Have you ever wondered what the “ideal” dose of psilocybin is?

Researchers at Johns Hopkins asked the same question—in fact, it was asked by Dr. Roland Griffiths, who has become a bit of a household name here on The Psilocybe Philosophy thanks to his tireless work in furthering the world’s understanding of the psychedelic compound. You may remember us mentioning his work in our comprehensive article The Benefits of Psilocybin or from this groundbreaking 2006 study.

And so, another piece of the psilocybin puzzle that Griffiths and his team attempted to answer concerns ideal dosage: something often difficult to determine for persons consuming wet or dry psilocybin mushrooms in locations where doing so is legal. The amount of psilocybin in each mushroom, even from the same “batch”, can vary quite significantly (which explains the oft-referenced idiom, “the mushroom chooses the dose,” or some variation thereof).

In today’s post, we’ll explore the findings of the “sweet spot” study, look at two somewhat contrasting views concerning the lasting effects of psilocybin, and discuss what the future of psilocybin research may hold—because as you’ll learn, our scientific knowledge of the compound is most certainly still in its infancy, even taking into account all of the recent advances both medically and legally.

What’s the Best Psilocybin Dosage? Finding the Elusive “Sweet Spot”

In the study where Griffiths and his team perhaps cracked the “ideal” dosage of psilocybin, 18 participants, males and females aged between 29 and 62, underwent five psilocybin sessions each—spread out, of course. The sessions took place once a month and lasted about eight hours. Only one of the participants had ever experienced a psychedelic experience before, so the overwhelming majority of the participants were considered “hallucinogen-naïve”.

Volunteers and subject at Johns Hopkins psilocybin study.

During each eight hour session, the volunteer subjects were administered a varying dose of psilocybin. The setting was made to be as comfortable for the subjects as possible: they would lay down on a couch, be given a blanket, and had the option to use a sleeping mask or earplugs. Volunteer researchers would sit with them, to provide guidance, comfort, and reassurance if necessary.

The interesting thing about the study is that neither the subjects nor the volunteer guides knew what the dosage of psilocybin was beforehand. That is to say, the study wasn’t set up so that each session involved an incrementally higher dose; dosages were administered to each patient at random. During one of the five sessions, psilocybin wasn’t administered at all.

The highest dose was 30mg of psilocybin per 70kg of body weight. At this dosage, 78% of participants reported as having a spiritually significant event, though they also experienced at least momentary feelings of anxiety, fear, or stress.

It turns out, at least within the context of this study, that the “sweet spot” was 20mg/70g. In this case, only one of all 18 subjects reported any negative feelings—that’s not to say that the entire experience was negative for that subject, just that they experienced some negative feelings. All of the subjects reported to have had a positive experience.

“Measurable Personality Changes Lasting at Least a Year”

We seem to have found levels of the substance and particular conditions for its use that give a high probability of a profound and beneficial experience.

Dr. Roland Griffiths, PhD
Dr. Griffiths psilocybin study graph.

All participants in the study experienced what was described as measurable personality changes which lasted at least a year. It should be noted that those personality changes were considered to be positive. Furthermore, 94% of the participants said that, even after over a year had passed, that the experience still ranked among the most beneficial spiritual experiences of their lives.

However, perhaps the most interesting finding of the study was that the lowest dose, just 5mg/70g, still yielded long-lasting positive results. The personality changes involved traits like openness, imagination, broad-mindedness, and overall feelings of positivity. What’s noteworthy about this is that most researchers agree that one’s capacity for imagination and abstract thinking tends to decrease with age, yet some of the participants in this study were in their 60s.

Some of the findings of Griffiths’ study may be considered overoptimistic by some. The positive personality changes lasting a year or longer is challenged by a more recent study lead by Frederick Barrett at Johns Hopkins (we say “challenged,” but Dr. Griffiths assisted with the study).

The study, Emotions and brain function are altered up to one month after a single high dose of psilocybin, suggested that the positive effects of psilocybin on mood, behavior, and thinking may last “only” as long as one month. However, the study did show an improvement in cases of addictions to alcohol or tobacco lasting as long as 12 months.

Regardless of how long the benefits last, perhaps the key takeaway here is that there are benefits, undeniably. That, for anyone hopeful for further legislative action concerning psilocybin-assisted therapy and related programs, is good news indeed.

Furthering Your Own Knowledge of Fungi: How to Start Studying Psilocybin Mushroom Spores

Psilocybin research is still, clearly, in its infancy—we have a long way to go. As we discussed a few weeks ago in our blog post Can Psilocybin Treat Depression, Obesity, or Tinnitus?, there are many areas of possible therapeutic psilocybin application which haven’t been explored nearly enough or, in some cases, not formally explored at all.

If you’d like to study psilocybin mushroom spores for yourself, it’s quite legal to do so in 47 of the 50 states. Join an ever-growing community of amateur microscopists and mycologists to see what this fungi looks like in its most formative stage: the spore.

If you need microscopy equipment, including microscopes, slides, and all manner of accessories, we invite you to visit the microscopy gear section of our shop. If your lab is already prepared and you’re ready to study what we believe to be the most interesting specimens on the planet, you may also begin shopping for exotic mushroom spores now.