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.
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.
With more and more people opening their minds to mushrooms’ healing and therapeutic properties, there is more interest in various ways of taking them. There are, of course, many ways that you can choose to indulge in mushrooms, but a popular method is making mushroom tea. It’s nearly as simple as it sounds, but for those of you wondering how to make mushroom tea, we’ve got the whole process below.
Magic Mushroom Tea Recipe
What you’ll need:
- Ingredient bowl
- Coffee grinder (or anything that will allow you to chop up the mushrooms finely)
- Strainer or coffee filter
- Your favourite mug
- Your preferred dose of mushrooms (ground mushrooms can help here)
- At least 2 cups of hot water, more if you’d like
- Tea (optional)
- Honey (optional)
- Chopped, raw ginger (optional)
- Weigh your dose. Be very careful with this step, especially if you’re a first-time magic mushroom tea maker. You’ll want to take the same dose you usually do, or perhaps a few grams less, as the tea allows the mushrooms to be absorbed faster.
- Grind up your shrooms. You can do this using a coffee grinder (make sure the coffee is all cleaned out!), a mortar and pestle, or you can chop them by hand but remember, they have to be very fine.
- Chop up your ginger and add it to your mushroom powder. Ginger is optional but is very helpful with calming the stomach and covering the taste of the mushrooms in the tea.
- Bring your water to a boil. Once it has boiled, allow the water to sit for about 20 seconds.
- Add half of the water to the mushroom and ginger mix in a cup or container. If you’re adding a teabag, you can do so here. Allow to steep for about 10 minutes.
- Strain the tea into a mug.
- Bring the second half of your water to a boil, and once again, let rest for about 20 seconds once it has boiled.
- Pour the water over the mushrooms, ginger and teabag mixture allowing it to steep for another 10 minutes.
- Strain the tea into the same mug as the first batch.
- Add honey to taste if desired.
- Throw away the remaining mushrooms.
And that’s how to make mushroom tea! You can use it as a method to microdose or macrodose. Once you’ve made it a few times, you may want to make some adjustments to the ingredients and process. If you find that double steeping the mushrooms doesn’t work for you, steeping them only once is absolutely an option. You can also play with additives and other flavour options you can add to your mushroom tea. Green tea, chamomile, or lemon tea are all popular flavours that compliment the earthy taste of mushrooms. Magic mushroom tea can make your trip come on faster, as the mushrooms are finely ground, and it can also lessen the time of your trip. If you experience nausea when taking mushrooms, learning how to make mushroom tea is an excellent alternative as the tea and ginger combination can lessen feelings of nausea. For many, the ritual of making the mushroom tea is the perfect lead-in to the trip itself. Drying your shrooms into tea is also a good way to make them last longer.
If you’re looking for more in-depth explanation about the effects of shrooms click here.
The earliest evidence of shroom usage has been traced back to aboriginal tribes from North Africa around 9000 BC, and nearly 11,000 years later, human beings are still fascinated by the use and effects of shrooms. People often write shrooms off as a 60s drug that brings out the “crazy,” making you act unbalanced and erratic. But, in reality, the effects of shrooms are proving very beneficial for almost anyone who takes them. However, as shrooms are not legalized, there is a lot of confusion and questions about the effects of shrooms for those looking to indulge.
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…)