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Psilocybin vs Nicotine | Differences, Similarities, Side Effects and more!

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The use of psychoactive substances has been a part of human history for centuries. In recent times, there has been an increased interest in the effects of various substances on the brain and the body. Two substances that have gained significant attention are psilocybin and nicotine. 

Psilocybin is a naturally occurring psychedelic compound found in certain mushrooms, while nicotine is a highly addictive chemical found in tobacco products. Despite their vastly different effects, both substances carry risks of potential mental and physical side-effects. 

So to help you understand these two substances, in this article will explore the differences, similarities, side effects, and other key information about psilocybin and nicotine

What is Psilocybin?

Psilocybin is a naturally occurring compound found in certain types of mushrooms, also known as “magic mushrooms.” When ingested, psilocybin can produce a range of effects, including altered perception of time and space, changes in mood, and even mystical or spiritual experiences. 

It works by binding to specific receptors in the brain that are involved in regulating mood and perception. While psilocybin has been used for thousands of years in various traditional and religious contexts, its use as a recreational drug is illegal in many parts of the world. 

However, recent research has shown promising results for its use in treating a variety of mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety.

Chemical Composition of Psilocybin

Psilocybin is a chemical compound with the molecular formula C12H17N2O4P. It belongs to a class of compounds called tryptamines, which are known for their psychoactive properties. 

What is Nicotine? 

Nicotine is a naturally occurring chemical compound found in the leaves of the tobacco plant. It is a potent stimulant that is absorbed into the bloodstream when tobacco is smoked, chewed, or inhaled in the form of e-cigarette vapor. 

When nicotine enters the body, it binds to specific receptors in the brain, leading to the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine. This causes a range of physiological and psychological effects, including increased heart rate, elevated mood, and enhanced cognitive function. 

While nicotine has been used for centuries in traditional medicine, it is also highly addictive and can lead to a range of health problems when used in excess, including cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, and respiratory problems.

Chemical Composition of Nicotine

Nicotine is a chemical compound with the molecular formula C10H14N2. It is an alkaloid, which means it is a naturally occurring organic compound that contains nitrogen. 

Psilocybin vs. Nicotine: Fact Sheet



Generic Name Magic Mushrooms Nicorette
Drug Type Psychedelic Stimulant
Active Ingredients  Psilocin (C12H16N2O) Nicotine
Used as treatment for: None but in studies for depression and PTSD None
Available Form(s) Dried Mushrooms
Skin patches, chewing gum, nasal and oral sprays, inhalers, and cigarettes
Is it a controlled substance? Yes, Schedule I No
Legal Status Illegal Legal
Risk of Withdrawal Effects Yes Yes
Risk of Addiction Yes, very low Yes

Nicotine Dosage and Side Effects:

The recommended dosage of nicotine depends on the method of delivery, the individual’s age, body weight, and medical history. For smokers, the recommended daily dose of nicotine is typically between 30-40 milligrams per kilogram. This can vary depending on the individual’s smoking habits and nicotine tolerance. 

When nicotine is ingested through tobacco smoking, the amount absorbed can range from 1-2 milligrams per cigarette, depending on the type and brand of tobacco. This means that a pack-a-day smoker can consume up to 40 milligrams of nicotine per day.

Nicotine replacement therapies, such as nicotine gum or patches, are also available for those who are trying to get off nicotine. These products typically provide a lower dose of nicotine and are designed to help manage withdrawal symptoms.

However, it is important to note that even at recommended doses, nicotine can have potential side effects. Common side effects of nicotine use include increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and vasoconstriction (narrowing of blood vessels). These effects can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, especially in individuals with pre-existing medical conditions. 

Nicotine can also stimulate the release of stress hormones such as cortisol, which can lead to increased anxiety and tension. In high doses, nicotine can cause nausea, dizziness, and muscle tremors. Long-term use can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms, as well as a range of negative health outcomes such as lung cancer and cardiovascular disease.

It is important for individuals to speak with a healthcare professional before using nicotine-containing products for nicotine cessation, and to carefully follow recommended dosages and usage instructions.

Psilocybin Dosage and Side Effects:

Psilocybin dosage and side effects can vary depending on the individual’s body weight, metabolism, and the potency of the particular species of mushroom consumed. Generally, a moderate to high dose of psilocybin is considered to be between 1-3 grams of dried mushrooms, while a microdose can be between 0.1-0.5 grams. 

Psilocybin is a potent hallucinogenic compound that affects the brain’s serotonin receptors. When consumed, psilocybin is rapidly metabolized into psilocin, which is responsible for the drug’s psychoactive effects.

Common side effects of psilocybin use include changes in perception, mood, and thought patterns. This can include vivid visual hallucinations, altered sense of time, and changes in mood or emotional state. 

Psilocybin can also lead to physical symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and stomach cramps. In high doses, psilocybin can cause more intense and potentially distressing experiences, including anxiety, paranoia, and psychosis.

It is important to note that psilocybin-containing mushrooms are illegal in many countries and can be dangerous if consumed in large doses or in combination with other drugs. Those who are considering using psilocybin for therapeutic purposes should be aware of potential side effects and risks associated with psilocybin use, and to approach its use with caution and respect.

Nicotine vs. Psilocybin: Can You Withdrawal for Either? 

Yes it is possible to experience withdrawal after stopping the use of both psilocybin and nicotine, but the withdrawal symptoms associated with each are quite different. Especially nicotine as it is known to cause strong physical and psychological dependence. 

Nicotine withdrawal typically involves symptoms such as cravings, irritability, anxiety, and insomnia, while psilocybin withdrawal is less well understood due to the lack of research on the topic. 

Some users of psilocybin report feeling a sense of loss or depression after the effects wear off, but more research is needed to fully understand the potential withdrawal effects of this substance.


Psilocybin vs Nicotine: Prevalence in the United States

Tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco, and e-cigarettes have become increasingly popular in recent years. The widespread use of nicotine is driven by a combination of factors, including peer pressure, stress, and addiction

The tobacco industry’s aggressive marketing tactics, particularly towards youth and vulnerable populations, have also contributed to the widespread use of nicotine in the country. Despite the well-known health risks associated with nicotine use, millions of Americans continue to use tobacco products on a daily basis.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) in 2021, approximately 61.6 million people aged 12 or older reported past-month use of any tobacco product, representing 22% of the US population.  The same study suggests that almost 23.6 million people (8.5%  of the US population) have reported nicotine dependence in 2021.

Likewise the use of psilocybin, a psychoactive compound found in certain species of mushrooms, has become increasingly popular in recent years, especially for its potential therapeutic benefits. However, it remains a relatively less prevalent drug than nicotine. 

According to a study published in Journal of Psychedelic Study, about 25 million people aged 12 or older reported past-year use of psilocybin, representing 9.2% of the US population. 

It’s important to note that the actual prevalence of psilocybin use may be higher, as it is still illegal in most states, and many people may not be willing to report their use in a government-sponsored survey.

Bottom Line: Psilocybin versus Nicotine

In conclusion, psilocybin and nicotine are two very different substances that have distinct effects on the body and mind. Nicotine is highly addictive and is found in various tobacco products, which continue to be widely used in the United States. 

On the other hand, psilocybin is a psychoactive compound found in certain species of mushrooms and is still illegal in most states. While the prevalence of nicotine use in the US is much higher than that of psilocybin use, both substances can lead to physical and psychological dependence. 

That is why, anyone considering using any of the above mentioned substances either for recreational or therapeutic purpose, needs to be aware of these potential risks and make an informed decision.

FAQs on Nicotine and Psilocybin 

Nicotine and Psilocybin: Which is more addictive?

Nicotine is more addictive and causes stronger withdrawal than psilocybin. It stimulates the release of dopamine in the brain, which creates a pleasurable sensation and reinforces the desire to use it again. Over time, repeated use of nicotine can lead to physical and psychological dependence. 

Nicotine and Psilocybin: Can psilocybin be used for medical purposes?

Research suggests that psilocybin may have potential therapeutic benefits for certain conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and addiction. However, more research is needed to fully understand the risks and benefits of using psilocybin for medical purposes.

Is it dangerous to mix nicotine with other stimulants?

Mixing nicotine with other stimulants can be dangerous and is not recommended. Nicotine is itself a stimulant that can increase heart rate and blood pressure, and when combined with other stimulants, such as caffeine or adderall, the effects can be amplified. This can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular problems, such as heart attack or stroke. 


Warren Phillips

Warren is a Licensed Master Social Worker, who specializes in substance abuse and mental health treatment. Clinically, Warren has developed a therapeutic skillset that utilizes a strengths-based perspective, Twelve Step philosophies, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Motivational Interviewing.

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