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What is Psilocybin? | Chemistry, Use Cases, Dosage & Side Effects

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Psilocybin is a naturally occurring psychedelic compound that is found in certain species of mushrooms. It is known for its ability to produce profound changes in perception, mood, and cognitive processes. 

The compound has been used for centuries in traditional spiritual and medicinal practices, and more recently, has been studied for its potential therapeutic benefits in treating a wide range of mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD. 

This article will provide an overview of what psilocybin is, its chemical composition, potential therapeutic use cases, dosage, and possible side effects.

Chemical Composition 

Legal Status 


C12H17N2O4P Illegal, Schedule I CAS Number: 520-52-5 CHEBI: 8614 

Psilocybin High-Level Fact Sheet

When consumed, psilocybin is broken down in the body to produce psilocin, which is responsible for the psychedelic effects. These effects can include changes in perception, mood, and thought. 

If you are considering consuming psilocybin soon, here are a few things you must know about its chemical composition and its legal status in the country.

Psilocybin Chemical Composition

Psilocybin is a naturally occurring psychedelic compound that belongs to a class of compounds known as tryptamines. It is structurally similar to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in regulating mood, appetite, and other physiological functions.

The chemical formula of Psilocybin is C12H17N2O4P and its molecular weight is 284.3 g/mol.

Psilocybin Legal Status 

Psilocybin is currently a Schedule I controlled substance in the United States, meaning it is illegal to manufacture, possess, or distribute it.

Psilocybin Clinical Data

Psilocybin, commonly known by its street names of ‘magic mushrooms’ or ‘shrooms’, is a hallucinogenic drug belonging to the drug class of psychedelics. It has been studied in clinical trials as a potential treatment for depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. 

Since Psilocybin is not currently approved for medical use, so it does not have any trade names.

Psilocybin Use Cases:

Psilocybin has been used in a variety of ways throughout human history, and continues to be studied for various use cases, including:


Currently, psilocybin has been studied for the following potential therapeutic uses:

  • Treatment-resistant depression: Psilocybin has shown promise as a treatment for individuals with major depressive disorder who have not responded to traditional antidepressants.
  • Anxiety and PTSD: Studies have also suggested that psilocybin may be effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Substance abuse disorders: Psilocybin has been studied as a potential treatment for addiction to alcohol and other drugs.
  • End-of-life distress: Psilocybin has been studied as a way to alleviate the emotional distress experienced by individuals with terminal illness.
  • Cluster headaches: Psilocybin has been used to treat cluster headaches, also known as “suicide headaches,” with promising results.

It’s important to note that while these uses have been studied, psilocybin is not approved for medical use and further research is needed to fully understand its safety and efficacy. There is still much to be studied and discussed about the effects of using psilocybin for mental health treatment, and more research is needed before it can be approved for use.

Performance Enhancement:

Psilocybin has been studied for its potential to enhance performance in various fields, including the arts and music. Some artists and musicians have reported using psilocybin as a tool to catalyze creativity and inspiration. 

Psilocybin is believed to work by increasing neuroplasticity, which can make the brain more open to new ideas and perspectives. By reducing self-judgment and increasing the ability to connect seemingly disparate concepts, psilocybin may lead to more free-flowing thought and more divergent thinking, both of which are known to be beneficial for creativity. 

However, it’s important to note that psilocybin use is not approved for performance enhancement, and more research is needed to fully understand its effects and safety. 


Psilocybin is also used recreationally, often in the form of “magic mushrooms.” The effects of psilocybin can vary depending on the dosage, the person’s mood, and the environment in which it is taken. 

Common effects include changes in perception, such as visual and auditory hallucinations, as well as changes in thought and emotion. Users may experience an altered sense of time, an increased sense of euphoria and well-being, and a heightened sense of connection to others and the natural world. Some people report having profound spiritual experiences while under the influence of psilocybin. 


Psilocybin has a long history of use in spiritual and religious contexts. The use of magic mushrooms for spiritual and religious purposes has been reported in indigenous cultures throughout the world, particularly in Central and South America. 

These cultures have used psilocybin in religious ceremonies and rituals for centuries. The effects of psilocybin are often described as profound and transcendental, leading users to experience a sense of unity with the universe, a feeling of interconnectedness with all living things, and an increased sense of self-awareness. 

Some people report having intense mystical experiences while under the influence of psilocybin, which they describe as life-changing and meaningful. However, it’s important to note that using psilocybin for spiritual or religious purposes can be risky, as the effects and outcomes can vary greatly depending on the individual and the context.

Psilocybin dosages by form and strength:

Psilocybin is available in several forms, including:

  • Fresh or dried mushrooms: Psilocybin is naturally occurring in certain species of mushrooms, such as Psilocybe cubensis and Psilocybe semilanceata. The concentration of psilocybin in these mushrooms can vary, but it is typically around 0.5-2%.
  • Capsules or tablets: Psilocybin can also be extracted from mushrooms and formulated into capsules or tablets. The dosages in these products can vary, but they are typically in the range of 0.3-1 grams.
  • Synthetic psilocybin: Psilocybin can also be synthesized in a laboratory, and this form is often used in research studies. The dosages of synthetic psilocybin used in research studies can range from a few milligrams to several grams.

It’s important to note that, due to its Schedule I classification, it’s illegal to possess or distribute psilocybin, and therefore obtaining it can be difficult and risky. It’s important to be aware of the source and the purity of the product and to be informed of the potential risks, including both physical and mental health risks associated with its use.

Moreover, it is also important to keep a strict check of your psilocybin intake as a high dose  can lead to psilocybin overdose resulting in a number of health complications.

Psilocybin Side Effects:

Like any other drug, psilocybin can cause a variety of side effects, both physical and psychological. It is important to note that psilocybin can be harmful to certain people and should not be used by those with a history of mental health issues such as schizophrenia, depression or bipolar disorder.

Common Side Effects on Psilocybin:

Some of the most common side effects include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Drowsiness
  • Elevated heart rate and blood pressure
  • Increased sweating
  • Muscles weakness
  • Dilated pupils

Serious Side Effects on Psilocybin: 

Serious side effects of psilocybin are rare but may include:

  • Psychotic reactions, such as paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Heart palpitations
  • Hyperthermia
  • Intense anxiety or fear often characterized as “bad trip”

Psilocybin Long Term Effects:

Long-term effects of psilocybin use are not well-understood, but it’s possible that prolonged or heavy use could lead to more persistent changes in brain chemistry. Some studies have suggested that psilocybin use may be associated with an increased risk of mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and psychosis or “flashbacks” even after the drug is no longer being used.. However, more research is needed to fully understand the long-term effects of psilocybin use.

It’s important to note that the effects of psilocybin can vary greatly depending on the individual, the dose, and the context in which it is used. It’s important to be aware of the potential risks associated with psilocybin use and to use it with caution.

Psilocybin Addiction: 

Psilocybin addiction is a rare but real condition that can be difficult to recognize and overcome. When someone becomes addicted to psilocybin, they are in danger of experiencing a wide range of negative physical, psychological and social consequences. 

People who are addicted to psilocybin often have difficulty controlling their cravings and may 

experience a range of withdrawal symptoms if they try to stop using the drug. Addiction can be a serious issue and it is important to seek professional help and support if you or someone you know is struggling with psilocybin addiction. 

With proper treatment and support, it is possible to overcome addiction to psilocybin and regain control of your life.

Types of Drug Treatment for Psilocybin Addiction

Psilocybin is not considered to be addictive, and there is no evidence that someone can develop a physical dependence on it. However, some individuals may develop a psychological dependence on the drug, and may experience withdrawal symptoms such as depression or anxiety when not using it.

Treatment for psychological dependence on psilocybin typically involves therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or talk therapy. These therapies can help individuals understand and cope with the reasons behind their drug use, and develop strategies to manage cravings and prevent relapse.

Medications such as antidepressants or antipsychotics may also be prescribed to help manage withdrawal symptoms. You can eitehr enroll in an inpatient or an outpatient detox to help overcome your dependence to psilocybin.

It’s important to remember that psilocybin can be harmful to certain people and that people with a history of mental health issues should not use it. In such cases, it’s best to consult with a mental health professional before considering any kind of therapy or medication.

Psilocybin Withdrawal:  

Psilocybin is not considered to be physically addictive, so there is typically no physical withdrawal from the drug. However, some individuals may develop a psychological dependence on the drug, and may experience psilocybin withdrawal symptoms when they stop using it. These withdrawal symptoms can include, depression or anxiety as psilocybin can affect the levels of serotonin in the brain, which can lead to feelings of sadness or worry when the drug is not being used. Psilocybin can disrupt normal sleep patterns, and individuals may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep when they stop using the drug.

Moreover, the regular use of the drug can affect appetite, and individuals may experience a loss of appetite or difficulty eating when they stop using the drug. People who have become psychologically dependent on psilocybin may experience cravings for the drug. Some people may experience flashbacks or hallucinations even after they stop using the drug.

It’s important to note that these symptoms may vary from person to person.

Commonly Seen Psilocybin Drug Combinations: 

Psilocybin is often used in combination with other drugs, both legal and illegal. Some commonly seen drug combinations include:

  1. Alcohol: Psilocybin and alcohol can have a synergistic effect, which can increase the risk of negative side effects such as confusion, paranoia, and impaired judgment.
  2. Cannabis: Psilocybin and cannabis can have a similar effect, which can increase the risk of negative side effects such as confusion, paranoia, and impaired judgment.
  3. Antidepressant or Antipsychotic: Psilocybin may interact with these medications and can increase the risk of negative side effects.
  4. MDMA: Psilocybin and MDMA can have a similar effect, which can increase the risk of negative side effects such as confusion, paranoia, and impaired judgment.

It’s important to note that these combinations can be dangerous and unpredictable and should be avoided.

Psilocybin Facts and Statistics:

Here is a list of psilocybin fun facts and statistics:

  • According to a 2013 survey, over 30 million Americans have used psychedelics at least once in their lifetime, and magic mushrooms were the third most commonly used psychedelic, after LSD and ecstasy.
  • According to the National Drug Survey 2020, Psilocybin was the second most popular psychedelic drug among participants in the US and Canada, behind LSD and ahead of DMT.
  • According to the latest statistics, there are approximately 190 species of mushrooms that contain psilocybin or its derivatives. 
  • A survey conducted by Johns Hopkins University in 2019 found that 18.8 percent of adults had tried psilocybin, while 8.6 percent had used it in the past year. This is a dramatic increase from the 3.2 percent of adults who had ever used it in the 2006-2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. 

This is an indicator of the growing trend of people looking to psilocybin as an alternative therapy for mental health issues, as well as its increasing acceptance in society.

Psilocybin History and Cultural Impact: 

The use of psilocybin mushrooms can be traced back to ancient cultures in Mesoamerica, where the indigenous people used them in religious and spiritual ceremonies. The Aztecs referred to the mushrooms as “teonanácatl,” which means “flesh of the gods.”

The first Westerner to document the use of psilocybin mushrooms was the ethnomycologist R. Gordon Wasson, who in 1955 published an article in Life magazine about his experiences with the mushrooms during a trip to Mexico. This sparked a renewed interest in the drug in Western culture and led to further research on the effects of psilocybin.

In the 1960s, psilocybin became a popular recreational drug in the United States, and was associated with the counterculture movement of the time. Many famous personalities of the era such as Timothy Leary, Ken Kesey, and Allen Ginsberg were known to have experimented with the drug.

In the 1970s, the U.S. government classified psilocybin as a Schedule I controlled substance, which made it illegal to use, possess, or distribute. This effectively ended most scientific research on the drug for several decades.

Psychedelics, including psilocybin, had a significant impact on music in the 1960s and 1970s. Many musicians of the era, such as Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, and The Grateful Dead, were known to have experimented with psychedelics and their music was heavily influenced by the psychedelic experience.

Pink Floyd is one of the most famous bands associated with the psychedelic era. Their music, characterized by its experimental nature, complex arrangements, and extended instrumental solos, was heavily influenced by the band members’ experiences with psychedelics. The album “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” (1967), Pink Floyd’s debut album, is considered a classic of psychedelic rock, and the band’s later album “Dark Side of the Moon” (1973) is considered one of the greatest albums of all time. In general, the 70s were a time when psychedelics had a profound impact on music, art, and culture.

In popular culture, Psilocybin Mushrooms have been portrayed in several movies and documentaries, some of the most notable being “Altered States” (1980), “The Magic Trip” (2011) and the famous Netflix documentary  “Have a Good Trip” (2020)

It’s important to note that psilocybin can be harmful to certain people and should not be used by those with a history of mental health issues such as schizophrenia, depression or bipolar disorder.

Psilocybin Identifiers 

Here is a list of psilocybin identifiers:

CAS Number 520-52-5 
Beilstein  273158
ChEBI 8614 
ChEMBL 194378 
ChemSpider 10178 
ECHA InfoCard 100.007.542 
EC Number 208-294-4
KEGG C07576 
MeSH Psilocybine
PubChem CID 10624
RTECS number NM3150000
UNII 2RV7212BP0 
CompTox Dashboard (EPA) DTXSID0048898 

Bottom Line: Psilocybin in the United States 

Overall, Psilocybin has been gaining more attention in the United States due to its potential health benefits. Numerous studies have been conducted and are still ongoing to further understand and explore the therapeutic effects of Psilocybin. 

While the effects of psilocybin are not fully understood, research indicates that it can have a wide range of positive effects when taken responsibly and in the right setting. However, it is important to note that there can be potential side effects and long-term risks associated with psilocybin use. 

If you are considering using psilocybin, it is important to consult a healthcare professional to ensure the safest and most beneficial experience.


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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