A psilocybin session as therapy

We have long known that psilocybin is a strong supportive agent during therapy. In most cases, psilocybin is used during psychedelic sessions for complaints such as depression, low self-esteem, addiction and various anxiety symptoms. Among psychedelics, psilocybin is the all-rounder. Dosing this psychedelic is often easier than others such as ayahuasca and the trip does not last unnecessarily long as can occur with LSD. Even without symptoms, a session with psilocybin is possible to spark creativity and spirituality. We explain in this article how psilocybin works and why it can be used as a therapeutic tool.

Psilocybin is converted to psilocin

Mushrooms, truffles, psilohuasca and psiloflora all contain psilocybin/psilocin and fall under the group of hallucinogens. Shrooms and magic truffles contain the same active substances in approximately the same proportions. The effects are variable and depend on your personal sensitivity, character, your mood, the drug and the dose. The active substances psilocin and psilocybin are very similar to the body's own serotonin (the neurotransmitter). Our body converts psilocybin to psilocin after ingestion. Psilocin matches the serotonin receptor, called the 5HT2a receptor. The higher stimulation of the receptors produces the effects of magic mushrooms. The degree of effects are divided into several triple levels.

Trip level 1

During trip level 1, the negative feelings of serotonin depression disappear. As the communication of the brain hemispheres changes, music will sound deeper, colors will become brighter and the environment more tangible. All your senses are open. During this stage you are more open and socially engaged and begin to become open and honest with others and yourself.

Trip level 2

Brighter perception of colors, visuals such as moving and "breathing" objects, walls etc.. 2-dimensional patterns can be perceived with eyes closed. Due to changes in short-term memory, the user experiences continuous distracting thought patterns interspersed with extreme focus. The natural filter in the brain is bypassed which, among other things, increases creativity. During this phase, one can already begin to discover connections. Cross connections about, for example, why certain things happen and how to deal with them.

Trip level 3

Very distinct visuals, everything seems bent or distorted. Patterns can be seen on walls, objects, faces, etc.. Mild hallucinations, such as the effect of flowing rivers in wood grains or other structures. Some confusion of the senses, e.g. seeing sound as color etc.. Time distorts so that everything seems to take place in the "now." From this level it is already quite possible to connect with the subconscious brain, while this is still very controllable. The subconscious can harbor fears that cause stress without being consciously aware of it. This level is useful to combat those fears from the subconscious. Fears are often from the past and/or the future. These fears are not real to the now and acceptance is possible during this triple level.

Trip level 4

Strong hallucinations, such as objects merging into other objects (morphing). Perception of the ego blurs, objects may start talking to you, for example, or you feel conflicting things at the same time. Some loss of reality, time becomes an incomprehensible concept. Possible experience of leaving the body (out of body experience). Mixing of stimuli from different senses. Because of ego loss and thereby loss of self-protection, during this phase one is harsh but honest about oneself. Problems can be addressed and given a place. The connection with the subconscious is very high in this triple skin, which means that a lot can be learned about who someone is, while it seems as if it is about someone else because of the loss of ego.

Trip level 5

Total loss of visual connection to reality, senses no longer work in the "normal" way. A total loss of ego. Users feel themselves merging with space, other objects or the universe. The loss of reality becomes so bad that it is difficult to explain or articulate. This level differs from the other levels in that the actual universe in which things are located ceases to exist. During this phase there is absolutely no guidance possible from the ego. The connection with the subconscious is now at its maximum. There is nothing to hide. It is like a dream that cannot be influenced by yourself. This phase can give you insights in ways that are at first incomprehensible. Level 5 trippers often call the trip experiences mystical, the most beautiful experience of their lives or just frightening. Control freaks in particular find it scary at first. It is not wise to do this without experience with psychedelics.

Changes play a key role

Beyond the subjective psychedelic experience, it is actually healthy changes that play an important role. Psychedelics such as psilocybin allow us to make new (brain) connections and this is often linked to gaining new insights. These new connections can cause us to think differently and teach ourselves new patterns. If the new patterns are healthier patterns, then we benefit from better physical and mental health. So always try to explore what healthy changes can help you move forward.

More BDNF due to psychedelics

Because psychedelics like psilocin (from truffles) stimulate the 5-HT2a receptor, BDNF is released. When the body releases more BDNF, it flips the switch on a series of genes that grow brand new brain cells, nerve cells and number of connections. Even slightly higher BDNF makes you learn faster, remember better, age slower and your brain quickly rearranges connections to different parts of the brain and body.

BDNF also increases the plasticity of your brain. When your brain cells are damaged or put into a stressful situation, BDNF protects them and helps them come back stronger. The neural pathways become more flexible instead of broken down, which could explain why higher levels of BDNF are associated with warding off depression.

Learn more about BDNF

Lower activity of the DMN

The Default Mode Network (DMN) includes brain regions in the cortex that are normally active during rest and is involved in event recall, social and emotional judgment, and future planning. Lowering the activity of the DMN causes time awareness to disappear and more living in the here and now. So that means worries and fears about the future disappear.

Thus, lower activity of the DMN results in lower stress levels and thus lower cortisol. Low cortisol allows the body to utilize its self-healing which allows it to fight disease and inflammation. Thanks to lowered inflammation levels, more serotonin is released, which in turn gives more BDNF, while also lowering anxiety and depression.

Read more about being in the now

Less ego

Psychedelics in higher doses cause the ego to go into overdrive. The ego wants to be fed more and more, and often unhealthy, things. The ego makes us restless and anxious since self-preservation is the ego's greatest goal. Without ego we will not survive but an overactive ego causes separation, loneliness and addictions.

Less ego means more connection, less depression, more serotonin, more BDNF, more healthy choices, less stress and less activity of the DMN.

Pent-up emotions

It often happens that during a session emotions are released that have been blocked for a long time. Releasing this "old pain" releases emotional blockages and sometimes psychosomatic complaints and allows the energy to flow again. It can sometimes feel like a liberation to feel uninhibitedly everything that passes by.

All emotions are good and allowed to be

Exposure therapy

In a number of cases, for example PTSD, exposure therapy can be combined with a lower dose of psychedelics. The psychedelics provide on a biochemical level a state of contentment, reduction of gloom and anxiety. This state of mind, combined with the narration and reliving of the trauma allows the emotional link to the trauma to change to something less anxiety provoking.

Even better results

In trip therapy, we look beyond just what psychedelics can do for health. Using the very insights for healthy changes offer a long-term solution. Proper preparation with a focus on health and healthy changes ensures better results. Improved health also makes for a better psychedelic session. Therefore, it is wise to balance the neurotransmitters in the brain beforehand. Included in the intake for trip therapy is a questionnaire allowing us to advise you personally in order to get the most out of your session.

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Marcel van der Putten

With a (bio)chemical study background and a passion for health, I combine my knowledge of nutrition, supplements, naturopathy, exercise, psychology and psychedelics into a total approach for treating psychological and psychosomatic disorders/complaints. Discovering how the body and mind are connected through the biochemical and electrochemical processes is a very big interest for me which also helps me to improve psychedelic therapy.