So, you’d like to dive into the wide world of shrooms—welcome! Tripping with psilocybin mushrooms can yield many rich insights and, as the psychedelic renaissance continues to blossom, an increasingly sought-after experience. Currently, psychedelic mushrooms are being studied for their capacity to help people with addiction, intractable depression, end-of-life anxiety, and other challenges in which more conventional approaches are less successful. You may be dosing for wellbeing, to explore consciousness, or just for fun. Yet, no matter why you choose shrooms, there are some important things to consider before taking that first trip—like just how much shrooms should a beginner take, anyway?
The First Time Doing Shrooms
If this is your first time tripping with shrooms, you’re probably eager to get started, but remember that you’re most likely to have a positive experience if you’ve taken some time to prepare. Dosing your shrooms properly and considering important factors like set and setting will help make your first trip as stress-free and enjoyable as possible.
Set and setting
Aside from proper dosing (covered in detail in the next section), the two most important factors that will affect your mushroom trip are set and setting. Introduced by Timothy Leary back in the 1960s, set and setting refer to the internal and external environments of your trip.
Your setting is your environment. It includes the places and people you’ll be around while tripping. For your first time on shrooms, it’s best to stay in a safe, familiar place where it’s neither too cold nor too hot, and where it will be easy to meet your physical needs for water, snacks, and bathroom breaks. Because the natural world can feel especially enticing when you’re tripping, it’s optimal to have some indoor and outdoor space available to you, such as a house with a private yard or garden.
Overly crowded—or on the flip side, overly remote—environments like concerts, festivals, public parks, and wilderness camping spots are not recommended for your first time doing shrooms; it’s too easy to get lost and emergency services are not as accessible. Likewise, you’ll want to make sure you feel safe among the people you plan to trip, or interact with—and make sure you discuss boundaries and make a safety plan with them ahead of time.
Because tripping with shrooms can enhance your senses and help you see things in new ways, you might also want to gather some items beforehand—such as art supplies, fun textures or fabrics, instruments, crystals, incense, and a journal and pen—to explore your creativity or jot down ideas and insights that bubble up. Music and lighting can help cultivate a mood, so choose those intentionally as well. The demands of the outside world may feel jarring when you’re tripping, so it’s a good idea to let people know you’ll be unavailable for several hours and put your phone on airplane mode for the duration of your trip. And, if you’re a parent, make sure your kids have a sober caregiver in a separate space.
The term set refers to your mindset. It includes all that you bring to the experience: your mood, your mental and emotional frame, and even your past experiences, expectations, and intentions for the trip. Make sure that you’re well-rested, and that your body is hydrated and nourished before you trip. It’s best to eat a light, healthy meal a few hours before taking shrooms so that you’re neither full nor hungry by the time you begin. It’s also helpful to begin your trip by affirming your openness to the experience, your willingness to learn from the mushrooms, and a sense of self-acceptance.
It’s helpful to take a little time to center yourself in whatever way is most helpful and accessible before taking mushrooms. That might look like practicing yoga, meditating, doing breathing exercises, spending time in nature, or whatever else helps you feel refreshed, grounded, and ready. Many explorers choose to pre-journal in advance of their trip. Consider exploring questions like: Why do I feel called to this experience right now? What answers am I seeking from this experience?
Consider Asking Someone to “Trip Sit” or Guide You
For your first time on shrooms, you may want to ask someone with experience to shepherd you through the trip and ensure your safety. Through your personal network or the internet, you may be able to locate psychedelic guides or shamans—some of whom also have training as therapists. If you don’t already know the person, it’s a good idea to vet their experience and perspective in advance. If you’re looking to address difficult mental health issues or heal from trauma, you may want to seek out a clinical trial for a highly supportive environment with trained facilitators. To locate a clinical trial, start here, here, or here.
Alternatively, you can ask a trusted friend to be a sober “trip sitter,” whose job is to help keep you physically safe and to act as a compassionate, reassuring presence throughout the duration of your trip.
Tripping on Shrooms Isn’t Necessarily for Everyone
Although many people have positive experiences on shrooms, psilocybin can inspire physically, emotionally, and psychologically intense experiences. Consult a knowledgeable healthcare provider—preferably someone familiar with psychedelics—before taking shrooms if you have any of the following conditions:
- Cardiovascular issues
- Psychotic spectrum disorder
- Depression treated with SSRIs or SNRIs
- Serious mental health challenges or suicide risk
- Chronic health issues and/or regular intake of pharmaceuticals
Although, it’s important to keep in mind that this list is a brief one; psychedelic research is still emerging and there is still quite a lot to learn about potential contraindications. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s also best to hold off on psychedelics use since we don’t have much research on how psychedelic compounds do, or don’t, affect a developing fetus or baby.
How Much Shrooms Should a Beginner Take?
Roland Griffiths, Ph.D., a clinical pharmacologist at Johns Hopkins University who runs trials on psilocybin therapy, has found in the course of his research that five milligrams of psilocybin per 70 kilograms of body weight is a low dose, and 30 milligram of psilocybin per 70 kilograms is a high dose. Doses upwards of 20 milligrams per 70 kilograms, he has found, increases the likelihood of challenging experiences—which can be transformational for the tripper but should also be approached with caution.
Due to psilocybin mushrooms’ illegal status, most people don’t have access to potency testing. Given this difficulty, it’s common to dose shrooms according to dry weight. If you’re consuming fresh mushrooms, multiply the gram recommendations by 10 to make up for the water weight in the fresh product. Keep in mind that fresh mushrooms are more potent than dried mushrooms. The following dosage guidelines are to be used with dried psilocybe cubensis, the most common psilocybin mushroom grown and consumed today:
Microdose of Psilocybin
Anywhere between .1 gram and .5 gram of dried psilocybin mushrooms is considered a microdose. (Some sources extend the microdosing range from .1 g to 1 g, but the latter is likely to produce a more intense experience if you don’t have a tolerance to shrooms.) Even though microdosing psilocybin won’t produce the full psychedelic experience, anecdotally, many people choose it for subtle advantages like boosting focus and stabilizing mood
If you’re seeking to macrodose (i.e., consume a larger dose of psilocybin for a robust psychedelic experience) but you’re worried about jumping in too quickly, microdosing first can help you acclimate to the effects of psilocybin at low doses. Because of the subtlety of the experience, you can microdose psilocybin more frequently than you can macrodose, and you may want to check out the Fadiman protocol and the Stamets stack to help you develop a strategy.
Low Dose of Psilocybin
If you’re looking to trip, it’s advisable to start with a dose between .5 and two grams of dried psilocybin mushrooms. Starting on the lower end of this range will help you get to know mushrooms’ effects on you, and to get a sense of your batch’s potency. At these lower doses, you may still have a profound psychedelic experience, but it’ll probably feel like a more manageable one. Navigating mellower psychedelic trips will also help you develop the skills to tackle higher doses and more intense trips.
Moderate Dose of Psilocybin
Between two and 3.5 grams of dried psilocybin mushrooms is considered a moderate dose that’s likely to amplify sensations and lead to a bigger psychedelic experience. Be aware that things could get intense here—particularly at the higher end of the range. Some sources recommend first-time trippers to consume 3.5 grams of dried mushrooms, but because the likelihood for difficult experiences grows significantly with higher doses, this may not be the best place to start.
High Dose of Psilocybin
Anywhere from 3.5 to 5 grams of dried psilocybin mushrooms is considered a high dose that’s likely to produce an intense psychedelic trip. At this range, potentially life-changing mystical and spiritual experiences are possible—but high doses should be approached with a healthy dose of caution. These doses are not recommended for beginners unless you’re prepared to face some difficult material and, potentially, to experience what’s known in the psychedelic space as “ego death.”
The late psychedelics advocate, author, and ethnobotanist, Terence McKenna famously called five grams of psilocybin a “heroic dose,” with the capacity to “flatten the most resistant ego.” To reap the full benefit, McKenna advised psychonauts to consume in a dark, quiet space without distraction and to embark on a deeply inward journey.
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In this range, trippers are more likely to confront challenging aspects of themselves, or parts they may have previously rejected or ignored—what’s referred to in Jungian psychology as the Shadow. Sometimes confronting one’s Shadow is accompanied by the fear of dying, going insane, or being permanently altered. These kinds of experiences, though potentially transformative, can also be traumatizing if you’re not prepared. The supervision of an experienced, vetted, and trusted guide is recommended for these heroic-level experiences.
Other Factors that Influence Psilocybin Potency
It’s important to know that other species of psilocybin mushrooms may differ in their potencies from psilocybe cubensis. Even the same species can vary in potency based on how it was grown; indoor-grown shrooms may have a higher potency than wild-harvested ones. Similarly, how mushrooms are stored can also affect their potency; the tryptamine alkaloid present in psilocybin may degrade over time, especially when exposed to sunlight.
Of course, species and quality are not the only factors that determine how a psilocybin mushroom may affect you. A mushrooms’ overall effects could also be influenced by how much food you’ve eaten, certain physiological and personality traits, as well as factors we don’t yet understand.
What To Expect On Shrooms
Tripping on shrooms can be wonderful, weird, fascinating, unpredictable—or a little bit of everything. At a certain point, words fail to describe an experience that’s at once mystical, mundane, and deeply personal. Dennis McKenna (Terence’s brother) has said that psilocybin helps “reverse the background-foreground relationship” in a way that lets you pay attention to the things you were previously taught to ignore.
Soon after ingesting mushrooms, you may feel nauseous as your stomach begins to break and digest the fibrous mushrooms. (If you have a sensitive stomach, you can try making mushroom tea or using the lemon tek preparation to alleviate nausea.) Your body may feel heavy or light, and you might notice dilated pupils and increased sensitivity to sunlight. The world and everyday objects in your environment may appear new and unfamiliar—beautiful, perhaps, or strange. You may find yourself absorbed in details that you normally take for granted, like the texture of tree bark, or the gentle sway of tall grass in the breeze.
Other sensations and experiences that could accompany your mushroom trip include:
- Walls that appear to breathe “Breathing” walls
- Objects appearing to dance, shift, move, or melt
- Senses altered, enhanced, or distorted
- Synesthesia (i.e., “hearing colors,” “smelling sounds,” or mixing of other senses)
- Appearance of elaborate geometric shapes and patterns when you close your eyes
- Feelings of love, acceptance, interdependence, and the oneness of all things
After intentionally considering your dose, along with your set and setting, consider the advice of Bill Richardson, author of the psychedelics guide, Sacred Knowledge, for navigating the varied sensations of a mushroom trip: “Trust. Let Go. Be Open.”
Length of a Shroom Trip
Expect to start feeling the mushrooms’ effects within 30 to 60 minutes—faster if you used the lemon tek method—and for the trip to last anywhere from four to six hours. Effects can last up to eight hours or more. You will likely reach peak effects within one to three hours, though many people also experience a shroom trip in “waves” of intensity over a several-hour period.
Difficult Mushroom Trips
You may encounter difficult visuals, thoughts, or feelings that might cause you to feel anxious or uncomfortable—especially with high doses of psilocybin. Mindfully considering your dose, set, and setting, as well as practicing coping skills at lower doses, can all help you avoid such challenging experiences before you’re ready for them. If you do encounter difficulties in your shroom trip, remind yourself that tripping is a finite experience: The intensity will wane sooner rather than later. Try to be patient with yourself and with the trip, and to avoid slipping into a resistant state of mind. If you have a meditation practice, the same skills of nonjudgmental noticing apply here as well; the difficult experience may have something to teach you. You can also seek support from your guide or trip sitter, or from this peer support hotline.
Integrating After Your First Shroom Trip
Once the experience is complete, take some time to reflect on your shroom trip. Recall what it was like for you, as well as any takeaways or life lessons that the mushrooms revealed. You may want to journal or converse with a good friend about what you’d like to bring or “integrate” into your daily life from the experience. For instance, perhaps the mushrooms gave you insight that you’d like to spend more time in nature, or develop a new skill, or change jobs; pay attention to the guidance and the impulses toward growth that you gained from your trip, but take a little time to process your experience before making major decisions.