“Physiologically there's no toxicity and yeah, we're also seeing that they can help people therapeutically. So I think it's, it's a case of the culture very much now being completely won over by the science, if anything. And, and the current wave of psychedelic acceptance is very much being science driven.”
— Pat Smith
Psilocybin is legal in Oakland in Denver, and there's growing acceptance of the use of psychedelics to help fight depression, PTSD, eating disorders and addiction. And as any old hippie will tell you, shrooms can help you see God. What's going on? Is psilocybin really a tool for wellness? We talk with neuroscientist Pat Smith about the promise of therapeutic promise of psychedelics, from microdosing for work performance, to the spiritual journey that comes with bigger doses.
Kannaboomers (00:00): Hey, it's Tom. Welcome back to the Kannaboomers podcast. We're focused on cannabis and wellness and if you've been paying attention to that, you've probably noticed that people are also talking about psilocybin, also known as magical mushrooms. It's an interesting story. How did the party drug of the 1980s become the new wellness darling being used for PTSD, for smoking cessation in micro doses as a performance enhancement? It's a good story. So we pulled in Pat Smith, a London-based neuroscientist who has a lot of expertise and has been writing about this for a long time. It's a good interview. We cover a lot of ground. I am curious about some of your perspective on this, so if you do have questions or concerns or you'd like to just chat, drop me a line, firstname.lastname@example.org and sign up for our free weekly newsletter, five boom Friday. You can sign up for that, at kannaboomers.com as well. Thank you. Enjoy this episode. Pat really knows his stuff. So listen in and learn and let others know. Thanks for listening.
Kannaboomers (00:58): This is, Let's Talk About Weed, the Kannaboomers podcast, CBD, microdosing and all things related to medical cannabis for baby boomers from San Diego. Here's your host, Thomas J. We're here with Pat Smith. Hi Pat. How are you today?
Pat Smith (01:14): Hey, I'm all right, great to be here.
Kannaboomers (01:16): You're in London, right?
Kannaboomers (01:17): Yeah, I live in London, UK, one of the hubs of psychedelic activity in the world at the moment.
Kannaboomers (01:23): Wow. Well I didn't know that. What is it about London that makes it a hub?
Pat Smith (01:28): I mean, partially it's that you've got two large research centers here at Imperial college and UCL in London that do quite a bit of the psychedelic research that's especially into psilocybin, that's been coming out recently. And then also, it's the home of the psychedelic society, the London psychedelic society, which is probably one of the largest in the world and holds events across the country. They also hold psychedelic retreats, and magic mushroom retreats in Amsterdam. So there's a lot going on in London. If you're interested in psychedelics, there's a big underground scene as well as the above board stuff. So there's a lot happening here.
Kannaboomers (02:05): So in terms of acceptance, do you see it as being greater in the UK or greater in the US?
Pat Smith (02:12): That's an interesting question and since I haven't lived in the US I'm not sure I could answer that, you know, fully, but here there are very different views on drugs and I think in the UK there's a big stigma still against cannabis, much more of a stigma than there is in the US obviously because you've had such a big wave of legalization. And here I think psychedelic decriminalization is more likely to happen here before cannabis, which is quite an interesting difference. And, people here seem to be a little bit more pragmatic and a little bit more accepting of the potential of psychedelics, especially in treating mental health conditions compared to cannabis, which it just still such a stigma attached. And people just see it as a drug of abuse rather than a drug that can be used for healing.
Kannaboomers (03:04): We'll dive into the stigma in a little bit, but that is our focus with Kannaboomers is primarily on wellness. And we do talk about cannabis most of the time, but we're interested in other aspects of it too. So let me ask you, how can psilocybin and other psychedelics help promote personal wellness?
Pat Smith (03:23): Well, there are two sort of main areas where psychedelics can help with wellness. The first is with specific conditions. So mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, OCD and then you have physical conditions like cluster headaches. The second area is in a more sort of general psychological wellness, the connection to self connection to other people so it can improve relationships, connection to nature, and also a connection to a mystical experience, which a lot of people are lacking in their everyday lives. So their connection to some kind of spiritual experience to some kind of sense of divine power purpose or something beyond the self. So, in those two areas, psychedelics hold a lot of potential.
Kannaboomers (04:15): It kinda gets into, I don't know, I'll call it hippy dippy or, you know, some of the stuff that is seen as way out there, but it's a way to begin to integrate a spiritual side into your life.
Pat Smith (04:29): Absolutely. Especially for people who haven't really encountered much spirituality or haven't got much spirituality in their life and sort of rightfully are afraid of or shy away from organized religion and see the damage that organized religion can do. I think psychedelics offer a way to introduce people to spirituality in a more secular way. They don't have to be in a church, they don't have to be, you know, singing hymns. It's a very personal encounter with or can be a very personal encounter with the sort of whatever mystical aspects of reality that feel important to you or encounters with personal meaning on a really deep level that you may not have encountered before.
Kannaboomers (05:11): Do you see pushback from organized religion when we talk about that aspect?
Pat Smith (05:17): That's an interesting question. I would say there's always going to be religious people who disagree with psychedelics. I think one area I know a little bit about is Buddhism that some people interpret,One of the rules of Buddhism, which is basically sobriety to mean that you can't take any substances even if they are substances that might assist in a meditative, journey or assist in the practicing of Buddhism. So some of it I disagree with psychedelics and others, others think that it could be incorporated into religious practice. Personally, I see more that religious practitioners are quite open to the idea of psychedelics being part of organized religion. And certainly that's the way it's been in humanity's past. There have been a number of indigenous societies where psychedelics have been very much fundamental to the practicing of religions. And one other thing to point out is that there's a study ongoing I think organized by maps, which is the multidisciplinary association of psychedelic studies, were they are giving psychedelics to religious leaders, various religious leaders to, to see kind of psychedelic trips that they ended up having are significantly different from those of non-religious people. So, you know, from where I'm sitting as much more acceptance and curiosity among religious people and from religious organizations than there is fear.
Kannaboomers (06:55): That's interesting. I mean, it may help you connect with your God, whichever God you're hoping to connect with.
Pat Smith (07:02): Yeah, absolutely. I think it has enormous potential to just introduce spirituality in a way that's meaningful for the individual, which is certainly lacking in Western culture at the moment.
Kannaboomers (07:18): One thing we didn't touch on at the top, you're a neuroscientist, so you do have an understanding of the brain and chemicals in the brain and so on.
Pat Smith (07:26): Yeah, that's right. I started my career as a neuroscientist and spent several years studying as a researcher. And I have a Ph.D. In cell biology in stem cell biology, which is a little different from neuroscience, but I'm still primarily a neuroscientist. And that's the reason I became interested in psychedelics because I felt I was studying consciousness from the ground up and it felt like psychedelics might offer me an opportunity to examine consciousness from the other direction. And after having explored psychedelics a little bit personally,then pushed me to want to get more involved in the psychedelic movement rather than neuroscience, which I felt was kind of hitting a bit of a brick wall in terms of how much it, how much power it had to actually explain consciousness.
Kannaboomers (08:19): And I know over in the United States, for instance, cannabis is really not taught very much in medical schools. And I'm wondering in your experience in academia and possibly into medical school, is there still a stigma around psychedelics or is there a greater acceptance?
Pat Smith (08:35): Certainly greater acceptance. I think because also there's, like I mentioned, there's quite a strong research base here and neuroscience has always been a popular part of the life sciences and the fact that so many of the big names psychedelic studies have been neuroimaging. I think psychedelics are very much by mainstream science and it's a topic that garners lots of interest, lots of following and is considered very legitimate. At Imperial college, the psychedelic research group has been set up I think, sometime around the middle of last year. And they have, you know, they have their own Institute now. It's a fully fledged field of neuroscience now.
Kannaboomers (09:19): Well, I guess I'm interested in your perspective around has, is the culture catching up to the science? Again, there's stigma. In the seventies and eighties, we were told we were risking chromosomal damage if we took psychedelics that it could permanently brain damage you. That story had an effect over time. Just like the anti cannabis propaganda, but science uncovers reality. Is the culture catching up to the scientific knowledge on this?
Pat Smith (09:46): Yeah, I would say the science is absolutely helping lead the way and change change a lot of these stigmas like you say, I mean those, those old stories about LSD, you know, giving you birth defects, chromosomal damage, you know, staring into the sun until you were blind. All that, all that kind of stuff, all completely fabricated or completely non-scientific. And now, yes, people are believing this science that saying these substances are relatively harmless. Physiologically there's no toxicity and yeah, we're also seeing that they can help people therapeutically. So I think it's a case of the culture very much now being completely won over by the science, if anything. And, and the current wave of psychedelic acceptance is very much being science driven. And the people who are leading the scientific community are very often clinicians and scientists. They're the people who are listened to. They're the people who were interviewed in the news, in the mainstream coverage of psychedelics.
Kannaboomers (10:56): So it's, yeah, it's a different story to, to the sort of counterculture movement of the sixties and seventies, right? I mean, as we edge into the mainstream, what do you think that looks like down the road? Can you walk into a drug store and buy a psychedelic dose? Are there centers where you go on a retreat? What would it look like when we really accept this as positive medicine?
Pat Smith (11:23): Yeah, I mean, there are a lot of different ways it could look. That's for sure the way I'd like the future of psychedelics to look as that it's very much community centric. So instead of, you know, being able to walk into a pharmacy and get a prescription, instead you're going to a community center, which is run by experts with locally grown psychedelic products, and you're guided through a carefully curated ceremony by people who know what they're doing and a dedicated to your benefit. I think there's certainly a more likely reality is regulation particularly medical regulation. So you might see that the only places you could get psychedelics are through licensed medical centers with licensed therapists. You could, you may have to be of a particular level of suffering you know, at a party you, you may have to adhere to particular script medical screening requirements and there may be a lot of control over who can be a psychedelic therapist. So basically I think there's, it's going to be a mix of seeing yeah, the kind of over the counter stuff, the kind of something that looks a bit more like legalization and then something that's a bit more like medicalization where you have therapy centers but it's all very licensed and very regulated. And then maybe you'll have pockets of decriminalization where it's very much community driven and there's not so much profit and corporate interest. And you're seeing decriminalization efforts working quite successfully in the, in the U.S. At the moment led by decriminalized nature and Oakland and Denver and Santa Cruz at the moment.
Kannaboomers (13:21): Well you did mention a couple things in there that are interesting to the aspect of corporate and the profitability of it. I mean, that's what drives the development of, of any consumer product in, in most of the world. And I think you also mentioned like locally grown. So that's a distinction for psilocybin. And there's also, as you mentioned earlier, LSD and other, I guess, lab developed possibilities as well, right?
Pat Smith (13:46): Oh yeah, absolutely. The psychedelic world is not limited to natural materials, although they're very different. So ketamine for example, has reached patients in the U S I believe it's already been given off label to people for the treatment of depression. Yeah, you have LSD, which has been shown to be also effective in treating depression and you have MDMA which has reached phase three clinical trials in the U.S and has been given a breakthrough therapy status by the FDA. So yeah, in many ways these synthetic substances are a little ahead of the natural ones in terms of the medicalization and the possible corporatization. But you, you also see that with some of the natural psychedelics. So compass pathways is a company that has taken over psych, taken over research into psilocybin quite heavily. They've invested heavily into the manufacture of psilocybin and they may be a big player in the potential medical model of magic mushrooms.
Pat Smith (14:55): Yeah, I mean if you're looking for psychedelic healing, you have a huge variety of options from the synthetic to the natural. Obviously in the situation I painted where you know, communities would ideally be growing magic mushrooms or other psychedelic plants and fungi in, in, you know, within their own control. They can't really to the same extent set up an LSD lab. So it looks like the, it looks like medicalization will be more heavily synthetic and the natural side of things may end up being more about decriminalization and allowing both religious freedoms and individual cognitive freedoms and personal liberties.
Kannaboomers (15:46): We've talked about the medicalization and also using this as a more organic substance, but I'm wondering if there's a distinction to be made when we're talking about the profitability. I mean, it's not like toothpaste where you use it every single day. So for companies, you mentioned Compass Pathways is, is there a, you know, a clear path to this being profitable?
Pat Smith (16:11): Yeah, that's a great question. I, as most of the clinical studies into magic mushrooms have, have, have shown that a single moderate dose or a couple of moderate doses are enough to significantly reduce symptoms or have positive benefits for, you know, six months or longer. So that you're right in the pharmaceutical companies don't really have that much to gain. In terms of the money, whether where the industry comes in is that also in a lot of these studies, people were given psilocybin as part of a larger kind of therapy session. So they'd, they'd go through several courses of several sessions of therapy over the course of the study. And this would require a therapy diet of two highly trained therapists and takes lots of time and money in the MDMA trials, for example, which is also something that only needs a couple of moderate doses to have a significant and lasting effect.
Pat Smith (17:14): You know, one of these courses of MDMA assisted psychotherapy currently costs about $15,000 before insurance has covered it. So there's a lot of scope for this being adopted by companies and it's very much within the psychedelic-assisted therapy model where the psychedelic is not the thing that's earning the money. It's the psychedelic being part of a larger therapy session where the psychedelic has been used to boost the effectiveness of a typical therapy course. You also have the, the, the you also have the profitability of psychedelic retreats and ceremonies. So you have many of these operating that can charge a lot of money to give you a sort of luxurious all inclusive package of traveling to another country, having your plant medicine ceremony with expert guidance alongside maybe also workshops, massage, yoga, all sorts of other things that can bump up the price.
Pat Smith (18:16): So there's, although, although psilocybin is certainly something that does not follow the usual pharmaceutical model of something that needs to be given out again and again and again, there's still a lot of potential for corporatization, a lot of potential for businesses to want to invest and to want to get that hands on, on different models of, of providing psilocybin. So Compass Pathways for example, are hoping to make money partially through patenting, one way of making psilocybin as well as hoping to make money through researching the best ways to provide the therapy courses that accompany it.
Kannaboomers (19:00): Sure. There's always a market for self-realization, right? Absolutely. The broader question I guess is how people use this and how does the world change when people do have a connection to God or they have greater self-awareness? What does the world really look like when people can use this tool to really develop themselves?
Pat Smith (19:21): Yeah, I mean, that's a really interesting question and it's a very deep one. We've grown up a little bit from the times when many of the counterculture movement thought that a dose of LSD in the water supply would be enough to change the world. You know, many people these days still believe that if you gave Donald Trump a bit of LSD, he would completely change his policies. You know, I think we've, we've got to the point where we realize that psychedelics by themselves and not enough to change the world and make a positive difference, we have to be really conscious about the way we're using them. And for what purposes? So a lot of the self developments kind of retreats or, or businesses that you psychedelics have been marketing them as a way to boost your productivity at work or to, you know, boost your performance as a capitalist, you know, and not so much been focused on personal wellbeing, sort of improving your relationships to each other, to yourself imprudently sort of exploring your spirituality, improving your connection to nature.
Pat Smith (20:29): I think we need to take psychedelics with those intentions for them to really have a positive impact in the world and to understand that it's not sort of like a one pill and everything's okay kind of thing. Psychedelics introduce you to a lot of potential to change, but to change yourself, but you still have to do the work yourself, which is why a lot of the amazing results we've seen from the clinical research happen when the people taking psychedelics are doing so within a context of therapy. They have therapists guiding them and making them feel safe and allowing them to explore the deeper aspects of themselves in an ideal setting. So psychedelics certainly have the potential to make the world a better place, but we need to be doing them in a way that is intentional and very carefully guided and we'd need to be very aware that they can do damage, they can brainwash people, they can give people traumatic experiences that potentially dangerous as well as being, having the potential to absolutely change the world.
Pat Smith (21:33): One thing I could go into a bit more depth about is, is the connection to nature as aware, sort of as the world is becoming more aware of how dire the climate crisis is. A lot of research is coming out showing that psychedelics can boost our connection to nature and our realization that we have a part in nature that we're not just a separate entity that doesn't, you know, that doesn't, our actions don't have consequences. But again, that's something that requires intention. If someone has no connection to nature at all as a baseline and then takes magic mushrooms in a dark room with no one around, it's very unlikely that that experience in itself is going to make them feel more connected to nature. It's much more likely that if you have someone who's already curious about exploring a connection to nature and then trips outside in a beautiful setting with the guidance of people who know what they're doing and you know, with a clear intention to explore that, then there's a great, there's a great potential to boost that person's appreciation of nature and to understand their place in it and to then maybe treat the world a little better.
Pat Smith (22:45): So, you know, that's a nice little example of how important it is to take psychedelics with intention and understanding that it's not just like flipping a switch, it's something that requires you to do a lot of work, both in terms of preparation and making sure you set it up with the right intention and then also making sure you integrate this experience in a way that actually makes sense. And that makes sure that shows you're aware that you have to do a lot of work afterwards.
Kannaboomers (23:15): Right. Maybe in the past, some of these things were seen as party drugs where you had this mind blowing experience and it didn't really matter what your mindset was. But if you think about it before, during and after and try to integrate it into whatever vision you may have, then that's a way where it is going to really make a difference. It's not going to be a one off trip.
Pat Smith (23:37): Yeah, absolutely. And, and let me say, it's not to say that magic mushrooms can't be to another, psychedelics can't be taken with no intention and they can be fun and they can be recreational. But yeah, taking them with the intention and with careful consideration and with the acknowledgement that this is about working on yourself is much more powerful.
Kannaboomers (24:01): And all of this is sort of on the spiritual and emotional side, but you're a neuroscientist. Can you tell us what we know about the mechanism that it's, that's at work? How do psychedelics work in your brain to have this result?
Pat Smith (24:15): Yeah, I'd like to, I'd like to go a little bit into the neuroscience and then also talk about how psychedelics actually work when we look at them and the experiences they evoke in people. So the neuroscience where we're understanding quite a bit more now about how psychedelics work in the brain. Matt, I'll stick to magic mushrooms because you know, we actually have got quite a bit of information about how these magic mushrooms work through this molecule called psilocybin. As soon as that's ingested into the body, it's broken down into a slightly different molecule called psilocyin which then goes to activate a specific mode, mainly a specific type of serotonin receptor called 5 HT 2 A, although it does activate a whole host of other receptors, the activation of this receptor has a bunch of sort of knock on effects in the brain. But one way of summarizing what it does, and this has been backed up by some recent neuro-imaging studies, is that it allows the brain to become a bit more disorganized and then a bit more organized again after the, after the trip, which is why some leading researchers have described it as having a kind of reset effect in that it can break your brain out of a sort of whatever set patterns.
Pat Smith (25:32): It's got itself stuck into, into a very sort of high entropy state where everything is connecting and unusual ways. And then back down to being in a more ordered, a bit more solid and organized state than before. So this is the sort of leading theory of how psychedelics are working in the brain. And, especially magic mushrooms. One of the interesting things about this though is that we still can't really explain how that is connected to the mystical experience. And you in, in, in one of the big studies on psilocybin, the smoking cessation study where psilocybin has been shown to help people quit smoking at much better levels than most of the usual treatments. It seemed that people in that study who had the most mystical experiences also had the most the, the greatest clinical benefits. And we're seeing this in other studies as well, that basically across the board with psychedelics, the more mystical experience you, the greater the healing benefits. And this point is to the importance of realizing that the neuroscience is very interesting and definitely helps us understand how to treat disease and, and some mental health conditions. But it's also really important to understand the limitations of that and really focus on the experience that people are having. When you look at people who are having the most healing experiences with psychedelics, they're quite often talking about the power that psychedelics had to bring them deep within themselves to help them see maybe the root of that trauma or to help them revisit past memories or to come upon a sense of purpose that they feel like they'd lost or maybe never had. You know, these things are very hard to quantify in terms of neuroscience and we might never be able to, and we also might not even need to. I think it's important to remember when we're talking about how psychedelics work, these are primarily substances that affect the way we see the world.
Pat Smith (27:47): So the first thing we should be asking, or the first thing we should be investigating when we look into how psychedelics work is how do they make people feel? Where are people going when they take psychedelics without this understanding. So like for example, psychedelic assisted therapy wouldn't work at all because therapists need to understand where the psychedelics are taking people, you know, so understand that psychedelics quite often help people revisit past traumas within a new context. And the therapist can then guide the participant through this experience in a really helpful way because they understand what's going on. You can't get this level of insight just from looking at the neuroscience, so the neuroscience can help us understand maybe the pharmacology of how we can develop drugs that are in some ways more effective or have fewer side effects, that kind of thing, but that also has to be paired with an understanding of the subjective experience of psychedelics.
Kannaboomers (28:49): You said a couple of things there. Sort of the disorganization, reorganization, reset aspect, which most of us can understand. You know, when our computer crashes or there's so many of our devices where you know, you turn it off and reboot it and it comes back online. That's a pretty mechanistic view. Then there's the sort of call it ego death, I guess, where you step outside yourself and have a different lens. I mean Aldous Huxley wrote Doors of Perception in the 1950s where he talked about just having a different perspective. Right?
Pat Smith (29:20): Yeah. And some neuroscientists will start to say that the kind of reorganization you're seeing in the brain is an explanation for the ego death. And is, is sort of, you know, the cause of being able to explore things beyond normal reality. But I think I could go into a lot more depth into this, but when that happens, it's scientists becoming philosophers, which is not always the best idea I know from experience. So basically, yeah, you, you have that sort of very mechanistic view of what's happening, where you're looking at the brain from the outside in and seeing it sort of reset, I guess in some ways. But then you have the, the much more, I think, rich side of things where like Aldous Huxley experienced and so many other psychonauts before and since him psychedelics take you to a completely new way of experiencing the universe. You, your typical ego, your typical way of thinking about yourself and the world is often completely dissolved. You're left somewhere completely alien, completely new, and you sort of have to piece yourself back together in a way. And what the mech mechanistic neuroscience explanation leaves out is that it really, from a personal level is not very much like flicking a switch off and on. Again, it's very much about going on a journey and having to work your way back and having to encounter things. And it's a very active process. You know, it's not like a switch turning on and off. It's not like rebooting a computer. It can give you the opportunity to look at yourself in a lot more depth and reorganize your own perception of self and the world. But it's your, your, your consciousness is not your brain. That's absolutely something that is up to the philosophers to talk about, not the scientists.
Kannaboomers (31:34): Right. And the artists, Alice in Wonderland. I mean, there's a reason why it's called a trip. As you say, it's, it's not a binary on, off thing. And for a lot of people that's a scary proposition. Piecing yourself back together. It could be fun or it could be a horrible ride.
Pat Smith (31:52): Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Under, I mean, this is why the most positive benefits we're seeing with psychedelics are with people who are guided by therapists or by people who are very experienced. You know, it's true that piecing yourself back together can be terrifying, especially for people who've had no experience with these kinds of states or who have a lot of trauma in their past. If you're going through a psychedelic experience without someone there to guide you or look after you, it can be truly awful and it can be, it can have lasting traumatic effects. So in one study surveyed around 2,000 people who do use psilocybin at home and had a challenging experience as the result of it, around 150 of them said the experience was so severely traumatizing that they had to seek long-term psychological help afterwards. So I think this certainly this ego dissolution and then piecing yourself back together, the entire psychedelic experience can be very, very difficult. It can be very challenging. It can be traumatic. The most potential for having a good trip and encountering the healing benefits is having a guide or having at least someone there who is sober, who has experience with the psychedelic and who can look after you.
Kannaboomers (33:18): This is sort of a recurring theme in this conversation is you know, the before, during and after and the follow through in a therapeutic way. So I think maybe it, I don't know if you're saying, you know, kids don't try this at home. If you are interested in this in the UK you would connect with Imperial College. In the United States, maybe you go to Oakland and Denver and look for someone who's a guide, but it might not be wise to just go willy nilly and, and trying this on your own.
Pat Smith (33:46): Yeah, I guess so. And it's, it's, it's not quite as harsh as saying, don't, don't do this, you know, because because people have been taking psychedelics recreationally for decades in the West and for a very long time and the rest of the world and you know, they're overall not hugely harmful and people have great times on them. People, you know, believe me, I have heard horrendous stories of people mixing all sorts of psychedelics and having a great time at raves and coming home and being absolutely fine. It's, it's just so, it's not so much a case of, you know, don't do this at home more. If you are really interested in exploring psychedelics for a particular reason and especially if it's to explore a mental health issue you have, you will benefit the most from seeking out someone who can help you. Ideally a therapist or a guide who is very experienced with psychedelics. It may be enrolled in a study if you have what yet, as you say, may be enrolled in a study. If you have one going near, you consider flying to a country where there are psychedelic retreats that are held responsibly with medical professionals and therapists on hand. Go to, yeah, maybe go to Oakland, Denver or Santa Cruz or maybe one of the other cities that are lined up to decriminalize psychedelics next and find your local psychedelic guide who can, who can help you through an experience so you don't have to go it alone.
Kannaboomers (35:17): Yeah. The warning is not so stern, but it is to stay away from it necessarily, but to, for a better result, talk with someone who's experienced at this and, and you'll probably have a better outcome. Yeah, absolutely. Well, with that in mind, how about sourcing it? I mean, I know with CBD in this country, you know, ran into the vape crisis last fall that I tell people, you know, don't buy your CBD at a gas station and, and make sure it's organic and it's from a source, a source that's certified. How do you know where to look if you want it to get some psilocybin and how would you know if it is quality?
Pat Smith (35:54): Yeah. So you have a number of options with magic mushrooms. The best one I think is that they grow, they grow everywhere. They grow in America, they grow anywhere that it's damp and moist and sheltered. There are many guides out there to identifying wild growing magic mushrooms. You can go out to your local woodland, try and see if you can identify some and make sure you get it right, obviously. Cause there are some poisonous species out there, but I think that's the best way to encounter magic mushrooms in most places. It's not illegal to go out and pick them as long as it's for personal consumption. So, you know, that's, I think, should be everyone's first port of call. Other than that, you can obviously go somewhere it's been decriminalized. It's hard to, if you're eating kind of dried mushrooms, it's hard for it to be adulterated.
Pat Smith (36:54): You know, like, synthetic psychedelics often are mixed with other things. It looks like a mushroom. It's probably a psychedelic mushroom unless someone's trying to kill you with a poisonous one and why would anyone do that? Uthey, the only sort of common misconception is that the,ured, and I don't know if this is even worth including the common misconception is that the red and white spotted amanita muscaria mushroom is a magic mushroom that is actually not a magic mushroom that contains a substance called musker mold, which is very unpleasant and,is quite different from the psilocybin mushroom experience. So your, your ports of call are sort of, sorry to just recap for myself. Growing them, going somewhere where it's sort of decriminalized. You can also order psilocybin truffles online from the Netherlands, psilocybin truffles or just an earlier stage of development of the magic mushroom and they are legal in the Netherlands.
Pat Smith (37:54): So depending on where you are in the world, you can order them. You also have the option in some states of borrowing your own magic mushrooms. I know New Mexico, it's legal to grow your own magic mushrooms. In many states, it's legal to buy magic mushrooms, spores online. So you can grow your magic mushrooms from spores in many states. So I would say look up the laws of your own state, see if you can purchase some spores online and make, grow your own magic mushrooms because that's a fun process. It's kind of difficult to grow mushrooms, especially if you've never done anything like it before. But it can be quite a satisfying experience to have grown your own magic mushrooms from nothing and for it to be done legally as well. Those are kind of your only options until decriminalization sweeps across the country and you'll have a number of different options of where to go and buy magic mushrooms.
Kannaboomers (38:51): The finding them in the wild. I think that would be fun to do, but I would be very careful knowing that, yeah, there are some that are poisonous. I mean you would, you would have to have someone very confident or the confidence yourself that this is what I'm looking for. And then would you eat them fresh or would you dry them out or how would you process that?
Pat Smith (39:14): Yes, so you can eat the magic mushrooms fresh. They don't taste very nice. So most people tend to try and brew them into a tea or drink them with ginger and lemon. Most people dry them just because they're not so easy to store them. So you can try them with a dehydrator and then just keep them in a Tupperware and is Tupperware a word in America?
Kannaboomers (39:36): Oh it sure is. Yeah.
Pat Smith (39:37): Okay, good. All right. And save them for later and just chew on them. You need to make sure you're aware of what species that the mushroom is and ideally and so that you're aware of the dose and make sure you're taking a responsible dose for first timers. Take a relatively low dose. That can be anything. Let me, let me just check up my chart here. So I'm definitely giving correct information cause this is really important.
Pat Smith (40:12): So at a sort of low dose of fresh mushrooms may be around the sort of 10 gram range. But again, this will depend on the species and if the mushrooms are dried, this will be around one gram would be a low dose. So for, for anyone new to magic mushrooms, take a take a very low dose and you know, all the usual disclaimers and, and notes about preparation apply, such as making sure you're in a comfortable and safe environment with a sober sitter and with no distractions and sort of a plan for what you're going to do and make sure you have some nice food and, and water and comfortable things around to occupy you.
Kannaboomers (40:58): When we talk about dosing, there's the trip dose and then I know some people are microdosing. I mean, I know up in Silicon Valley as you said, some people are taking psychedelics as a performance enhancer, right?
Pat Smith (41:10): Yeah. And not sort of what I was alluding to earlier when I mentioned the people suggesting that psychedelics can help make you a better capitalist worker. So yeah, many people are interested in microdosing and I think that's actually a good way to get introduced to psychedelics. If you've never taken any before and if you're a bit afraid of taking a full dose, that will make your trip. Microdosing involves just taking around the 10th to a hundredth of a, of a normal dose. And basically the idea is that if you're doing it in a sort of, in a puritanical kind of way, it's supposed to not have any noticeable effects on your perception. So you can go about your day and have your normal do your normal activities and ideally at the end of the day feel sort of look back on the day and recognize that maybe there was a bit of a glow or things got done faster or you felt a bit more connected to people. So microdosing is an interesting route to introduce yourself to psychedelics. If you're, you know, a little bit apprehensive about taking a full dose, you don't necessarily need a setter, you don't necessarily need to clear out any time in your day or travel to another country. Just take a tiny dose and see how it makes you feel and take notes, take a few days break in between each microdose and you know, see if it's something you might be interested in in experiencing a full guided dose. Where at some point, something I should also mention about microdosing though is that currently there's a little bit of evidence that suggests that if you take magic mushrooms very frequently at low, even at low doses, there might be a slight risk of developing or increasing your chance of developing valvular heart disease. This is still a completely speculative thing. Uh and it may very well be that they're very safe to take frequently but just to be safe, people are advised to microdose for periods of three months or less and then take a break.
Kannaboomers (43:16): And that's an interesting way to put it, taking them in a puritanical way. But there's a spectrum, there's a spectrum of people who are maybe trying to improve their work performance and are interested in a very small dose. And then at the other end, someone who's looking for sort of a transformational experience to really change their life.
Pat Smith (43:35): Mm. Yeah. I mean microdosing is a difficult thing because yeah, there is no sort of one microdosing Bible and there's no one right way to do it. You know, you have everything from a microdose, which is, you know, barely perceptible at all. And some people would call a placebo up to something people would call it museum dose or what you take maybe half or a third of a normal dose. So you can wander around a museum or go see a film or something in a, with a pleasant buzz all the way up to the moderate doses you'd see in, in the sort of clinical studies. And then to the heroic doses where people take very unreasonable quantities of psychedelics in the hope of a complete ego destruction or who knows, going somewhere completely alien.
Kannaboomers (44:21): When you say ‘unreasonable dose,’ you talked about a one gram dose as a microdose when it's dried. What would that look like in heroic terms?
Pat Smith (44:31): Well, the one gram dose was, was a light, a light to moderate dose. A microdose would be a 10th of a gram. Ubut the heroic dose might be five grams or upwards. Depending again on the species in the and the person and their tolerance. And when I say unreasonable dose, it's not that it has any physiological toxicity. You know, people can take huge quantities of psychedelics and not have any physical risks. It's more that if you take such a large dose, you, you really want to make sure you know what you're getting yourself into, that you have a good support network around you, that you ideally have a good sitter or guide. You know, there, there are people who have taken very large doses of psychedelics and ended up reasonably traumatized. But yeah, the quantity can be huge. For example, in the 70s, a group of people snorted lines of crystal LSD by accident thinking it was cocaine. And they all survived even though they were taking thousands of times a typical dose. They did have some internal bleeding and very unpleasant symptoms, but none of them, none of them died. So when I say unreasonable, I, I'm just talking about, the fact that if you're going that high, you need to really make sure you're supported safely,
Kannaboomers (45:58): Right? You're going to bend reality. So you better batten down the hatches basically.
Pat Smith (46:03): Yeah, that's a good way of putting it.
Kannaboomers (46:04): What I hear you saying is this is all cut up a test and learn scenario. If you are sourcing it freshly or growing your own, you do need a scale to measure it. Otherwise, if you're buying it from a source as to somebody you need to trust and hopefully they can give you some advice as to the potency and what your dosage might be. But it's a lot like cannabis. I mean, for every individual I might have a different experience than you with a different cultivar and so on.
Pat Smith (46:33): Oh, absolutely. And they're the, well, the psychedelics are so magical for this way, for this reason. And especially natural psychedelics because different mushrooms have different effects, have different characteristics, different species. Different growers will grow their mushrooms in different ways. It's, it can be, yeah, really quite fascinating. This is why I would recommend getting involved with your local psychedelic community. Many cities in the U.S. Will have psychedelic groups and communities and getting involved with them is a good way of finding people who are growing plant medicines and a good way of getting in touch with magic mushrooms that you know are going to be good and you know, are going to be, are going to be okay. So that's, if you're interested in, in getting your hands on some magic mushrooms, make friends with the local psychedelic people and you know, maybe you'll get lucky enough to come across some and yeah, much like in the, in the, the world of cannabis finds all sorts of fascinating differences between different strains and how they'll have different effects on different people.
Kannaboomers (47:40): And I guess, you know, the caveat we have to mention is it is still illegal but like cannabis where prohibition is sort of on a roll. I mean state by state in the U.S. And I, you know, the UK has its own environment there, but we are sort of rolling towards legalization I think, or decriminalization.
Pat Smith (48:01): Oh, psychedelics. Yeah. Yeah, I mean the, the fact that last year we saw decriminalization in three U.S cities was really very encouraging and I think people were surprised at how quick it happened. And I think it shows the power of locals going through local government. Local governments are a lot more interested in the idea of reducing policing costs than the federal government. And I think we might be seeing the beginning of a wave of psychedelic decriminalization, which will be really interesting and we'll probably open up the availability of magic mushrooms to many more people and through, through community as well. And communities who know what they're doing because these initiatives are being led in cities which already have psychedelic infrastructure, so to speak. And there will be communities in these cities who know how to grow and use psychedelic plants. And I'd love to see this wave spread across the U.S. And with it a wave of education information and people being able to learn very quickly how best to use plant medicines in a safe and effective way.
Kannaboomers (49:22): That's a really positive scenario to project into the future. And I hope we do get there. Is there anything Pat we haven't discussed that you think is important for our listeners to hear?
Pat Smith (49:32): The one thing I'd like to say particularly is that as, as you've seen with the cannabis with cannabis legalization there have been some downsides to legal regulation in terms of in some cases unfair taxing in some cases, unfair monopolization of the market. And in some cases the fact that prior convicts have not been able to get jobs in the industry. I think if psych as psychedelics get more popular and start to go more mainstream, we have to be really aware of the risks of regulation and make sure that in my mind, I think the important thing is to make sure that decriminalization, it's the first step. And then we may be start thinking about how best to introduce models of regulated therapy and regulated markets because I think there were a lot of risks that have come with, with regulation and legalization and psychedelics could absolutely end up being co-opted by big businesses that are just interested in profit and just interested in restricting access to certain people rather than allowing the freedom of communities to develop their own ways of using psychedelics to boost personal well-being and community well-being in the in the best way as possible.
Kannaboomers (51:04): Well, I think I hear you saying you know, similar to cannabis you mentioned that local governments are doing as much faster than federal governments. So there is a good benefit to actually engaging with your local community and getting involved in this. If you are at all interested in promoting this, don't leave it to the politicians who don't always as we know get things right. It might be advantageous for all of us to look around locally, see who's involved in this.
Pat Smith (51:35): Yeah. And for anyone who's interested in America and getting involved, it's very easy to send an email. They'll go to the decriminalized nature website, which is DecriminalizedNature.org and you can contact them through the website and get an information pack. It's very easy to start organizing on a grassroots level and there may well be organization efforts underway in your city already. And if you want to get involved, it'll be easy to be a part of the coming wave of decriminalization.
Kannaboomers (52:06): Thanks Pat. This has been really interesting. I mean, I feel like we scratched the surface. There's so much more to talk about. So maybe we can have you back, but I also want to ask where you are online if people want to connect, if you're blogging anywhere or where people can find you.
Pat Smith (52:22): Sure. I write at thepsychedelicscientist.com. That's where I write all my personal material, although I do a bunch of other writing for different publications. And you can find me on Twitter at RJ Patrick Smith, which is where I mostly tweet angry things about UK politics and social justice. If that's your kind of thing, but that's the best place to get in touch with me.
Kannaboomers (52:44): Well, thank you so much for making the time. I know our listeners are going to love this information and I look forward to looking around locally, myself and experimenting in a test and learn fashion. Thanks for sharing your expertise.
Pat Smith (52:56): Thanks very much.
Kannaboomers (52:58): You've been listening to, Let's Talk About Weed, the Kannaboomers Podcast with Thomas J for more on medicinal cannabis for baby boomers. Visit us at Kannaboomers dot com.