So you want to talk about taking ‘magic’ mushrooms. If you’ve decided to take the first steps towards your first psychedelic journey, but aren’t sure how to get started, you’ve come to the right place. Feel free to consider this article as your complete guide for first-time psychedelic mushroom experiences.
We’ll explore how to decide if psychedelic mushrooms are for you, how to prepare yourself for the experience, how to find a guide, how to choose dosage, and a whole lot more. Let’s jump right in!
Are Psychedelics Right For You?
The idea of psilocybin or ‘magic’ mushrooms can be enticing and seductive for first timers, especially since they have a history of association with free-spirited, beatnik counter-culture and flower crowns at music festivals.
However, psilocybin mushrooms are medicines with powerful healing properties that evoke intense and profound personal development. In other words, they allow mush-room for self-growth.
All jokes aside, being ready to try psychedelic mushrooms means you regard them as more than just a “party drug”. Magic mushrooms have been referred to as being as or more effective than 10+ years of talk therapy (Ziff et al., 2022). Anyone who has been through talk therapy knows that the #1 key to seeing results is being open to the process.
Before you take mushrooms, the first thing you should make sure of is that you have an educated regard for their therapeutic ability, and that you feel ready to tap into whatever that might conjure up. As with any other medicine, if you take mushrooms with discipline and with the intention to use them as a tool for self-growth, they may indeed be miraculously beneficial.
Preparing For a Psychedelic Mushroom Experience
The best way to ensure you are using psychedelic mushrooms in the right way is to take all of the steps for proper preparation. This starts with doing your research. For those of you reading this article: congratulations on taking the first step! Preparing to take mushrooms means understanding what they are, how they work, what they do – and how these factors relate to your life and current circumstances.
As you may know, the “magic” in mushrooms is psilocybin, which is a naturally occurring hallucinogenic compound found in different kinds of fungi. The effects of psilocybin have been observed in indigenous cultures for millenia and have been studied since the 1900s.
Some common acute effects of psilocybin are: increased energy, feelings of euphoria and excitement, distorted perception of space and time, visual and auditory hallucinations, a sense of oneness with the earth, and a sense of spiritual connection and existential purpose.
These effects are not surefire guarantees for every person, every time they trip. Effects vary person-to-person, and they also vary from time to time. No two trips are exactly alike. With that being the case, you may wonder how exactly you can prepare for a trip.
The best ways to prepare yourself are by finding a compassionate guide to support you in your journey, choosing the right medicine, setting intentions, and ensuring a safe and comfortable ceremonial space. Let’s dig into each one of those.
Finding a Psychedelic Guide
Finding a guide to facilitate your trip is like finding a therapist. It should be someone with whom you feel comfortable in their experience, qualifications, and energy. Your guide plays a main role in making for a safe and comfortable magic mushroom trip, as they can help you navigate the experience.
Your guide is meant to keep you empowered and motivated toward your goal (the personal intention you set for your journey) and equip you with a mental framework for navigating these altered states of consciousness.
Finding a guide is twofold: knowing what to look for, and knowing where to look for someone who is available and meets your personal criteria. We’re here to help you with both those things. Psychedelic Passage has created a pre-vetted network of psychedelic facilitators so you don’t have to guess who’s qualified and who isn’t.
There are a lot of questions that may come up when choosing a guide: should I hire a guide or a therapist? Do you really need to get a guide for my trip? Can I bring someone with me to my guided trip? We encourage you to browse our resources page to explore all of these questions as you plan your trip.
Whether you choose a psychedelic therapist for psychedelic-assisted therapy in a medical setting or a guide to facilitate a meaningful ceremony for you at home or in a familiar space, a guide will provide you with intensive support during the process, and afterwards as you integrate the content into your daily life.
It is still the exception and not the rule to have access to mental healthcare professionals during a guided psychedelic experience due to cost, feasibility, and opportunity barriers. However, research in modern psychedelic clinical trials has shown the irrefutable benefit on patients’ outcomes of having trained and compassionate professionals guide the experience (Carhart-Harris et al., 2018).
This provides a strong argument for a) continuing to develop and standardize training for psychedelic therapy as we move towards a mental healthcare integration model, and b) for finding a trained guide who is well-versed in the process.
This part is where we come in, as we’ve curated a network of U.S. based psychedelic guides to facilitate ceremonial psychedelic experiences with an emphasis on harm reduction. Utilize and explore our network to find someone who feels like a good fit for you.
Choosing Your Psychedelic Substance
The next step to take in preparing for your magical mystery tour is deciding on the medicine you will bring to the ceremony. Fascinatingly, different mushroom types have different medicinal properties. Different psychedelic mushroom strains also have different levels of potency.
Non-psychedelic mushrooms found at your local farmer’s market have their own medicinal properties too! For example, lion’s mane mushrooms have been shown to boost cognitive brain function and stimulate dopamine and serotonin production, a.k.a the “feel-good” chemicals.
Shiitake mushrooms are known in Japanese research and tradition to be an effective cardiac health proponent and protector against cell damage, with their powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
It could almost be argued that all mushrooms are “magic.” That said – because this article is specifically about the psychedelic kind, we’ll stick to discussing the right form and dosage of psychedelic mushrooms.
Determining Therapeutic Psychedelic Mushroom Dosages
One of the main FAQs for first-time magic mushroom takers is what a “standard” dose of medicine is. Because psilocybin is not a commercial over-the-counter or prescription drug, it is more difficult to answer this question.
Additionally, psilocybin affects people in different ways and to different degrees, thus, there is no way to quantify a one-size-fits-all dosage for inducing a psychedelic experience in someone. However, thanks to burgeoning research, as psychedelics become increasingly decriminalized and legalized, we have both scientific and experiential information to help you determine proper dosage.
The “recommended” dosage of psilocybin is 20-30 mg of psilocybin/70 kg of body mass. This can roughly be translated to about 3-5g of dried mushroom. However, most research on psilocybin involves the active chemical itself rather than the whole mushroom.
Additionally, different magic mushrooms contain different amounts of psilocybin; again, since they are naturally occurring they are more bound to variability, as opposed to goods packaged for mass consumption. The psilocybin-blunting effects of SSRIs and antidepressants can also heavily impact your dosage.
At Psychedelic Passage, dosage is not primarily determined by body weight, but rather by your relationship to control. People who are more open, tend to have a lower threshold for psychedelic effects. Conversely, people who are less open, typically older folks who’ve endured more social conditioning, will require a higher dosage to reach their effect threshold.
While larger dosages naturally induce more intense psychedelic experiences, there are also a lot of known benefits associated with taking particularly low, subthreshold doses– also known as microdosing. It can also be useful for getting to know your body’s response and tolerance to the drug in a low dose.
After all, taking too much of any psychedelic is not fun nor helpful. The goal of preparation is to create a plan that addresses all these variables and helps you achieve that Goldy Locks “just right” quantity and quality in your experience. Psychedelic guides will assist in determining appropriate dosage.
How to Prepare & Consume Magic Mushrooms
Once you settle on the right dosage, you may be wondering how to actually prepare and ingest your mushrooms. There are a number of ways to consume, which result in more or less a similar experience, so ultimately it comes down to preference.
After all, psychedelic mushrooms are just mushrooms, so you can eat them whole. The taste can be quite bland and earthy, so people often prefer to conceal the flavor by chopping them up and putting them on something like peanut or almond butter toast.
Another idea is to blend them up into a powder or steep them into an herbal tea. Regardless of the way you consume your medicine of choice, it is important to keep in mind why you are taking it and what you want to get out of the experience.
Setting Your Intentions
Setting intentions for your journey is probably in the first chapter of “Magic Mushrooms for Newbies” (if that book were to exist). There is great importance placed on setting your intentions prior to taking a trip– especially for those seeking to address specific issues.
An intention is your motivation for pursuing a psychedelic journey. It can be as broad as being open to the experience and receiving whatever may come your way, or as narrow as a specific habit you wish to transition out of, or a conflict in your life you are seeking to gain clarity on.
The purpose of setting an intention is to anchor your journey. As we’ve discussed in this article and in others, there are predictable unpredictabilities to a psychedelic trip. An intention can help ground us in the moment and in the purpose of our experience.
In a psychedelic therapy context, most clients are there to specifically address mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, etc. These clients usually also partake in talk therapy as a way of addressing the root of their issues or understanding the “why”.
Psychedelic-assisted therapy is more geared towards providing the “how,” “where,” and “when” of making change in your life. For this reason, we recommend making your intention more focused and actionable than just wanting to “fix” or “eliminate” something.
A concentrated intention may be to try to live more authentically and true to yourself, to let go of a stubborn communication pattern that doesn’t serve you, or to work towards forgiving a long-held grudge. For any of these intentions, you could see why it is helpful to have done enough prerequisite work to obtain self-awareness and understanding on why these may conflicts exist.
Later, psychedelics offer an extra push for catalyzing the necessary change. We recommend coming up with a list of 1-3 themes or motifs in your life that, if targeted, would have a positive domino effect on numerous other things weighing you down.
Choosing a Ceremonial Environment
Remember that the use of psychedelics for healing practices dates back ceremonies, to rituals performed among indigenous people who were the first to write the recipe for a psychedelic ceremony as we know it today – emphasizing the ingredients of intention, mindset, and environmental setting.
As psychedelic healing practices become more Westernized the role of the ceremonial environment is not obsolete. In fact, current psychedelic research is further supporting just how crucial the psychological and physical environment is in predicting a positive therapeutic outcome.
A meta-analysis of modern psychedelic trials, researchers note that the trials in which the therapeutic environment was manipulated to minimize distraction and distress and maximize calming, positive energy (through low lighting, curated music, pleasing decor, etc) breed the most positive acute and long-term outcomes (Carhart-Harris et al., 2018).
The researchers propose that the pharmacology of psychedelics works “synergistically” with the context you cultivate to create an experience that is conducive to particular outcomes.
This is not totally unlike indigenous peoples’ principles and spiritual beliefs that the medicine will commune with you in the space (both headspace and physical space) that you meet it in– that there is a two-way synergy between the substance and the individual. However, it is a fascinating development for psychedelic-assisted therapy to supplement spirituality with science.
Carhart-Harris and Nutt (2017) proposed that increased serotonin signaling– psychedelics’ mechanism of action– mediates cortical plasticity (or cognitive flexibility) and an associated sensitivity to internal and external influence.
In other words, we may be differentially influenced by external factors dependent on the sensitivity of our internal states; and our internal states may be more or less mediated by our external environment. The relationship is a two-way street.
A positive psychedelic experience is about the integration and confluence of “therapeutic” elements that include the psychological preparation, the bond between the patient and guide, the therapeutic environment, and the intentional integration of content – which we will expand on later.
Creating the ceremonial environment is a joint endeavor to create a space that is safe, comfortable, and lends itself to healing. This includes eliminating physical hazards, reducing external noise and distractions, and adding comforting elements like lighting, music, blankets, plants, and water.
Surrendering to The Psychedelic Experience
Earlier, we briefly mentioned the idea of surrendering to the process; this is a term that gets mentioned quite a bit when it comes to psychedelic journeying. You might be wondering what it means, as the word “surrender” can sometimes have a negative connotation that is akin to giving up.
The “surrender” we talk about in psychedelic work means allowing the psychedelic to do its job. It means opening yourself up to the experience and being okay with the unknown. It means not trying to steer the wheel but being comfortable sitting in the passenger seat, trusting that the psychedelic knows what you need and how to get you there.
This may seem counterintuitive to being intentional about your trip, but really, the two go hand in hand in order to produce an outcome that feels fulfilling.
It is in our nature as humans — both consciously and subconsciously — to cling to expectations and assumptions. The phrase “old habits die hard” is a common cliché because it holds so much truth. This is a form of self-preservation; it’s uncomfortable to be uncomfortable, and uncomfortable to not feel in control of our own lives.
The reason for embarking on a psychedelic trip is to release the grip we have, to relax our mental schemas, and to take down some firmly built walls we’ve put up. The phenomenon is fundamentally one of pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones for our greater good. When you go into a psychedelic experience, the psychedelic can take you places you didn’t expect to go.
Feeling a little bit stressed or panicked upon the thought “this isn’t what I expected” can be quite common, but that internal friction that your experience isn’t lining up with your expectation, can become more of a negative feedback loop of distress. This is why we emphasize the idea of “surrendering” and doing a trust fall with the psychedelic medicine and with yourself.
Surrendering is not a momentary switch of a light, but an ongoing process throughout your experience. It can be as simple as just breathing and bearing witness to the experience without feeling like you need to intervene.
Rather than feeling like you have to “relinquish” control to the psychedelic, think of it like delegating the work. You’ve done your fair share of prep work, you’ve briefed it on your goals, and now you can take a step back and be more passive. You’ll have plenty of time to process and digest what you observe throughout the experience during integration with the help of your guide.
Receiving Psychedelic Integration Support
Integration support is a key service provided by your therapist, guide, or facilitator. While there may be many techniques, methods, or approaches, integration can be defined as a process of integrating the insights of your experience into your daily life.
This definition is abstract for a reason. As we’ve stressed with almost everything pertaining to a psychedelic journey, there is no one-size-fits all. There is no mandatory content to extrapolate; rather, the individual will work with their guide to revisit their experience and make sense of it.
A study on integration acknowledged that lack of adequate social and/or psychological support may hinder the ability to work through this process and gain meaningful insight (Bathje et al., 2022). Thus, we reiterate the value of having a psychedelic guide to help you with this often challenging work.
You might have heard before that you should write your dreams down immediately when you wake up, because they tend to fade quickly. The idea of integration is to “write down” the sensations and perceptions you just lived through in the height of what it feels like to live through them.
Lessons, revelations, and take-aways can be associated with this process as you translate your intangible experience into a tangible life approach, in the direction of your intentions. Engaging in integration, at its core, is aimed at leading you to a more internal sense of wholeness, bringing together separate facets and elements of your psychedelic experience.
Explore How it Feels to be Connected
The process of integration support, surely enough, is also drawn from indigenous ceremonial practices. However, there is some really exciting work being done in research on integration right now, theorizing different models for how it works, what the necessary components are, and what it may look like in a clinical model.
People often like to think that science and spirituality are on two opposite ends of a spectrum, but there is an argument to be made in the case of them coexisting contently, and even being complementary.
Magic mushrooms can restore our faith in the oneness between ourselves, nature, and the universe. If we can find that communion, all three are improved. When we nurture and feel nurtured by mother Earth, humankind becomes kinder.
If you’re ready to connect the dots and explore how it feels like to be connected, we empower you to book a consultation with us. Our concierges are ready and eager to answer all of your questions.