What’s the Right Psychedelic Mushrooms Dosage? Deciding the Best Dose for Psychedelic Treatment

Psilocybe cubensis, a commonly-used psychedelic mushroom containing psilocybin, is the focus of a seminal new study on psychedelic dosage by Dr. Roland Griffiths. | Image Source: Wikimedia Commons user Zergboy
Psilocybe cubensis, a commonly-used psychedelic mushroom containing psilocybin, is the focus of a seminal new study on psychedelic dosage by Dr. Roland Griffiths. | Image Source: Wikimedia Commons user Zergboy

As you lie back and feel your trip beginning, your excitement becomes colored by doubt. Did you take too much? How can you be sure it’s not more than you can handle? As you worry, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and your anxiety takes over. You can tell the next few hours are going to be grueling.

If this sounds familiar to you, you’d probably agree that determining dosage can be one of the biggest challenges of a psychedelic experience. Yes, you want to get the most of the experience, but you don’t want to go too far.

Luckily, we are at a truly exciting point in the history of psychedelic science —  after decades of prohibition on all research, the last few years have seen an explosion of studies into the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics like ibogaine and psilocybin for addiction and PTSD. And thanks to one recent study from John Hopkins, it seems like an answer to the question, “What’s the ideal mushroom dosage?” may be just around the corner.

The Research About Mushroom Dosage

Though the overall flurry of recent research is reaffirming to see, a true herald of a change in the way we see psychedelics comes from a very new study by Dr. Roland Griffiths (Dr. Griffiths is also responsible for a well-known study about the effects of psilocybin on patients diagnosed with terminal cancer, as well as several other seminal psychedelic and addiction studies). In this study, 18 healthy volunteers were given four tiers of psilocybin dose and encouraged to lie down in a comfortable environment with headphones. The study’s aim was to evaluate volunteers’ subjective experiences—positive and negative—at different doses.

The highest dose tested was 30 mg of psilocybin per 70 kg participant weight (mg per kg is a typical clinical measure of dose for drugs of all kinds). This is equivalent to a 155 lb individual taking slightly less than 5 g of dried psilocybe cubensis, a typical psychedelic mushroom—quite a strong dose. Four out of five volunteers receiving this dose reported the experience was one of the top five most spiritually significant events of their lives, but a third of participants also reported a significant psychological struggle. At this higher dose, experiencing fear, anxiety, and stress was more likely.

At the next highest dose of 20 mg per 70 kg (equivalent to roughly 3 g of dried psilocybe cubensis), all volunteers reported positive experiences, and only one experienced any negativity. This trend continued for lower doses, with slightly less profundity of experience but still significant, long-lasting effects. Over a year later, the researchers followed up with volunteers and found that the vast majority still thought that their experiences were in the top five most spiritually significant of their lives.

The Big Three: Set, Setting, and Dose

Besides dosage, there are a couple other things to consider when undertaking a psychedelic experience. It’s widely agreed that the three factors that most influence a psychedelic experience are set, setting, and dose.

Set refers to an individual’s mindset: are you coming into the experience expecting something to go wrong, or do you have a constructive intention? Setting refers to the environment of the experience: do you have an experienced sitter, guide, or therapist who can help chaperone you through difficult stages? Are you in a comfortable, soothing room or the outdoors? Set and setting are well understood, and it is clear how they can push a psychedelic experience in a positive or negative direction. Dose, however, is less intuitively clear, and that is why this study is so important: it attempts to quantify the relative benefits of different doses of a psychedelic.

We know that psychedelics like psilocybin are capable of revealing deep personal insights, transcendent realizations, and ineffable connections to the universe that lead to long-lasting improvements in outlook, but also that in some circumstances, we can have difficult, troubling, and even frightening experiences. That’s why set, setting, and dose are so important. Though some may say that these negative experiences teach us something valuable in and of themselves, individuals who are apprehensive about psychedelic therapy would do well to have their fears soothed so that they can receive psychedelics’ full benefits without negative expectations.

What the Research Means for You

This research is so significant because it isn’t looking at psychedelics in a prescriptive manner—it can help any individual, whether they’re “sick” in a clinical sense or simply seeking to improve their own mental health. It benefits anyone seeking a psychedelic experience, especially those who are unsure where to start or apprehensive about what they have heard. Even very low doses of psychedelics still engender long-lasting positive changes, and the lower the dose, the less likely you are to have an anxious or stressful episode.

With attentive detail to set, setting, and dose, you can seek out the psychedelic experience most suited to you. If you are seeking a truly transformative experience — and are willing to face your fears and tackle deep-seated issues — a high dose may offer one of the most significant experiences you could encounter. If you’re apprehensive about psychedelics, or simply want to open yourself up and improve your outlook, a lower dose may be best for you. Remember also that dose is only one component of your experience—make sure your mindset is prepared and intentional, and your setting is supportive, therapeutic, and above all, safe.

 

Psychotherapists and other experts are harnessing the transcendent power of psychedelics to treat mood disorders, substance addiction, and much more. While psychedelic therapy is still largely unavailable in the United States, the staff at Psychedelic Times is here to answer all of your questions about psychedelic therapy and, if you choose to take the next step, connect you with one of the excellent clinics found around the world. Contact us today with your questions about ayahuasca, ibogaine, and other psychedelic therapies.

 

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Roger R.

Roger is a writer, researcher, and advocate for psychedelic research and treatment thanks to his experience with harm reduction and stress research, in the field with a mobile syringe exchange program, and in his personal life supporting loved ones who struggle with addiction.

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  • Sawyer Rice

    good article besides your dosing being way off

  • ryanmvdl34

    Thanks for the article. Are you aware of any anecdotal correlations between anxiety from marijuana and anxiety from psilocybin? In other words if someone “gets anxious” from marijuana are they destined to get anxious from psilocybin? I’m happy to hear any response ranging from opinion to citation.

  • Jake McMillian

    No, with psilocybin an individual person may experience anxiety on one trip and not the next even when taking mushrooms from the same patch. The determining factors are really set and setting, as the article mentioned. Psilocybin containin mushrooms have essentially one dominant psychotropic compound, which is psilocin in the brain.
    Cannabis, on the other hand, is a balancing act of several dozen psychotropic compounds. The two most dominant of these are THC and CBD, and each strain will have different ratios of these compounds. All strains have some amount of both. THC produces a cerebral high, acts as an appetite stimulant, and may cause anxiety if not properly balanced with CBD. THC is higher in sativa strains and sativa dominant hybrids. CBD produces a calming body high, reduces anxiety, and is gaining attention for its medicinal benefits (that is not to say THC does not have its own medicinal benefits). CBD is higher in indica strains and indica dominant hybrids. If an individual experiences anxiety while taking cannabis they are advised to seek a strain with a higher CBD percentage, though set and sayetting also play a factor. The move towards medical acceptance and legalization has helped some users manage the “set” aspect as there is a reduced paranoia of law enforcement.