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Psychoactive Mushrooms Presentation

By John Clarke

What with the hol­i­days and the decision to move all the art­icles from Coffeesh0p over here, it’s about time I posted some­thing with a bit more meat. Having said that, this post is also suit­able for veget­ari­ans, so read on!

As I men­tioned briefly before, I had to give another present­a­tion to my neuro­phar­ma­co­logy class in a similar vein to the one on Salvia divinorumpub­lished earlier. In the end, I chose to talk about psy­cho­act­ive mush­rooms, so here’s the slides and a bit of blog­gi­fied talking along with each. Before we begin though, I’ll just say this was the worst present­a­tion I’ve ever given — I (prob­ably) had the most severe case of flu ever recor­ded and only managed to summon the courage to deliver it with Beechams flu plus, aspirin and a cheeky dihydro­codeine. Without these unsung heroes, this talk would not have been pos­sible!

Oh, you can also click on the slides to enlarge them. Without further ado:


I’ll be talking about both the tra­di­tional “Magic Mush­rooms” and the fly agaric mush­room, which is less well known, but is actu­ally pretty cul­tur­ally sig­ni­fic­ant. For both of these, I’ll touch on a bit of history and tra­di­tion, phar­ma­co­logy and a few other inter­est­ing bits and pieces.
mushrooms-presentation-slide3The typical magic mush­rooms are actu­ally many species of the Psilo­cybe genus with each species having its own subtle dif­fer­ences. There are 60 species of Psilo­cybe mush­rooms growing through­out the united states, of which 25 are hal­lu­cino­genic. These mush­rooms will grow in nearly any kind of habitat, apart from arid deserts, so are found through­out the world. The greatest species diversity falls within the neo­tropic climate zones, encom­passing much of South America.

mushrooms-presentation-slide4These mush­rooms were tra­di­tion­ally used by the native peoples of middle America for divin­a­tion & healing pur­poses as well as reli­gious com­mu­nion. In fact, these people referred to the mush­rooms as “God flesh” in their native lan­guage. Tra­di­tional use con­tin­ued until the Spanish invaded, bring­ing European culture with them in the 14 – 1500s which pushed mush­room use under­ground. In 1955, Robert Gordon Wasson was the first west­erner to take the mush­rooms, and since then, western interest has exploded.

mushrooms-presentation-slide5Some of the pos­it­ive effects brought on by these mush­rooms include a euphoric change in mood accom­pan­ied by gig­gling and laughter, as well as an increased flow of ideas and tend­ency to think “deep”. Objects and lights also appear more inter­est­ing and col­our­ful. The neutral effects include a general shift in con­scious­ness, as with most other psy­cho­act­ive sub­stances, but also an increased emo­tional sens­it­iv­ity, pupil dila­tion & pho­to­sensit­iv­ity, leth­argy and time dila­tion – the feeling that time is passing faster than it actu­ally is. The neg­at­ive effects of mush­room use can include intense fear, a head­ache as the effects begin to wane, gastrointest­inal dis­com­fort such as cramps & nausea, anxiety, con­fu­sion and faint­ing. There has been no evid­ence of organ damage fol­low­ing use.


The phar­ma­co­logy – The import­ant con­stitu­ents are two com­pounds in the trypt­am­ine family, psilo­cybin and psi­lo­cin. Psilo­cybin is not actu­ally bio­lo­gic­ally active – rather, it’s a prodrug that gets dephos­phorylated by the body to form psi­lo­cin, which is psy­cho­act­ive. I’ve also put a model of 5-HT on there for com­par­ison. Psi­lo­cin is an agonist at 5-HT 2A, 2C and 1A recept­ors, but it’s hal­lu­cin­at­ory effects are due to the binding to 5-HT2A recept­ors in the brain. Psi­lo­cin shows no effect on dopam­in­er­gic path­ways, and only affects norad­ren­er­gic path­ways in high doses. It is believed to be the degrad­a­tion of psi­lo­cin into some kind of blue pigment respons­ible for the char­ac­ter­istic blue/​black bruis­ing of these mush­rooms fol­low­ing hand­ling. The ease at which they bruise is a good indic­ator of the mushroom’s potency. One species will even turn blue from just blowing on it.

mushrooms-presentation-slide8While there are no recog­nised medical uses of magic mush­rooms, they have been used as an exper­i­mental treat­ment for a number of dis­orders. There’s sig­ni­fic­ant anec­dotal evid­ence to suggest that mush­rooms can abort the period where people with cluster head­aches are prone to attacks and also prevent relapses. Cluster head­aches are quite a serious con­di­tion, being described as more painful than child­birth (by women!), so it’s no wonder people are willing to break the law to treat them­selves. There are also cur­rently studies under way on the effect of these mush­rooms at easing the psy­cho­lo­gical suf­fer­ing asso­ci­ated with cancer.

There’s not a lot more to say about these mush­rooms, only that making them illegal nat­ur­ally hampers research into a poten­tially useful drug.


The Amanita mus­caria mush­room is a whole dif­fer­ent kettle of fish. Here’s a few pic­tures so you know what I’m talking about.


Also known as the Fly agaric, this mush­room is the archetypal toad­stool of the fairy tales, and is native to many places through­out the north­ern hemi­sphere, where it has been used cere­mo­ni­ally and recre­ation­ally for thou­sands of years. The mush­room, when freshly picked, is pois­on­ous, but with careful pre­par­a­tion, the mush­room loses its tox­icity. Unlike its psilo­cybin con­tain­ing coun­ter­part, this mush­room is com­pletely legal.


Amanita have a long past, appear­ing in artwork from as long ago as 3500 BC. They also appear in paint­ings from the renais­sance period, becom­ing more prom­in­ent during the Vic­torian era. This mush­room is asso­ci­ated in par­tic­u­lar with fairies, elves and little people in general. They also began appear­ing on Christ­mas cards as a symbol of luck, and models of the mush­room were hung on Christ­mas trees as dec­or­a­tions. This could be due to the natural asso­ci­ation between these mush­rooms and pine forests.

It’s also been sug­ges­ted that Santa Clause himself is mod­elled after the fly agaric mush­room, with his red ‘n’ white suit. Reindeer have also been observed eating this mush­rooms in the wild and becom­ing intox­ic­ated, so could that be behind the stories of flying reindeer? In fact, here’s another article on Amanita mus­caria & Christ­mas — a very inter­est­ing read. Alice in Won­der­land by Lewis Carol seemed to draw it’s inspir­a­tion from Amanita mus­caria too.

Here’s a few images of this mush­room appear­ing in art through time. The top left one is from Disney’s Fantasia from 1940 — another example of just how wide­spread this mush­room has become within our culture.

mushrooms-presentation-slide14Use of these mush­rooms has been as wide­spread as their geo­graphic dis­tri­bu­tion, but heavy use has been recor­ded in Siberia in par­tic­u­lar. The Siberian shamans use the fly agaric as an altern­at­ive method to drum­ming and chant­ing to enter a trance state, but in eastern Siberia, the mush­rooms were used by every­one both reli­giously and recre­ation­ally.

mushrooms-presentation-slide15These mush­rooms have a much more of a sed­at­ive effect with less hal­lu­cin­a­tions than the psilo­cybin con­tain­ing coun­ter­parts. The pos­it­ive effects include euphoria, anal­gesia, trance-like states being achieved, syn­aes­thesia, and seeing “little people”. Maybe that one’s not so pos­it­ive… The neutral effects include sed­a­tion, although some people can feel par­tic­u­larly ener­getic, along with changes in body per­cep­tion, blurred vision and such. The most common neg­at­ive effects asso­ci­ated with fly agaric use are nausea & gastrointest­inal dis­com­fort, but a power­ful dis­so­ci­ation and deli­rium can occur at higher doses.

The active com­pounds in Amanita mus­caria are Ibotenic acid and it’s deriv­at­ive, muscimol. Ibotenic acid is a neur­o­toxin, which has since found a use in research, being a good inducer of brain lesions. This is the com­pound respons­ible for the toxic deli­rium res­ult­ing from inges­tion of the fresh mush­rooms. When dried in a par­tic­u­lar manner, the ibotenic acid is decarboxylated into muscimol, making the mush­rooms a lot safer to eat.

mushrooms-presentation-slide17Muscimol itself is a select­ive agonist at the GABA-A receptor and a partial agonist at the GABA-C receptor. Muscimol’s effect profile is the sum of its actions at both these recept­ors, where it binds to the GABA site rather than that of an allos­teric mod­u­lator, such as ben­zo­diazepines or bar­bit­ur­ates. These GABAer­gic effects alter neur­onal activ­ity in many regions of the brain includ­ing the cereb­ral cortex, the hip­po­cam­pus and the cere­bel­lum. Muscimol is not meta­bol­ised further by the body, but is excreted in large quant­it­ies, as we shall see…

mushrooms-presentation-slide18Time for some inter­est­ing bits and pieces about muscimol. Alcohol with­drawal can lead to hal­lu­cin­a­tions of little people much like muscimol. Since alcohol also acts on GABAer­gic path­ways, maybe the effects could be related?

Siberian tribes used to drink the urine of their shaman, as it con­tains a high con­cen­tra­tion of muscimol after cere­mo­nial fly agaric use. I can’t think of any reason someone might find this out in the first place though.

And despite the name, Amanita mus­caria have neg­li­gible mus­car­inic effects. They do contain mus­car­ine, but in such tiny quant­it­ies to not make a dif­fer­ence.

mushrooms-presentation-slide19Muscimol has also found use as a phar­ma­co­lo­gical tool, being a GABA agonist. GABA itself plays an inhib­it­ory role, so GABA agon­ists applied to the brain will also have an inhib­it­ory role. This is a useful method of sim­u­lat­ing axon-sparing brain lesions, making revers­ible inac­tiv­a­tion of brain areas a great way to study brain-beha­viour rela­tion­ships, such as where and when neur­onal events for learn­ing and memory take place.

And that’s that!

At this point I handed round a fly agaric cap for extra cool points.

The slides are avail­able as a PDF here: Psy­cho­act­ive Mush­rooms Present­a­tion [1.79 MB].

9 Responses to Psychoactive Mushrooms Presentation

  1. mjshroomer says:

    Nice present­a­tion, a little off on the amount of known species, however, overall I would say a B+ if I were grading it.

    There are exactly, right now, 200 known species of psilo­cybian fungi world­wide.

    And Wasson latter changed his opinion to include that Teonana­catl implied won­drous mush­room of Meat of the Gods.

    Today, no living Indian group in Mexico in modern times know or refer to any sacred mush­room as Teonana­catl.

    That was a word used in the Nahuatl lan­guage to describe any of the sacred mush­rooms and not a single known species.

    Again, if yo have time, read some of my pub­lished lit­er­at­ure at my site in the art­icles section.


    I will be putting your article liested in my CD-ROM “Teonanán­catl: A Bib­li­o­graphy of Entheo­genic Fungi.”

    Thanks for sharing and have a shroomy day.

    btw, there are more than 14,800 images at my site related to shrooms.

    During my 11 years on the inter­net, several dozens of people asked for use of photos and inform­a­tion for sup­posed school pro­jects and present­a­tions onthe inter­net and i must con­grat­u­late you as the first person who has presen­ted such a paper.

    I will also post this at you post at entheo​gen​.com
    Best regards,

    John W. Allen

  2. Synchronium says:

    Hi John,

    Thanks a lot — that means a lot coming from your­self. Also, thanks for your cor­rec­tions! Although there are some mis­takes, I’m glad you didn’t pick up on any­thing phar­ma­co­logy related — I’m sure that wouldn’t look too great con­sid­er­ing this was delivered to a neuro­phar­ma­co­logy class.

    Please feel free to do whatever you like with the article if you think people might find it at all useful. :^)

  3. mjshroomer says:

    Hi Syn­chronium,

    What name should I use for the author­ship on your article. IF it is your real name, then email it to me at mjshroomer1@​yahoo.​com,

    Oth­er­wise it would go under Unsigned, but when I do that, that is usually reserved for news art­icles or edit­or­i­als where an author is unknown.

    The bib­li­o­graphy has more than 2800 ref­er­ences, 1800 annota­tions, 9,000 cross-ref­er­ences and more than 1,000 photo images includ­ing first pages of hun­dreds of pub­lished papers.

    Your real name would legit­im­ize your work as schol­arly. But most people cannot afford to buy the bib­li­o­graphy so no one would really know who you are, except unless someone ref­er­enced the paper in their works, but then they would not know it was you under your screen name.

    By the way, I read your Salvia paper, but not all of it.

    I wanted to mention that most Mazatecs eat about 14 pairs of leaves. Albert Hofmann ate such leaves in a cere­mony con­duc­ted by Maria Sabina’s daugh­ters while his wife Anita and R. Gordon Wasson and his wife Valentina ate mush­rooms.

    Hofmann repor­ted feel­ings of sexu­al­ity in the dances per­formed in the ritual by Maria’s daugh­ters.

    You should read my magazine article at my site on Kratom and shrooms in Thai­l­and.

    I hope to see more pages form you on your site. I book­marked it.


    and have a shroomy day.

    Are you going for a masters in entheo­genic drug phar­ma­co­logy, or in Eco­nomic Botany as did Richard Evans Schultes?

  4. mjshroomer says:

    Sorry to come back one more time, but I should mention that baeo­cystine, norbaeo­cystine and aeru­cin­es­cine are also just as active as psi­lo­cine. In the 1970s, Jeremy Bigwood at Ever­green Com­munity College in Olympia, Wash­ing­ton con­sumed baeo­cystine and said it was not dif­fer­ent than psilocybine/​psilocine.

    I have a paper coming out on a new com­pound obtained from a liquid culture of Psilo­cybe samuien­sis Guzmán, Bandala and Allen, called, Psilosamuiensin A, a ses­quit­er­pen­oid meta­bol­ite of Psilo­cybe samuien­sis. This is a paper of which I am one of nine authors who con­duc­ted this research.


  5. Synchronium says:

    I don’t think I’ll be doing a masters in any­thing entheo­gen related, unfor­tu­nately. I reckon I’ll just finish my degree then run Coffeesh0p full time. I still fancy the idea of doing a PhD though, but everything on offer that I’ve looked at seems pretty boring.

    Truth is, I have no idea what I want to do — I’ll just see what happens and take any oppor­tun­it­ies as they come!

    Also, please send a copy of that paper when it’s fin­ished. Perhaps I’ll sum it up here for those less sci­en­tific­ally minded…

  6. HMmm says:

    At : http://​www​.syn​chronium​.net/​m​e​d​i​a​/​m​u​s​h​r​o​o​m​s​-​p​r​e​s​e​n​t​a​t​i​o​n​-​s​l​i​d​e​6​.​jpg

    I think there is a mistake. The third com­pound you present and label as 5HT (sero­tonin) is not sero­tonin but 5-HO-DMT, bufotenin. In order for it to be sero­tonin you need at the N on the chain to remove the two methyls and sub­sti­tute them with nitro­gens. 5HT is 5-hydroxy-trypt­am­ine not 5-hydroxy-dimethyl­trypt­am­ine.

  7. Synchronium says:

    My god, you’re right! I guess this just goes to show that doing stuff right at the last minute is a dan­ger­ous, dan­ger­ous game.

    I’ll remove those two pesky methyl groups as soon as I remem­ber again after I’ve for­got­ten about it this time. Thanks!

    EDIT: Fixed. 🙂

  8. mjshroomer says:

    HI, mj here. Send me an email addy and I will send you a copy of the paper on samuien­sis new com­pound. Also a url formy new journal and a few reviews

    John W. Allen

    And have a shroomy day

  9. Steve Smith says:

    Hi all. This website is great. I’ve found out loads of things about drugs, shame I didn’t read this before I took them..oh well. Anyway I’m writing about my exper­i­ence 2 years ago on shrooms.

    I decided to buy my shrooms as I wanted them there are and then instead of going out and picking them. There was a big risk as I knew one of these shrooms might kill me, but I still went ahead. I took 250 dried and waited 30 mins after nothing was hap­pen­ing I took a further 250 dried shrooms.

    I had an irres­ist­able urge to listen to a song soon as I found the song the trip kicked in. Straight away I fell to the floor and had a fit. I was in the college liabary at the time in a class. Class ended and as I was about to leave I col­lapsed again and had another fit.

    My teacher instantly knew what was going on. He gave me some water and bus­cuits. I could drink the water but my hands were shaking really bad so I split most of it. The biscuit was dry in my mouth and I was chewing it for ages. The other buscuit in my hand had turned to dust because I my hands wouldn’t stop clench­ing.

    One of the lads was wearing a blue and black squared shirt. Soon as I saw the shirt. Everything became incased in the patten. The floors, the walls and the celing. Every­one van­ished. It was just me in this werid super bright blue and black cor­ri­door. I felt like I was flying threw this cor­ri­door at light­ning speed. But in fact I was sitting down on the floor staring at a wall.

    My mate said he would get me a cheese­bur­ger and he would give it to me in class. I got to my next lesson and sat down. I could func­tion nor­mally and do everything fine. I was in and out of hal­li­cin­a­tions. People in my class weren’t helping. As soon as I had the cheese­bur­ger in my hand they said it was talking to me. And boom I was straight back into another hal­lu­cin­a­tion. This time my burger was talking to me, I had a full on convo with it and I couldn’t eat it as I felt it was a real person. I had a touch­screen phone at the time. I went to text my mate. But I was unable to spell because the key­board letters kept switch­ing places with other letters. As I typed little rain­bows bounced out of my phone.

    I was taken for a ride home by one of my mates and I saw girls every­where. It turned out they were trees.

    I was lucky I was around people who knew what I had taken as this could have ended up a whole lot worse, not just for my penis but for my life. I was off my face for around 12 – 16hours. I did manage to fall asleep but I had some of the weridest dreams. I would rec­commed this drug to anyone, but its essen­tial you know what may happen good or bad. I have never done shrooms again. But will probally do in the future. I get occas­sional mad twiches everynow and then and other stuff but I think that’s probally related to some­thing else.

    This drug like every other can kill you!

    It all depends on what you do with your life, which makes you as a person…

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