As magic mushrooms continue to be decriminalized in the U.S., here’s everything you need to know about doing them for the first time.
In recent years, attitudes toward psychedelics on a large scale have shifted. Part of that is the rise of certain psychedelics like MDMA and psilocybin mushrooms being used for medicinal purposes, as well as psychedelics slowly being decriminalized across the country. But it’s also advocates across varying backgrounds being vocal about their use of psychedelics, too.
There’s been a number of Black celebrities who’ve been open about using psychedelics, whether for creative or recreational purposes (Lil Nas X taking mushrooms for the first time while writing his 2021 debut album, Montero) or for healing purposes (in his 2021 autobiography Will, Will Smith shared that he tripped on ayahuasca 14 times while separated from his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith). Despite this, there’s still an understandable fear in taking psychedelics — or any drugs — as a Black person, thanks to the United States’ War on Drugs. This, paired with the exclusion Black people face from the psychedelics community at large in the United States, stops those that are curious from ever trying these substances — especially psilocybin mushrooms, better known as magic mushrooms or, simply, shrooms.
Fortunately, shrooms have become one of the main psychedelics decriminalized in the United States, with some of the cities behind this decriminalization having majority-Black populations (like Detroit, who decriminalized psychedelics — including shrooms — late last year). As this decriminalization, hopefully, becomes more prevalent, it’s only right that Black people should be able to safely participate in using shrooms and know our broader history to psychedelics.
“We can’t separate mushrooms from the history of the war on drugs, [which] has plagued and destabilized our communities,” Ifetayo Harvey, founder of People of Color Psychedelic Collective, said. “We have to recognize that we’ve been misinformed and we have to re-educate ourselves about these substances because a lot of them come from and indigenous cultures and that includes Black people.”
Before someone takes the leap into trying shrooms, it’s critical to have insight of the medicinal journey and its mind-bending effects. This is a guide on how to safely do them as a Black person, as well as the benefits of trying them, what to expect, and more.
First, are shrooms for me, and what are the benefits?
Dropping magic mushrooms can seem appealing for beginners, but knowing whether you’re ready to try or not means being attentive to your mindset and seeing the substance as more than just something to “party on” with, as Josh Richardson, psychedelic mushroom activist and CEO of cannabis culinary event The High-End Affair, said.
“We can use these compounds for healing and we can use them for effective change in our community,” Richardson said. “…On a therapeutic dosage, you can unpack a lot of epigenetic trauma to better yourself. If you realize [mushrooms] as a tool for personal growth and development, it realizes it too and it starts to help you.”
For those willing to take a disciplined and serious approach to using shrooms, it can come with some beneficial change.
“I’ve heard people describe a single psychedelic session as more effective than ten years of talk therapy,” Robin Divine, founder of Black People Trip and The Black Psychedelic Equity Fund, said. “While it may feel like a significant improvement in the moment, individuals have to do the integration work afterwards to incorporate the lessons and experience into their everyday life.”
What’re the effects of shrooms?
The effects of magic mushrooms range from distorting a user’s perception of time to uninhibiting how the brain processes emotions. Since psilocybin mushrooms are a fungus, users may also have nausea when the substance kicks in. Ayize Jama-Everett, author, entheogen activist, and co-founder of sacred plant medicine conference A Table of Our Own, explained the spectrum.
“I’ve met people that have taken large doses of mushrooms. They’ve had a feeling of lightness and love and embracing of the world. I’ve met people that have taken very low doses of mushrooms and have cried for five hours straight,” Jama-Everett said. “In western medicine, we think about it like, you take aspirin and then the aspirin makes your head feel better. That’s not mushrooms, it works with what’s already there.”
Ultimately, each experience is subjective, and although personal recounts of one’s own trip can offer beginners a glimpse of what may come with their own experience, it’s important to be mindful that your trip is your own.
“It’s specific to your soul and your spirit,” Mama Ayana Iyi, wife of late-psychedelic science pioneer Baba Kiliindi Iyi, and an elder in the Detroit Psychedelic Community, said. “Psilocybin can put you in a place of acceptance of what is real. It strips away the illusion of what this planet has given to us.”
Are there different shroom strains?
An integral part of safely taking magic mushrooms is becoming familiar with the apothecary of potent strains. Golden Teacher (also known as Psilocyne Aurumescens) offers meditative guidance, visual distortion, and heightened emotions. Psilocybe Cubensis B+ is beginner-friendly, producing warm and spiritual energy. The psychedelic mushroom canon is infinite, and first-timers can choose to microdose for lighter effects or take heavier amounts for an immersed experience. Also, it’s important to note that if a person takes Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a drug used in antidepressants, it may cause challenging trips, competing with psilocybin to reach a user’s serotonin receptors.
Harvey recommended Golden Teacher and another strain with heavily visual and introspective properties, known as Albino Penis Envy or “APE.” APE is a highly potent, pale-capped subvariety psilocybe cubensis, causing widened pupils, a distorted sense of reality, and spiritual experiences.
“With Albino Penis Envy, you can take two grams and still have a pretty fulfilling trip,” she said. “You don’t have to take as many mushrooms to get the effect. It’s definitely one of the most visually intense experiences I’ve had.”
No matter the strain, it’s always best to “start low and go slow,” as Divine said.
“You can always take more,” she continued. “However, if you take more than you’re comfortable with, then all you can do is wait until they’re out of your system.”
What’re the ways I can take shrooms?
Whether fresh or dehydrated, magic mushrooms can be taken on a spectrum, whether in food to disguise its bitter taste (Harvey recounted how she first tried mushrooms by smashing them in a peanut butter sandwich, while Nikki Steward, culinary entertainment chef and creator of The High-End Affair, said that shrooms can be eaten with fruits or nuts but not in dairy or on a full stomach) or brewed infused in herbal tea. There’s also methods to heighten the psychoactive experience by consuming oranges, ginger or THC. As magic mushrooms are generally dried, they can also be grounded into a capsule so the dosage can be effectively controlled. Those seeking a flavorful trip may opt to cook shrooms, too.
“I like to tell people that you can’t add a whole bunch of heat to psilocybin mushrooms. For the experiences that most people like to have [with] incorporating them into food, which is taking turkey tail or lion’s mane–things that are usually identified as adaptogenics–and pairing them with lower doses of psilocybin,” Steward said. “When you’re incorporating them in food, certain mushrooms can have a higher yield. You can’t really heat psychedelic mushrooms over to a certain temperature, typically it’s one hundred and sixty degrees.”
Should I do shrooms by myself or with others?
Once users have their strains and either dilute or ingest the shrooms wholly, they can then decide on whether to trip solo with a responsible trip sitter or group. The decision is also based on someone’s intention for tripping, whether someone wants to understand more about their consciousness, see trippy visuals, or resolve a personal trauma. Those who need a standby contact throughout their trip can also use real-time support initiative The Fireside Project with qualified psychedelic care providers.
“For first-time users, it’s much more necessary to be intentional about the way they’re going into it. I also feel like it’s a communal experience, so if you’re doing it alone, the results might be different than if you’re doing it with a friend,” Kristina Modeste, Clinical Psychology MFA Student at San Francisco State University, said. “Even doing some shadow work practices before taking something that can really unearth a lot of trauma is very important, especially if you want to have a fulfilling trip.”
Charlottes James, co-founder of psychedelics education platform The Ancestor Project, also suggested that first-time users set boundaries to stay grounded if tripping with a group.
“If you plan to journey with friends, have a conversation before ingesting the medicine to check-in about what is and is not ok throughout the journey,” she said.
Where should I do shrooms?
Tripping in a specific setting can make or break the psychedelic experience, as some advise that the medicine should be taken outside to engage with environmental wisdom. Fungi grows from the earth under tree roots as mycelium, and once psilocybin mushrooms are ingested it centers users into the power of their consciousness, making it ideal to be taken in nature.
“I think a lot of homes, apartment buildings [and] co-op houses, their walls hold so much energy. A lot of memories can be attached to those energies,” Modeste said. “If your intention is to surrender to the learning process, then I recommend [being] outdoors where you can communicate with the elements.”
What can I do to ground myself when I take shrooms?
Some trips don’t happen without a little turbulence. Steward said that magic mushroom beginners can find ease through setting their atmosphere with purpose.
“My things are [wearing] comfortable clothing, having plenty of blankets, and having tissues because you’re going to end up crying once,” she said. “Being able to have a journal, having crystals — I like to set ancestral pictures of my grandmother and grandfather. It’s a variety of things you can do, but making sure you’re comfortable and mindful while you’re going into that journey.”
To settle into the vibes, which can last around six hours, you can also make a music playlist to deepen the experience. Tripping can also spark creativity, so users can paint or have a coloring book to bring out their child-like essence. Ultimately, taking psilocybin mushrooms is based upon letting go of control, and for Black people, it means retracing the experiences of ancestral guides. Once we reflect on how herbalism plays a role in Black culture, sacred healing can be reclaimed as part of our cultural development.
“In our ancestral and indigenous communities, the elders have had to become incredibly conservative around the topic of ‘drugs’ as a means of survival and protection,” James said. “This means that we have lost our connection with the idea that these medicines are a part of us, our traditions, and the understanding of our existence. If we can repair this broken link in the chain, we can truly unlock our superpowers.”