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How to Choose Between Psilocybin, MDMA, Ketamine, & LSD

Today, we explore some of the most popular psychedelic substances in the United States: psilocybin, MDMA, ketamine, and LSD. This article is inspired by our insightful podcast episode hosted by Psychedelic Passage co-founder, Jimmy Nguyen, which you can listen to on all streaming platforms. 

Readers can expect to delve deep into the unique properties and characteristics of each substance. From the easily accessible and nature-derived psilocybin, known for its potential to promote neuroplasticity, to the empathogenic qualities of MDMA, ideal for emotional connection and relational therapy. 

We also explore the dissociative nature of ketamine, and the cerebral adventures of LSD, shedding light on the nuances of each psychedelic’s effects, duration, and suitability for different intentions.

Later, we offer valuable insights on safe access, responsible sourcing, and the importance of professional support when embarking on a psychedelic journey. As Jimmy does, we underscores the significance of choosing the right substance based on individual circumstances and goals. 

Key Takeaways

  • Psilocybin, a natural serotonergic psychedelic found in magic mushrooms, is highly accessible and well-studied in the 21st century. It acts as an agonist for 5-HT receptors, affecting mood and consciousness.
  • Different psychedelics like LSD, MDMA, ketamine, and psilocybin, have distinct properties and durations, making it essential to align substance choice with personal intentions and available time.
  • Professional guidance and safe access are crucial when engaging with psychedelics, and combining substances, such as MDMA and psilocybin, can lead to synergistic effects in therapeutic contexts.
  • Psychedelic Passage: Your Psychedelic Concierge — The easy, legal way to find trustworthy psilocybin guides, facilitators and psychedelic assisted therapy near you in the United States.

Download Our Free Psilocybin Sourcing Guide

For harm-reduction purposes, we provide links to online psilocybin vendors, local stores, delivery services, and spore vendors for growing your own medicine at home.

Psilocybin: The Natural Serotonergic Psychedelic

Psilocybin is a key player in the world of psychedelic therapy due to its accessibility, acceptance and being one of the most well-studied psychedelics of the 21st century. 

As a natural serotonergic psychedelic, it acts as an agonist for the 5-HT receptors in our brains, primarily responsible for regulating and uptaking serotonin within our system. 

This neurotransmitter, serotonin, is closely associated with mood regulation and feelings of well-being. 

When we consume psilocybin, it gets metabolized into psilocin, which has its own distinct properties and plays a pivotal role in inducing altered states of consciousness – the hallmark of a psychedelic experience.

Cultivating psilocybin mushrooms has become an accessible path for those interested in self-exploration. However, psilocybin’s popularity also stems from its profound therapeutic potential, often making it the go-to substance for those seeking transformation and healing.

Dosage and Duration

People’s engagement with psilocybin varies significantly, depending on their goals and experience levels. Macrodoses, typically over one gram of dried psilocybin-containing mushroom, and microdoses, as low as 25 milligrams, both serve different purposes.

The percentage of psilocybin in these mushrooms typically ranges from 10% to 15%, depending on the specific strain. The duration of a psilocybin trip can last anywhere from four to six hours, especially with higher doses.

The Rollercoaster Experience

A unique characteristic of psilocybin is its oscillating effect. As the substance takes hold, the experience may initially intensify, and then it can feature peaks and troughs. 

This ebb and flow of intensity can allow moments of clearer, linear thought, during which individuals can attend to basic needs like hydrating or attending to personal care. 

Simultaneously, there are periods when the experience becomes more immersive, guiding individuals deeper into their psychedelic journey.

Variety of Experiences

One of the remarkable aspects of psilocybin is its versatility. It can be a catalyst for various experiences, often depending on the individual’s intention. These may include personal discovery, trauma processing and somatic exploration. 

“Psilocybin can elicit this altered state where it can be helpful for you to dive in to certain aspects of yourself, whether that’s personal discovery, working through trauma-tapping into the somatic side of yourself, which is working with the energy and traumas stored within our body. Some other folks will express a feeling of euphoria or connectedness with others.”

A Non-Specific Amplifier

It is crucial to understand that psilocybin is a non-specific amplifier. In other words, it can bring to the surface latent emotions and unconscious content residing in the depths of our psyche.

This feature is a double-edged sword, offering both an opportunity and a challenge. While it can facilitate deep healing, it can also stir up difficult emotions and memories that may require careful navigation.

MDMA: The Empathogenic Intactogen

MDMA, another prominent member of the psychedelic landscape, stands apart as a synthetic empathogen and entactogen. Its impact on serotonin levels is a notable aspect of its action. 

It promotes an increase in serotonin activity in the brain, and this, in turn, can lead to a heightened sense of well-being and emotional openness. 

However, this serotonin dump within the system emphasizes the importance of proper hydration and maintaining electrolyte balance, which are crucial for the well-being of those who engage with MDMA.

Unlike naturally occurring substances like psilocybin, MDMA is man-made, usually in powder form, and primarily recognized for its ability to enhance emotional connections and promote therapeutic breakthroughs.

Emotional Connection and Entactogenesis

MDMA’s classification as an empathogen reflects its capacity to foster emotional bonding, either with oneself or with others. In therapeutic contexts, individuals using MDMA often engage in meaningful conversations, deep self-reflection, and emotional processing. 

This distinct empathogenic quality of MDMA has made it a powerful tool in addressing relationship and mental health issues, facilitating intimate dialogues, and softening emotional barriers.

Many people carry psychological defenses that hinder them from delving deeper into their emotions and inner selves. MDMA acts as a catalyst for softening judgment, enabling individuals to connect more intimately with their emotions and experiences. 

It’s often referred to as a “heart medicine” due to its capacity to allow access to the deepest recesses of one’s heart, fostering compassion, self-love, and emotional healing.

Dosage and Duration

The dosage of MDMA typically hovers around 120 milligrams in clinical trials. However, the precise dosage and the duration of effects can vary depending on the specific experience, the individual, and the set and setting. 

The effects of MDMA are distinct from traditional hallucinogenic properties and generally last for a duration of three to six hours.

MDMA in Conjunction with Other Psychedelics

MDMA is not limited to a solo experience. Combining it with other substances can lead to a synergistic effect, making for a more effective experience. 

One of the compelling trends is the use of MDMA alongside psilocybin, where the empathogenic qualities of MDMA complement the potential emotional confrontations and defense mechanisms people may experience during a psilocybin journey.

“I think folks who are wanting to engage in meaningful psychedelic uses, sometimes have our guard up. We have a lot of walls up or barriers that might impact our ability to really dive into ourselves or a sense of judgment or a sense of this feeling stuck. MDMA can actually be extremely helpful in moving past some of those barriers.”

The combination may allow for a purer experience, without ego or fear making it difficult to surrender to the experience. This combination is being explored within various protocols and administered contexts.

Ketamine: The Dissociative Substance

Among the array of psychedelic substances, ketamine stands out as a dissociative, making it distinctly different from its serotonergic counterparts like psilocybin, MDMA, and LSD. 

The dissociative quality of ketamine implies that it has a sub-psychedelic nature and can induce a state of feeling detached from oneself or one’s environment. Interestingly, ketamine’s classification depends on the dosage and route of administration.

Ketamine doesn’t fall into the category of serotonergic psychedelics like psilocybin or LSD. Some even debate whether it’s a “true classic psychedelic.” 

Nevertheless, the effects of ketamine can vary greatly depending on factors such as dosage, mindset, and the environment, demonstrating the complex and context-dependent nature of psychedelic experiences.

Varied Effects Based on Dosage and Administration

Ketamine can be taken orally as a lozenge, intravenously, or via intramuscular injection, each route of administration offering a slightly different effect. 

At higher dosages, ketamine may indeed induce a more psychedelic state, but it is primarily known for its dissociative properties. 

When used alongside therapy or integration support, ketamine can be effective in addressing certain mental health conditions and mood issues.

Short Duration

The active duration of a ketamine experience is notably shorter than many other psychedelics. Depending on the dosage, it generally lasts from 45 minutes to about an hour and a half. However, sensitivity to ketamine’s effects can vary among individuals.

Ketamine Clinics and Off-Label Use

Ketamine’s therapeutic use has grown, with the establishment of ketamine clinics where it is administered under medical supervision. It’s classified as a Schedule III substance, indicating its approval for off-label use. 

“Ketamine is typically used in medical and surgery settings in conjunction with opioids or other anesthetics to increase the ability for folks to, you know, endure painful surgeries and things.

Over time, research has found that ketamine also has mental health properties that can help folks to move through traumas or just get a little bit of a relief in some of the issues that they’re navigating and working through.”

The Importance of Support

Just like with other psychedelics, proper support in the form of preparation, in-person assistance, and integration guidance is crucial when using ketamine. 

The substance can impair motor function, so it is strongly advised not to engage in activities that require full motor skills, like operating heavy machinery or driving, immediately after use.

Be Mindful of Habitual Use

Ketamine does come with a cautionary note: it can be habit-forming. There is evidence of short-term habitual use among certain individuals. 

For those with addictive tendencies or personalities, it’s vital to exercise caution and consider the potential risk of developing a habit.

In contrast to substances like psilocybin, where a single experience can be a catalyst for personal growth and healing, ketamine requires vigilance regarding usage patterns.

LSD: The Synthetic Serotonergic Psychedelic

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is a powerful hallucinogenic compound that has a profound impact on the human mind and is a synthesized version of ergot fungus, a fungus usually found affecting rye.

Ergot has a history of being used in society. Some researchers even believe that ancient civilizations like Greece and Rome may have used the ergot fungus as a form of medicine for achieving altered states of consciousness.

However, the modern form of LSD we know today was synthesized by Albert Hofmann approximately 70 years ago.

Serotonergic Effects

LSD, like psilocybin, interacts with the serotonin system. It acts as an agonist for the 5-HT receptors in the brain, creating a profound impact on the user’s consciousness.

What makes LSD distinct is its extended duration of effects, lasting up to 8 to 16 hours due to its specific molecular structure, which tightly binds to serotonin receptors.

Dosage and Form

LSD is typically available in liquid or blotter paper form, with dosage measurements in micrograms, not milligrams. 

The average LSD dose is around 125 micrograms, making it crucial to be precise with dosing. Even a small variation in LSD dosage can result in significant differences in the experience, emphasizing the importance of responsible and accurate usage.

Harm Reduction and Testing

LSD’s synthetic nature means that there is a potential for counterfeit or dangerous substances in circulation. One such example is 25-Nb-Iome, a counterfeit compound often sold as fake LSD.

“When it comes to any man made or synthetic psychedelic, it’s really important to know your dosage, and the reason why I think psilocybin is a little bit more popular is that MDMA and LSD are a little bit harder to find a legitimate and safe source to engage in this use.”

To ensure safety, it is essential to test the substance using drug testing reagent kits and qualitative analyses. Knowing the source, purity, and dosage of LSD is vital for harm reduction.

Choosing the Right Psychedelic

The choice of psychedelic substance is a highly personal decision. LSD, along with MDMA and ketamine, may be harder to source safely, whereas psilocybin, found in magic mushrooms, is more accessible.

Different psychedelics have varying durations and effects, making it important to consider individual intentions and the time available for the experience.

“As you are discovering what the right substance is for you, it’s really important for you to listen to your intuition. You may only have a certain substance available to you. 

Or you might say, hey, down the road, I want to engage in a larger, deeper experience of a certain duration but I’ve never done psychedelics before, so I may want to have an entry point with a certain substance or a certain medicine.”

Download Our Free Psilocybin Sourcing Guide

For harm-reduction purposes, we provide links to online psilocybin vendors, local stores, delivery services, and spore vendors for growing your own medicine at home.

Intention and Duration

The intentions behind using psychedelics greatly influence the choice of substance. For example, psilocybin is often seen as a tool for self-discovery, while LSD can provide a more cerebral experience, focusing on one’s connection with the external world.

Safe Access and Professional Guidance

Ensuring that you can safely access your chosen substance is essential for a positive experience. Furthermore, if you decide to explore psychedelics with the help of a facilitator, therapist, or practitioner, be aware that their experience may vary.

Even if a facilitator is highly experienced with one psychedelic, such as psilocybin, it does not guarantee expertise with another like LSD.

Additional Psychedelic Choices

While the focus here has been on LSD, MDMA, ketamine, and psilocybin, it’s worth noting that the psychedelic landscape includes other substances like DMT and ayahuasca. 

These substances can be difficult to source and are often subject to cultural traditions and may require specific ceremonial settings or lineages.

As psychedelics continue to gain recognition for their therapeutic potential, resources and support like Psychedelic Passage are becoming more accessible, helping individuals embark on transformative journeys with confidence and care.

Additional Resources

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Hi there! We sincerely hope that you’ve found valuable takeaways that resonate with your current intentions. To explore research-based education, stay updated with psychedelic news, and benefit from practical how-to articles, we encourage you to head over to our resources page.

If you’re seeking personalized advice and are prepared to take the first step toward a therapeutic psychedelic experience, we invite you to book a consultation with our team of experienced psychedelic concierges.

This consultation is more than just a conversation; it’s an opportunity to be matched with a trustworthy local facilitator. You’ll be seamlessly connected to our rigorously vetted network of psychedelic guides, ensuring potential matches align with your needs.

Psychedelic Passage offers confidence and peace of mind by alleviating the burden of having to guess who’s right for you. If you want to discover how Psychedelic Passage can help you, we empower you to learn more about our services and check out client testimonials from those who’ve gone before you.

Your healing path is uniquely yours, and our commitment is to serve you at every juncture. Psychedelic Passage: Your Psychedelic Concierge — The easy, legal way to find trustworthy psilocybin guides, facilitators and psychedelic-assisted therapy near you in the United States.

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Frequently Asked Questions

1: What is psilocybin, and why is it popular in the world of psychedelic therapy?

Psilocybin is a natural serotonergic psychedelic found in magic mushrooms. It’s popular in psychedelic therapy due to its accessibility, acceptance, and extensive research in the 21st century, making it a well-studied and trusted substance for therapeutic use.

2: How does psilocybin affect the brain, and what is its relationship with serotonin?

Psilocybin acts as an agonist for 5-HT receptors in the brain, primarily responsible for regulating serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter associated with mood regulation and feelings of well-being. Psilocybin’s interaction with these receptors induces altered states of consciousness.

3: What are the different dosage levels and effects of psilocybin?

Psilocybin can be used in macrodoses (over one gram of dried psilocybin-containing mushrooms) and microdoses (as low as 25 milligrams). 

The percentage of psilocybin in these mushrooms typically ranges from 10% to 15%. The duration of a psilocybin trip can last from four to six hours, depending on the dosage.

4: How does MDMA differ from natural serotonergic psychedelics like psilocybin?

MDMA is a synthetic empathogen and entactogen, primarily impacting serotonin levels to enhance well-being and emotional openness. 

Unlike natural serotonergic psychedelics, which are found in nature, MDMA is man-made and is recognized for promoting emotional connections and therapeutic breakthroughs.

5: Can different psychedelics be combined, and what is the potential synergy between substances like MDMA and psilocybin?

Yes, different psychedelics can be combined, leading to a synergistic effect. MDMA’s empathogenic qualities complement potential emotional confrontations and defense mechanisms experienced during a psilocybin journey. 

This combination is explored in various protocols and administered contexts, offering unique benefits in therapeutic settings.

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At Psychedelic Passage, we offer professional 1-on-1 guidance and companionship on your journey of healing. We simply can't sit back and let Americans continue to sit in silent suffering trying to battle mental health issues within a broken health care system, all while knowing that effective alternatives exist. We stand for the sacred, at-home, ceremonial use of psychedelics for consciousness exploration, which we believe to be a fundamental human right.


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