip Sitter
Those engaging in a full psychedelic experience, particularly for the first time, may want to have a trip sitter. In some settings, this may be a trained psychedelic-assisted therapist or other trained professional. Otherwise, it can be a trusted friend who is sober and there to support you while you’re tripping. Ideally, they have experience with psychedelics, but that isn’t required.
After a psychedelic experience, it’s important to take the time to integrate the things you’ve experienced or learned into your life. Some people like to visit a regular mental health professional after to unpack the emotions that came up, while others engage in a journaling practice.
Remember that tripping is named as such because it is a journey: it may be weird, challenging, or overwhelming at times, but you’re along for the ride, so don’t fight the experience. Allow it to flow and know that no matter what happens, it will end.
Psychedelics can be healing and therapeutic. Taking the time to prepare before tripping can help you get the most from the psychedelic experience and decrease the likelihood of a negative outcome. Take the time to prepare your mindset and your setting, and don’t forget to allow time for integration.
To gain an understanding from first-hand users on their tripping experiences, see our 50 quotes on psychedelics.
When the weather starts to get dark and grey as the winter months approach, it’s easy for the lack of sunlight and colour to affect our mood. Many people feel lethargic, tired, hopeless and many display signs of depression. Psychedelic (magic mushrooms) therapy can help manage feelings of depression and improve those winter blues.
Psychedelics for Seasonal Depression
When we talk about the winter blues, what we are typically describing is seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder. However, when we refer to these symptoms as the winter blues, it takes away from the experience and discourages many people from taking tangible steps to treat them.
Seasonal depression is a type of depression related to the changing of the seasons. It typically begins in fall, leads into the winter months and then ends in the spring when the days get brighter and the weather warmer and clearer.
Symptoms typically include,
- Feeling depressed often
- Losing interest in activities you previously enjoyed
- Low energy
- Problems with sleeping
- Changes in your appetite or weight
- Feeling sluggish or agitated
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
Typically, seasonal depression is treated with light therapy, lifestyle changes, medication (like SSRIs), or psychotherapy. However, many people are turning to psychedelic therapy for managing symptoms of depression, not just in the winter months but all year long.
Many people are turning to magic mushrooms for treating depression. While the research supports psilocybin treatment for depression, it’s primarily focused on depression related to end-of-life care, as this is where the legal exemptions have been made. However, the research continues to expand and support the use of psilocybin therapy for managing symptoms of depression in the broader population.
We are beginning to see the most significant result in comparing psilocybin therapy to treatment with SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), which are one of the most common treatments for depression.
A 2021 study comparing psilocybin to SSRIs, particularly escitalopram, found no significant difference between psilocybin and the SSRIs when compared on the Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology–Self-Report (QIDS-sR), which means psilocybin was as effective as escitalopram in managing symptoms of depression during the study.
However, one of the researchers, Robin Carhart-Harris, notes that there were some significant differences within the 16 items in the QIDS-sR. These differences include:
- 70% of the participants in the psilocybin group responded to treatment compared to 48% in the SSRI group.
- The rate of remission was 57% in the psilocybin group compared to 28% in the SSRI group.
- The psilocybin group showed larger reductions in suicidality and anhedonia (the lack of ability to feel pleasure).
Of course, because this is new research, more clinical data is necessary to understand the differences between psilocybin therapy and SSRI treatment fully.
While SSRIs can manage the symptoms of depression for many individuals, there are numerous downsides. Not only do SSRIs have many challenging side effects, but it often takes several tries to find an effective medication, and many people build up a tolerance over time.
The advantage of magic mushrooms over SSRIs is that side effects are minimal, and even though you can build up a tolerance, the effects last much longer, so it is reasonable to leave a significant amount of time between trips or take a month or more break between microdosing.
It’s important to note that in the study, like most other trials involving psilocybin, participants received approximately 30-40 hours of psychotherapy. However, this does not mean that psychotherapy is necessary as part of psilocybin therapy. Still, some additional work is important – this is part of the integration process.
It’s interesting to note that one participant in this study who had been experiencing depression for decades noted, “People describe psychedelic therapy as 25 years of therapy in one afternoon. And it can absolutely feel like that, but it’s not a silver bullet—and it’s just an afternoon,” Schneider says. “The real magic in this is not in the dosing day; it’s in the work that you do afterward.” This quote reinforces the importance of integration.
For those who don’t want to experience a full psychedelic trip, microdosing can be an excellent solution for managing symptoms of depression.
A microdose is a small dose (often 100mg) of a psychedelic substance, like magic mushrooms, used for a therapeutic purpose without the hallucinogenic experience. Therefore, microdosing is the process of consuming this small dose at regular intervals – typically every three days.
Microdosing is just as effective as macrodosing for most people. It doesn’t disrupt your day because you don’t experience the hallucinogenic effects. Additionally, you don’t have to worry about having a bad trip.
While magic mushrooms, particularly microdosing, can effectively manage symptoms of depression, it’s even more beneficial when combined with other treatment methods and lifestyle changes. Here are five small things to consider when you begin experiencing the winter blues.
- Regular routine. Maintain a normal and structured routine that helps you schedule important healthy activities like exercise and taking your microdose at the same time. This also should include maintaining a regular sleep schedule, which may mean rising earlier to catch more of the daylight in the winter months.
- Absorb the light. If possible, expose yourself to natural light shortly after getting out of bed – yes, even if it is cloudy. Natural light helps to signal the start of the day and has many other nurturing benefits. Consider getting out in nature if you can.
- Consider Vitamin D. Vitamin D is likely something you’re lacking in the winter months; consider adding vitamin D to your morning routine.
- Consider light therapy. A UV Seasonal Affective Disorder lamp mimics sunlight and can help you get all those things you’re missing from the sunlight. Sit in front of it for 20-30 minutes after you’ve taken your microdose to help bring positive energy to your day.
- Remember, this will end. Seasonal depression happens every year for many people, so even though it’s challenging, you know it will end.
Consider taking your microdose of mushrooms in the morning alongside your vitamin D and other supplements to combat seasonal depression. Then sit in front of your SAD lamp or get outside for a nice walk before starting your day. A routine like this will go a long way in giving you energy and lifting your mood during the cold, dark winter months.
People have all sorts of rituals prior to a psychedelic experience, and one of the best ways to prepare is by setting intentions for a psychedelic trip.
Setting trip intentions is when you state what you intend to accomplish through your actions. It’s a commitment to what you want the journey to be about and can be used to guide the experience.
What’s the difference between trip intentions and goals?
It’s easy to see this as goal setting, and while there are similarities, there are also important differences.
Goals are helpful to have, but they can also bring about anxiety or stress regarding our ability to achieve them, as well as thoughts about our current state not being enough.
Here are some major differences between goals and intentions:
- Goals are focused on the future. Intentions are in the present.
- Goals are a destination or specific achievement. Intentions are lived each day, independent of achieving the goal or destination.
- Goals are external achievements. Intentions are more focused on your relationship with yourself and others.
So, when we use intentions in conjunction with our goals, we can accomplish our goals while also enjoying the journey.
Why Set intentions for a Psychedelic Trip?
When you are intentional about something, you’re more focused and thoughtful. Not only does it help to guide you, but it’s also something to return to when things get challenging. There are times during a psychedelic experience where things can get intense; it’s easy to get swept away by your emotions or perceptions. However, suppose you’ve set an intention before the experience. In that case, this can help you feel grounded and can be something you refocus on to assist you in those challenging or scary moments.
How to Set Intentions
If you’re new to psychedelics and are unsure where to start with intention setting, you may want to start with something simple. For example, “I want to be open to what this experience has to show me.” It doesn’t necessarily have to be specific. Even this intention can help guide you and remind you to keep an open mind, and allow the journey to lead you. Likewise, wanting to explore your consciousness is also valid.
Others find it more helpful to be more specific with their intentions. A good starting place is to think of areas of your life that may need more awareness, attention, or work. For example, think about the prefixes “help me,” “teach me,” or “show me” and what may come afterward for you.
Here are some questions you may want to consider when thinking about setting intentions:
- Where am I stuck in life?
- What’s holding me back?
- How does my behaviour compare to my goals, values, and self-beliefs?
- What would I like to change about my life?
So, if your goal is to lose weight, for example, your intention could be “teach me to have a better relationship with food.” If your struggles are around mental wellness, you may want to set an intention such as “show me what causes my anxiety.”
If you’re struggling with setting intentions, consider asking the people you’re planning to trip with. They’re likely people you trust and who know you reasonably well, so they may have some insight into where to start or can help you craft your thoughts into something helpful.
If you have previous experience with psychedelics, your intention could be focused on things you have struggled with in past experiences. For example, suppose you realize you need some alone time during the experience. In that case, your intention may be to “communicate more effectively with your trip partners around space and boundaries.”
What to Avoid When Setting Intentions for a Trip
For some people, setting intentions sounds a bit too woo-woo, so they don’t take the time to think about valuable intentions. So, even though they may choose an intention because their trip guide tells them to, it won’t necessarily be helpful if it isn’t something you care about.
- Don’t be too vague
- Don’t be too productivity focused
- Focus on yourself
Remember that we don’t always know what we want or need; try to go into the experience with an open-minded, not a rigid goal.
Also, remember that just because you set an intention doesn’t mean that your experience will be entirely focused on that or that you will even accomplish it. Setting intentions is about giving yourself a place to start; something more pressing will often come up that you weren’t aware of. Maybe your intentions were addressed more indirectly, so it can be helpful to keep a trip journal to record your thoughts and feelings to return to.
The short answer is yes. However, intentions with microdosing may look different than with a full psychedelic experience, and they’re likely more long-term.
Since with microdosing you don’t experience the same psychoactive high, you experience benefits over time. Because of this, it’s recommended to keep a trip journal where you can not only record your doses but keep track of your intentions and your feelings throughout the experience.
So, you may have one long-term goal when it comes to microdosing, such as being more productive at work, decreasing your anxiety, being more creative. Yet, at the same time, it’s helpful to set daily intentions that help you work today towards your ultimate goal (or at least setting intentions on the day that you dose). So, you want to set an intention that will help get you to that goal but is focused on the present; for example, “I want to create space for creativity today.”
Your intentions will help guide you through the experience (though remember it’s a guide, don’t force it), and the next step is integration. Psychedelic integration is the process of taking the experiences and lessons that you’ve learned during the trip and integrating them into your life. This can look different for everyone, but we recommend keeping a trip journal to write down your experiences, lessons, and revelations to help with the integration process.
Learn more about psychedelic integration or how mindfulness can help with psychedelic therapy.
When using psychedelics, like magic mushrooms, you likely spend a decent amount of time planning for the experience. You probably set your intentions, choose a location and people you trust to be a part of the experience, prepare your environment, and select your dose. Do you take the same kind of care with the time after your psychedelic experience?
Psychedelics can have numerous therapeutic impacts. Taking some time for yourself after the experience can help integrate these impacts into your life.
If you have previous experience with psychedelics, you know several factors can impact how long it takes shrooms to kick in. If you’re taking a full macro dose, the experience is also not linear. It’s not likely the experience will ramp up to a peak and slowly decrease until you’re back to baseline – it tends to come in waves. As a result, it can be difficult to tell when you are back to baseline, and many people report experiencing something called an ‘afterglow.’
The afterglow experience is often described as a lingering euphoric feeling at the end of a psychedelic experience. It’s often called ‘afterglow’ because the world may feel particularly ‘shiny.’ Taking advantage of this afterglow can be a valuable part of psychedelic integration.
There are no rules for what to do or how to use your time after a psychedelic experience as different strategies work for different people. However, we suggest making a conscious choice about how to use the time.
Here are some ways to approach psychedelic integration:
Take some time to be present with yourself in a way that’s comfortable for you. If meditation or mindfulness is a part of your routine (if it’s not, we suggest you give it a try) lean into this and use it as a tool for being present with your feelings during the afterglow period.
If sitting quietly feels overwhelming to you, approach being with yourself in a way that feels more comfortable. Remember: the goal of mindfulness is not to be void of thoughts but to be present in the moment. Instead, you may want to try finding a comfortable spot to draw, colour or listen to soothing music.
A lot of our intense emotions are held in our bodies. So, moving our bodies can help to release those feelings. Take a few minutes to scan your body and notice how you feel and where you may be holding any tension. (Try this body scan meditation). Then, find ways of stretching or moving your body that feel good.
This could be sitting on the floor and stretching, doing some simple yoga stretches, going for a walk, doing whatever feels good – listen to your body.
Psychedelics and nature go hand in hand. Reconnecting with nature following a psychedelic experience can be very healing. Find a quiet place to get outside and reconnect with nature; lay down in the grass, look up at the clouds or the trees, take your shoes off at the beach, or take a walk down a forest trail.
Note some people do choose to have their psychedelic experience in nature. If you choose to do so, make sure you are in a safe place, with people you trust, and have access to all the things you may need during the experience (such as water and a bathroom).
One of the therapeutic effects of magic mushrooms is being able to examine and connect with past experiences so you can recontextualize them. Sometimes feelings come up that you aren’t expecting, are bigger than you were expecting, or you simply aren’t prepared to deal with. Journaling is a tool that many people use to help them sort through their feelings or to record their experiences to return to later.
Many people say journaling is the most crucial aspect of psychedelic integration for them. Writing down your thoughts and feelings can help you understand them, see them more clearly, self-reflect, and potentially recognize patterns.
As with any integration process, journaling is personal. If journaling is part of your routine, you may follow the same pattern you always do, but if not, you may want some prompts or tips to start the process.
There are generally two ways of journaling; (1) open-ended journaling and (2) journaling for a specific purpose. For psychedelic integration, you may want to consider incorporating both.
Consider starting your journaling before your psychedelic experience. Not only does this help with setting your intentions, but it can also act as a trip log. A trip log can help you further understand your psychedelic experience and help you uncover trends.
A few things can be beneficial to record in your trip log before your psychedelic experience to help you make the most of it.
- Date and time of the experience
- Dose and strain of mushrooms
- Emotional state before the experience
- Any important thoughts/feelings you may be having (ex: are you nervous?)
- How your body is feeling (any soreness, tension, etc.)
If you journal regularly, an open-ended process may work well for you; you may be able to write freely about your feelings naturally. If not, that’s okay too.
It may be helpful to return to the things you recorded in your trip log before and ask yourself the same questions to see if you’re feeling differently.
Here are some prompts to get you started. Please don’t feel obligated to answer them all; use what resonates with you or piques your interest. Some, you may want to come back to each time you dose to see how things change.
- How does your body feel? Are you feeling tense? Relaxed?
- Did you experience any struggles, conflicts, or big emotions? Did you have times where you fought against the experience? Consider why this may have happened, record your experience and how you’re feeling about it now.
- Think about the intention you set. Do you feel this was addressed? If yes, in what ways? If not, what may have happened that moved you away from your intentions? Are there ways you are still working to understand this?
- Did you make any big realizations about your life? Consider your relationships, job, family life, health, etc. Are there changes you need to make? What commitments do you want to make to yourself moving forward?
- Did you experience any big revelations? Or do you feel like there were key messages to take away from this experience?
- What are you grateful for? Adding gratitude as part of your regular journaling process can be exceptionally beneficial.
Some other things to consider are:
- What tools do you think you may need to integrate this experience into your life or make the necessary changes in your life?
- What challenges do you think you may experience with integration?
You may think psychedelic integration doesn’t apply since you don’t experience the coming down with microdosing as you do with a macro dose. This isn’t true. With microdosing, the intentions and therapeutic goals may be the same; the approach (i.e. the dose) is the only different thing.
Since microdosing involves taking such a small dose of a substance, journaling and integration may be more critical. At this dose, it’s more challenging to determine whether the substance has its intended impact. And even the task of finding the most effective dose can be difficult. Journaling can help.
Tracking the date, time, and size of your dose can help you determine the most effective dose and most effective regimen (how often to dose). We always recommend starting with a low dose and increasing slowly over time. Recording these can help you see the nuances between doses and track your tolerance.
Additionally, keeping an ongoing record of your intentions and your emotional state before and after dosing can help you to track the benefits over time.
Psychedelic integration can impact how you experience psychedelics and improve the therapeutic potential. Don’t rush to move on to the next thing after a macro dose; take the time to reflect and record your experience. Do the same with microdosing to get the most out of your experience.
Do you incorporate journaling into your psychedelic routine? What do you find works best for you? Let us know in the comments.
To hear how others integrated what they learned during a psychedelic trip, see our 50 quotes on psychedelics.
If you’re part of the psychedelic community, you’ve probably heard of the term ego death. Ego death has been interpreted from a psychoanalytic perspective as “a disruption of ego boundaries, which results in a blurring of the distinction between self-representation and object-representation, and precludes the synthesis of self-representations into a coherent whole” (Federn, 1952; Savage, 1955; Fischman, 1983). However, many people prefer the term ego dissolution as it sounds less intimidating.
The experience of ego death is often the goal of taking a full macrodose of psychedelics. This is where the breakdown of barriers occurs and where the healing experience can begin.
Before we dive into the topic of ego death, let’s first describe what the ego is and how it influences our cognitive functioning.
When you think about the term ego, your initial thoughts might automatically be drawn to the term egotistical. The description of a person who is self-absorbed and self-centred. While this is not the behaviour we are addressing, it gives us some insight into what the ego is.
The ego is the part of our consciousness where our sense of self is developed. It’s made up of several different factors: the view you hold of yourself (your self-image), the value that’s placed on yourself (your self-esteem), and the beliefs, ideologies, and affiliations you have (your self-identity).
While the ego begins to develop in early childhood, it isn’t static. Our ego is evolving and changing as we do.
Why is our ego important? When we think about ego, we often see it as a bad thing, but that isn’t the case. Our ego acts as a gatekeeper for our thoughts and how we relate to and interact with the world. Having a gatekeeper is necessary because we are bombarded with so much information daily our brains can’t process it all. It can also help protect our self-image from damage.
However, problems can arise with the ego. These problems tend to occur when the ego is built on false beliefs. Or when the ego is overly negative (or even excessively positive). For example, disregarding compliments or praise due to a negative self-view or ignoring constructive feedback as a result of an unrealistic positive view of ourselves.
Ego death is the breakdown of the barriers between the self and what isn’t the self. This can look like a shift from a traditionally self-centred view of the world (which is normal, particularly in Western cultures) to an unbiased view of the world.
Research is still uncovering the mechanisms behind this experience. Many researchers believe this experience results, at least in part, in a dampening of the default mode network in the brain – an interconnected group of brain structures that form a network.
A 2020 study found an even more specific area of the brain called the claustrum was less active while influenced by psilocybin. The claustrum is a thin sheet of neurons deep within the cortex, yet it reaches out to every other brain region. Francis Crick, one of the 20th century’s great scientific minds, believed the claustrum is responsible for awareness and our sense of self. More research is necessary to understand this experience fully.
Those in the psychedelic community who experience a ‘mystical experience‘ associated with psychedelics attribute it to ego death.
One of the reasons some people choose to microdose is because they’re afraid of experiencing ego death. Despite this initial fear, several benefits come with this experience.
The openness people experience associated with ego death is often described as oneness or connectedness with the world, rather than focusing on oneself. For some people this feels like zooming out on their life which allows their brains to make different connections and can enable them to see their problems differently. It can also foster positive relationships with nature and other people.
“You realize that you are extremely insignificant, and perhaps that sounds defeating. However, it can be very freeing to realize that you are just one human who exists for a tiny blip of time in the grand scheme of the universe.” — Dr. Matthew Brown
Ego death is also thought to be one of the reasons many people experience long-term benefits from psychedelics.
Know that when research is conducted on psychedelics, the participants are monitored by a mental health professional. In Canada, support for the use of psychedelics for therapeutic means is increasing which means that the number of people able to legally support patients with psilocybin-assisted therapy is slowly increasing.
If you plan to consume a psychedelic dose, it’s essential to prepare for the experience, particularly if you’re nervous about ego death. Although it’s okay to be anxious about an experience, it’s important to listen to yourself and how you’re feeling. There is also the option to take a smaller ‘medium dose’ (between a microdose and full psychedelic or macro dose) to familiarize yourself with the experience before taking a full psychedelic dose that may lead to the experience of ego death.
- Don’t use alone
Have a person you trust there to support you. Consider having a person present who isn’t partaking or someone who is experienced with psychedelics.
- Consider your set and setting
Think about the physical and emotional space you are in. While you may be nervous, you should go into the experience with a positive mindset and intentions. Make the physical space you are in safe and comfortable.
3. Don’t force it
Ego death might not happen the first time you try a macrodose of shrooms. How long the shrooms take to kick in will depend on your dosage, your body, mindset, setting and the way you consume the magic mushrooms.
4. Enjoy it
Don’t forget to enjoy the experience. It may be weird at first, and there may be some ups and downs, but allow yourself to give in to the experience and go with the flow of it.
Generally, people experience a gradual comedown with some afterglow effects following a psychedelic experience. It’s recommended to put aside an entire day for this experience. Since ego death can open us up to new experiences, it can also result in emotions we were unaware of or unprepared to deal with. For this reason, some people pair their psychedelic experiences with therapy or another personal integration process such as journaling.
Integration is the process that people undergo to bring this openness and change into their daily lives following the experience.
While ego death can be jarring and bring up some emotions you’re unprepared for, this can be an incredibly valuable part of the psychedelic experience. That being said, if you’re not ready for this experience yet, or it’s not part of your goals, that’s okay. There are still numerous benefits to microdosing.
To understand ego death, straight from the horse’s mouth, we’ve compiled 50 celebrity quotes on psychedelic experiences.
Why do people microdose mushrooms and LSD? Microdosing is the practice of consuming low doses of psychedelics to experience the therapeutic effects without the hallucinogenic experience. Where consuming a macrodose used to be seen as recreational and carry a stigma attached to it, microdosing mushrooms has become popular among a wide variety of individuals. Even leaders of major companies have spoken about the benefits of microdosing and a number of people in Silicon Valley have turned to microdosing as a means to boost their career.
What is a Microdose?
A microdose is a small dose of a psychedelic substance. Microdosing is the process of regularly consuming a small quantity to experience the therapeutic benefits without the hallucinogenic experience. Here we are explicitly discussing psilocybin, which is the active ingredient in magic mushrooms. However, microdosing can also include other substances, such as LSD and even THC.
How Big is a Microdose?
A microdose is approximately 1/10th of a macrodose. A macrodose is one large enough for the consumer to experience the hallucinogenic impacts and changes in perception.
A macrodose is typically between 2 to 4 grams of dried mushrooms. One may assume this means a microdose is 0.2 – 0.4 grams (or 200 – 400 mg), but that isn’t necessarily the case. Microdosing products, like predosed capsules, often are measuring the dose of psilocybin, not dried mushrooms. As a result, a microdose may be less than this for some people.
For many people, 100 mg is a good starting place when it comes to microdosing psilocybin. It’s always recommended to start with a smaller dose and increase slowly to determine each person’s best dose.
Microdosing has been shown to provide people with both short-term and long-term benefits, such as increased creativity, focus, energy, openness and connection.
Many people appear to microdose for one of two reasons;
- Increase the frequency and intensity of desirable feelings such as euphoria, creativity, focus and empathy.
- Decrease the frequency of undesired experiences, typically associated with mental health, such as anxiety, depression, PTSD and OCD.
Microdose vs Macrodose
With a microdose, the user doesn’t experience the hallucinogenic effects associated with psychedelics. This could be desirable for several reasons.
Some reasons people prefer to microdose
- Those who have not used psychedelics previously may be nervous or unsure about the hallucinogenic experience since it can change a person’s perception of reality and even lead to ego dissolution. Ego dissolution, or ‘ego death,’ is the experience of complete loss of self-identity. While this can be a valuable experience, it can also be overwhelming.
- A psychedelic experience takes several hours. Depending on the dose, it can take an hour or more for the experience to set in, a few hours to peak, and then several more hours to come down. Therefore, when consuming a macrodose of psychedelics, it’s recommended to set aside an entire day for the experience.
- Microdosing can easily become part of a person’s regular health routine. Once a person has determined the best dose for themselves, they can easily follow a regular microdosing schedule, such as every three days.
- You can microdose before work. Many people use microdosing for focus and creativity to improve performance at work. It doesn’t tend to cause a problem because the dose is so low. That being said, ensure you know your workplace policies. Also, determine the best microdose for you prior to consuming before work (i.e. your first dose should always be on a day with no other obligations or important presentations).
Macrodosing – Reasons People Macrodose
Even though a macrodose of psychedelics is often referred to as a recreational dose, recreation is not the only purpose for consuming this dose. The use of the word recreational assumes that the sole purpose is for fun. While euphoria, creativity, and an enjoyable social experience can be the primary purpose of a psychedelic experience, it’s not the only purpose.
Most people use a macrodose of psychedelics for healing and therapeutic purposes, such as managing symptoms of depression and anxiety, treatment of addictions, end-of-life care, traumatic brain injury, PTSD and more.
At the end of 2020, some doctors and mental health professionals got permission from Health Canada to provide psilocybin treatment for end of life care. Momentum continues to build toward the use of psilocybin for therapeutic purposes such as treatment-resistant depression.
Many professionals recommend consuming a macrodose in a therapeutic setting. This is because of the importance of intention setting and integration of the psychedelic experience.
Setting intentions ensures a person takes the time to think about what they want to get out of the experience and helps to guide their focus for the experience. Integration focuses on effectively managing the feelings that come up during the experience. Integration helps the person to make meaning of the experience and provides support on how to incorporate the learning opportunities into their life in a meaningful way. Integration is often done through therapy but can also include a journaling practice. Overall, preparation is crucial when macrodosing.
Some choose to use microdosing as an introduction to the psychedelic experience and may choose to try a macrodose after gaining some more knowledge about psychedelics. Microdosing first and then building up to a macrodose can help a person familiarize themselves with the experience and gain insight into their goals and intentions.
Whether or not you start a new microdosing routine or try a macrodose for the first time, please use responsibly. Take the time to determine the best dose for you by starting small and on a day with no other obligations, prepare the environment ahead of time, and never use alone.
Looking to begin microdosing but don’t know how to start? Gummies can be a simple way of consuming shrooms without measuring doses yourself. If you decide microdosing is for you, many have had success with the James Fadiman schedule. Worried about how to consume mushrooms? Here are 4 ways of consuming magic mushrooms (both for macro and microdosing).
Learn More About Magic Mushrooms
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not medical advice. Consider speaking to your doctor or mental health professional before choosing to consume any new product for medical purposes. If you’re reading this for information on microdosing and depression, read more on psychedelics and the winter blues.
I recently read about Canadian biomed firm Numinus Wellness conducting legal extractions of psilocybe mushrooms [i.e. “cubensis”], an exciting project if you consider the current “microdosing” trend associated with hallucinogens like the workhorse psilocybin cubensis, commonly known as “magic mushrooms” or “shrooms.” (more…)