Psilocybin, and the ‘magic mushrooms’ that contain it, have been demonized for decades around the world. Nowhere more so than the United States, where cannabis is slowly gaining acceptance amid an opioid disaster, not to mention alcohol or nicotine. Disregarding this seemingly arbitrary classification of mind-altering compounds, a prime aspect of dislodging a chemical from Schedule 1 classification is demonstrating any medical or positive application of the compound in question.
We eagerly await the outcomes of scientific studies applying psilocybin to all manner of issues from alcohol addiction to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) (See our 2018 Science Round-up). In the meantime, stories of individual improvement and progression can bolster confidence in these misunderstood compounds. More than enough evidence already exists to place psilocybin in a position of medicinal compound.
This story features Kenneth, a man in his late forties from the Bible Belt (an area of conservative and Christian majority) of the United States. He regularly dabbled with psychedelics in his teens and twenties, trying both LSD and psilocybin. These experiences helped to find the roots of, and decrease, the anxiety and panic attacks that characterized his youth. Along with conventional therapy and psychiatrist-prescribed medications, he was able to thrive through a bachelor’s degree in psychology, all the while using psychedelics for insights and recreation.
An experience gone bad in his late twenties halted his use of psychedelics. While tripping on a strong dose (4-5 tabs) of LSD with a friend, his compatriot suffered a grand mal seizure. In the event, he bit his tongue, blood flowing from his mouth, an omen that harkened death in Kenneth’s warped mind. This trauma, along with a new relationship (with a woman who demonized cannabis, let alone psychedelics) and job, pushed him away from psychedelics for some time. This hiatus would last twenty years, from age 29 to 49, spanning the raising of children and a divorce in 2008.
Tides would begin to change around the age of 43, when Kenneth began working as a crisis screener. He evaluated, often in an ER setting, whether suicidal, homicidal or psychotic thoughts might warrant hospitalization or out-patient referrals. This rewarding work placed Kenneth at the front-lines of mental health; he was able to directly apply his experiences from the past to the assistance of others in crisis.
The woman that would change his life
At age 48, Kenneth’s life would change.
“An extraordinary woman; Beautiful, brilliant, funny, insightful, compassionate, a rockstar in her field, and loved by everyone she met. She also had stage 4 breast cancer, which she told me on our first date. I told her I wouldn’t treat her any differently because of it.”
Within 5 months, she proposed. To be chosen by her will always remain a point of pride for Kenneth; a marriage followed only a few weeks later.
Two glorious years followed, “packing as much life as we could into every minute of every day. We lived more in those 2 years than most people do in 20.” Trips to explore the vast reach of the USA, from coast to coast; though, the cloud of mortality hung low, the next step to keep her alive was always being researched. Countless chemotherapies, clinical trials, bad times and good.
“She was never dying of cancer – she lived with it.”
Kenneth and his soulmate tripped together for the first time in June, 2017. He’d ”read about the therapeutic value of psychedelics for people with terminal illnesses, and it was another intense experience that we wanted to share together.
We had a beautiful time… We talked about her fear of dying, cried, laughed, and experienced incredible closeness with each other.”
Kenneth can’t say whether he saw a change in her demeanor; ”she was already the kindest, most empathetic soul I ever knew, so it would have been difficult to improve on that… I might have changed afterwards, but she changed me more than the trip.”
“Marijuana, LSD, psilocybin, DMT – They all changed the way I see – but love’s the only thing that ever saved my life.”Turtles all the way down – Sturgill Simpson
The love, and the bond were already there, but psychedelics break down walls between people. Kenneth was better able to empathize with his wife and feel what she felt more strongly than before.
”It just served to strengthen what we already had.”
Exploration of psilocybin leads to lasting outcomes
“We intended to trip again soon, but life got in the way…She died before New Years, 2019”
This psilocybin experience would leave a subtle but impactful realization in Kenneth’s mind. After that first trip in twenty years, he felt his anxiety slip to its lowest point, even reducing the need for his prescribed medication (Clonazepam) for at least four to five months afterward. The stress of his wife’s condition necessitated the need for a return to the higher dose, but the outcomes of psilocybin remained in his periphery.
Kenneth also noticed a reduction in pain, after years of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid and gout. It had gotten to a point where he had sought ”a couple different doctors, tried multiple NSAIDS, shots in my wrist, and an NSAID cream (4 times a day).” He found some relief in the conventional treatments, but ”my pain… was about a 2.5-3 out of 10 every day, some days worse than this, and it interfered with my life and job.”
In light of the results of his psilocybin experience, and the growing knowledge surrounding ‘microdosing’, Kenneth decided he’d try to re-capture that pain relief, without the trip.
Microdosing psilocybin for pain, arthritis, and anxiety
He started with only 1/20th of a gram (or 0.05 g) every four days. This is only 2% of an ‘average’ recreational dose (2.5g, full ‘mushroom experience’) of magic mushrooms, or nearly 5% of what might be considered a ‘threshold’ dose (1g, minimal but apparent) of psilocybin mushrooms. After some time, he doubled the dose to 0.1g, the quantity most commonly suggested for those starting to microdose psilocybin for pain.
”So far, this seems to get rid of my 70-80% of my pain for about 2 days, and on day 3 it comes back. I get relief starting an hour or two after taking it. I haven’t had to use the NSAID cream except on the end of day 3, and on day 4. I’ve forgotten ‘til day 5 a couple times, and the pain comes back when I do.”
On the days he takes his psilocybin microdose, Kenneth has no unwanted side-effects or ‘trippyness’. He mentions that an average cup of coffee, which he drinks one or two a day, has a greater impact on his train of thought. It only seems to target the pain, with no negative outcomes that are so often associated with traditional painkillers.
Kenneth hopes that his experience may contribute to at least one person feeling some relief from chronic pain. He mentioned that he and his late wife ”had in common that we helped people through our jobs, and it’s what she was proudest of me for, I think.”
“Just know in your heart – That we’re always together – And long after I’m gone – I’ll still be around – Cause our bond is eternal – And so is love – God is inside you all around you, and up above”