With the movement to decriminalize psychedelics gaining steam, talk of psilocybin mushrooms, arguably the most readily available of entheogens, is in the air. After contributing to this buzz with an article about their therapeutic benefits, I decided to take advantage of them myself.
I have a storied history with shrooms so I didn’t do much planning or research, but realized afterward that I could have had a much better experience if I had. Nothing went wrong, but I’d forgotten my list of rules—gathered during college in the early aughts, probably while watching the Las Vegas strip melt from the top of the Law building.
We’ll get into experiential tips—mirrors are a thing—from the culture side, but first, let’s get some advice from the professionals. Read on to help ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.
How do psychedelic mushrooms feel?
An increasing number of cities and states are decriminalizing psychedelics, including psilocybin, but it’s important to be aware of the risks inherent in them, said Sara Gael, Zendo Project’s Director of Harm Reduction, and the Harm Reduction Advocate for the Denver Psilocybin Mushroom Policy Review Panel.
“Psilocybin significantly alters perception of reality. Effects can range from positive to negative and are unique to every individual,” she continued. “Some effects of psilocybin include elevated mood or euphoria, creativity, mystical or spiritual experiences, dissolution of the ego and altered perception of oneself, their environment, altered perception of time, and increased sensitivity to outside stimulus.”
Gael went on to say that some negative effects can include fear, disorientation, confusion, paranoia, physical discomfort, or nausea, and that effects can last between 4-7 hours, with after effects lasting up to 6 hours post-journey depending on dosage.
Set and setting are key to a positive trip
Having a positive set, or mindset, and setting, or environment, are crucial to having a good mushroom trip. It’s not advisable to do mushrooms, or any psychedelics for that matter, when you’re in a bad mood, or in an unsafe, or uncomfortable, environment.
Having a friend around to watch over you, especially someone who’s tripped before, can be very beneficial. “Especially If you have never taken psilocybin before, you should plan to have a sober sitter and start with a small dose,” said Gael. “They should be someone you know and are comfortable with and feel safe with.”
Something to keep in mind is that psilocybin has been known to trigger psychotic episodes in those prone to them—so it’s wise to know your family history and to avoid mushrooms if there are incidences of schizophrenia or early-onset mental illness in your family.
Trip tips from psychedelic culture
Now that you’ve heard from the pros, we also thought it wise to also consult psychedelic culture at large for more experiential tips, which the Netflix documentary Have a Good Trip outlines delightfully.
Seems like a no-brainer, but it’s something worth spelling out clearly—your reality will be very distorted, so do not operate any sort of vehicle. Getting arrested because you didn’t know what to do when the stoplight started melting won’t lead to a good trip.
This is a contentious issue. The Netflix film starts off saying “Don’t look into the mirror,” which is later countered by, “Do look in the mirror.” Your own image reflected back to you can look bizarre or profound on shrooms, and everything in between. Staring at yourself can freak some out, or entertain endlessly.
Set and setting (again)
The film also suggests you control your set and setting. Make sure you’re safe and comfortable and that no one will disturb you. Prepare everything you’ll need, like water, a place to use the restroom, music, and more.
Personally, I wouldn’t do mushrooms without a notebook and markers—notes to yourself about your journey are great to have later. Having a music playlist is a must for many—think tunes from the ’60s or songs you enjoy when stoned.
TV or movies can also be great when on mushrooms. If that appeals, pick out a flic with good vibes that you’ve already seen. Art, gorgeous fabric, or good ol’ wallpaper are also great to stare at.
Some people will only trip out in nature. Depending on where you are, it can be hard to control your environment—be ready for random hikers walking by. Also, make sure you’re in a familiar place where you won’t get lost and that you have outdoor essentials and plenty of water.
Enjoy the ride
The show’s final tip, and ours, is: “Just hang on, man.” You’ll likely experience dissolution of the ego, or ego death, which will challenge your senses of self and identity, your connection to reality, and your place in the world. Mushroom trips are often reported to leave you feeling one with everything and connected to all of existence.
It’s beautiful. Usually. It can get weird, so just hang in there. Remember you’re tripping, and just go with it. Don’t fight the journey, just let it happen.