Terence McKenna

Psilocybin [sil-uh-sahy-bin] is a naturally occurring psychedelic compound produced by more than 200 species of mushrooms, collectively known as psilocybin mushrooms. The most potent are members of the genus Psilocybe, such as P. azurescens, P. semilanceata, and P. cyanescens, but psilocybin has also been isolated from about a dozen other genera.

Psilocybin is quickly converted by the body to psilocin, which has mind-altering effects similar to those of LSD and mescaline. The effects generally include euphoria, visual and mental hallucinations, changes in perception, a distorted sense of time, and spiritual experiences, and can include possible adverse reactions such as nausea and panic attacks. Possession of psilocybin-containing mushrooms has been outlawed in most countries, and it has been classified as a scheduled drug by many national drug laws.

Imagery found on prehistoric murals and rock paintings of modern-day Spain and Algeria suggest that human usage of psilocybin mushrooms dates back thousands of years. In the Americas, the mushrooms had long been consumed in spiritual and divinatory ceremonies before Spanish chroniclers first documented their use in the 16th century. In a 1957 ‘Life’ magazine article, American banker and amateur ethnomycologist (student of the historical uses and sociological impact of fungi) R. Gordon Wasson described his experiences ingesting psilocybin-containing mushrooms during a traditional ceremony in Mexico, introducing the drug to popular culture. Shortly afterward, Albert Hofmann (Swiss chemist and inventor of LSD) isolated the psilocybin molecule. Hofmann’s employer Sandoz marketed and sold pure psilocybin to physicians and clinicians worldwide for use in psychedelic psychotherapy. Although increasingly restrictive drug laws of the late 1960s curbed scientific research into the effects of psilocybin and other hallucinogens, its popularity as an entheogen (spirituality-enhancing drug) grew in the next decade, largely owing to the increased availability of information on how to cultivate psilocybin mushrooms.

Some users of the drug consider it an entheogen and a tool to supplement practices for transcendence, including meditation and psychonautics (the study of altered states of consciousness). The intensity and duration of the effects of psilocybin are variable, depending on species of mushrooms, dosage, individual physiology, and set and setting, as was shown in experiments led by Timothy Leary at Harvard University in the early 1960s. Once ingested, psilocybin is rapidly metabolized to psilocin, which then acts on serotonin receptors in the brain. The mind-altering effects of psilocybin typically last from two to six hours; however, to individuals under the influence of psilocybin, the effects may seem to last much longer, since the drug can distort the perception of time. Psilocybin has a low toxicity and a relatively low harm potential, and reports of lethal doses of the drug are rare. Since the 1990s, there has been a renewal of scientific research into the potential medical and psychological therapeutic benefits of psilocybin for treating conditions including obsessive-compulsive disorder, cluster headaches, and anxiety related to terminal cancer.

There is evidence to suggest that psychoactive mushrooms have been used by humans in religious ceremonies for thousands of years. Murals dated 9000 to 7000 BCE found in the Sahara desert in southeast Algeria depict horned beings dressed as dancers, clothed in garb decorated with geometrical designs, and holding mushroom-like objects. Parallel lines extend from the mushroom shapes to the center of the dancers’ heads. 6,000-year-old pictographs discovered near the Spanish town of Villar del Humo illustrate several mushrooms that have been tentatively identified as Psilocybe hispanica, a hallucinogenic species native to the area. Archaeological artifacts from Mexico, as well as the so-called Mayan ‘mushroom stones’ of Guatemala have similarly been interpreted by some scholars as evidence for ritual and ceremonial usage of psychoactive mushrooms in the Mayan and Aztec cultures of Mesoamerica. In Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, the mushrooms were referred to as ‘God’s flesh.’ Following the arrival of Spanish explorers to the New World in the 16th century, chroniclers reported the use of mushrooms by the natives for ceremonial and religious purposes. According to the Dominican friar Diego Durán in ‘The History of the Indies of New Spain’ (1581), mushrooms were eaten in festivities conducted on the occasion of the accession to the throne of Aztec emperor Moctezuma II in 1502. The Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagún wrote of witnessing mushroom usage in his ‘Florentine Codex’ (1545–1590), and described how some merchants would celebrate upon returning from a successful business trip by consuming mushrooms to evoke revelatory visions. After the defeat of the Aztecs, the Spanish forbade traditional religious practices and rituals that they considered ‘pagan idolatry,’ including ceremonial mushroom use. For the next four centuries, the Indians of Mesoamerica hid their use of entheogens from the Spanish conquerors.

Although several psychedelic mushrooms are found in Europe, there is little documented usage of these species in Old World history. The few existing historical accounts about psilocybin mushrooms typically lack sufficient information to allow species identification, and usually refer to the nature of their effects. For example, Flemish botanist Carolus Clusius (1526–1609) described the bolond gomba (crazy mushroom), used in rural Hungary to prepare love potions. English botanist John Parkinson included details about a ‘foolish mushroom’ in his 1640 ‘Theatricum Botanicum.’ The first reliably documented report of intoxication with Psilocybe semilanceata—Europe’s most common and widespread psychedelic mushroom—involved a British family in 1799, who prepared a meal with mushrooms they had picked in London’s Green Park.

R. Gordon Wasson and his wife Valentina studied the ritual use of psychoactive mushrooms by the native population in the Mazatec village Huautla de Jiménez. In 1957, Wasson wrote an article for the popular American weekly magazine ‘Life’ (‘Seeking the Magic Mushroom’), in which he described the psychedelic visions that he experienced during these rituals. Later the same year they were accompanied on a follow-up expedition by French mycologist Roger Heim, who identified several of the mushrooms as Psilocybe species. Heim cultivated the mushrooms in France, and sent samples for analysis to Albert Hofmann, a chemist employed by the Swiss multinational pharmaceutical company Sandoz (now Novartis). Hofmann, who had in 1938 created LSD, led a research group that isolated and identified the psychoactive compounds from Psilocybe mexicana. Hofmann was aided in the discovery process by his willingness to ingest mushroom extracts to help verify the presence of the active compounds. He and his colleagues later synthesized a number of compounds chemically related to the naturally occurring psilocybin, to see how structural changes would affect psychoactivity.

Two variations, CEY-19 and CZ-74, proved useful; because their physiological effects last only about three and a half hours (about half as long as psilocybin), they were more manageable in European clinics using ‘psycholytic therapy’—a form of psychotherapy involving the controlled use of psychedelic drugs. Sandoz marketed and sold pure psilocybin under the name Indocybin to physicians and clinicians worldwide. There were no reports of serious complications when psilocybin was used in this way.

In the early 1960s, Harvard University became a testing ground for psilocybin, through the efforts of Timothy Leary and his associates Ralph Metzner and Richard Alpert (who later changed his name to Ram Dass). Leary obtained synthesized psilocybin from Hofmann through Sandoz pharmaceutical. Some studies in the early 1960s, such as the Concord Prison Experiment (which tested to see if psilocybin therapy could reduce prison recidivism), initially suggested promising results using psilocybin in clinical psychiatry. However, according to a 2008 review of safety guidelines in human hallucinogenic research, Leary and Alpert’s well-publicized termination from Harvard and later advocacy of hallucinogen use ‘further undermined an objective scientific approach to studying these compounds.’ In response to concerns about the increase in unauthorized use of psychedelic drugs by the general public, psilocybin and other hallucinogenic drugs suffered negative press and faced increasingly restrictive laws. In the United States, laws were passed in 1966 that prohibited the production, trade, or ingestion of hallucinogenic drugs; Sandoz stopped producing LSD and psilocybin the same year. Further backlash against LSD usage swept psilocybin along with it into the Schedule I (high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use) category of illicit drugs in 1970. Subsequent restrictions on the use of these drugs in human research made funding for such projects difficult to obtain, and scientists who worked with psychedelic drugs faced being ‘professionally marginalized.’

Despite the legal restrictions, the 1970s witnessed the emergence of psilocybin as the ‘entheogen of choice.’ This was due in large part to a wide dissemination of information on the topic, which included works such as those by author Carlos Castaneda, and several books that taught the technique of growing psilocybin mushrooms. One of the most popular of this latter group was published in 1976 under the pseudonyms O.T. Oss and O.N. Oeric by Jeremy Bigwood, Dennis J. McKenna, K. Harrison McKenna, and Terence McKenna, entitled ‘Psilocybin: Magic Mushroom Grower’s Guide.’ As ethnobiologist (a researcher of the way plants and animals are treated or used by different human cultures) Jonathan Ott explains, ‘These authors adapted San Antonio’s technique (for producing edible mushrooms by casing mycelial cultures on a rye grain substrate; San Antonio 1971) to the production of Psilocybe [Stropharia] cubensis. The new technique involved the use of ordinary kitchen implements, and for the first time the layperson was able to produce a potent entheogen in his own home, without access to sophisticated technology, equipment or chemical supplies.’

Because of a lack of clarity about laws about psilocybin mushrooms, retailers in the late 1990s and early 2000s commercialized and marketed them in smartshops (retail establishments that specialize in the sale of psychoactive substances) in the Netherlands and the UK, and on the internet. Several websites emerged that have contributed to the accessibility of information on description, use, effects and exchange of experiences among users. Since 2001, six EU countries have tightened their legislation on psilocybin mushrooms in response to concerns about their prevalence and increasing usage. In the 1990s, hallucinogens and their effects on human consciousness were again the subject of scientific study, particularly in Europe. Advances in neuropharmacology and neuropsychology, and the availability of brain imaging techniques have provided impetus for using drugs like psilocybin to probe the ‘neural underpinnings of psychotic symptom formation including ego disorders and hallucinations.’

In general, psilocybin-containing species are dark-spored, gilled mushrooms that grow in meadows and woods of the subtropics and tropics, usually in soils rich in plant debris. Psilocybin mushrooms occur on all continents, but the majority of species are found in subtropical humid forests. Both the caps and the stems contain the psychoactive compounds, although the caps contain consistently more. The total potency varies greatly between species and even between specimens of a species collected or grown from the same strain. Because most psilocybin biosynthesis occurs early in the formation of fruit bodies younger, smaller mushrooms tend to have a higher concentration of the drug than larger, mature mushrooms. The drug is more stable in dried than fresh mushrooms; dried mushrooms retain their potency for months or even years, while mushrooms stored fresh for four weeks contain only traces of the original psilocybin.

Psilocybin is a tryptamine compound e.g. (serotonin, tryptophan, DMT). Psilocin binds to several serotonergic receptors, where it mimics the effects of serotonin. Serotonin receptors are located in numerous parts of the brain, including the cerebral cortex, and are involved in a wide range of functions, including regulation of mood and motivation. The psychotomimetic (psychosis-mimicking) effects of psilocin can be blocked by drugs ketanserin and risperidone (Risperdal, an anti-psychotic). Psilocin indirectly increases the concentration of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the basal ganglia, and some psychotomimetic symptoms of psilocin are reduced by haloperidol (Haldol), a non-selective dopamine receptor antagonist. Taken together, these suggest that there may be an indirect dopaminergic contribution to psilocin’s psychotomimetic effects. In contrast to LSD, which binds to all dopamine receptor subtypes, psilocybin and psilocin have no affinity for the dopamine receptors.

The toxicity of psilocybin is low. In rats, the median lethal dose (LD50) when administered orally is 280 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg), approximately one and a half times that of caffeine. The lethal dose from psilocybin toxicity alone is unknown at recreational or medicinal levels, and has rarely been documented. Most of the comparatively few fatal incidents reported in the literature that are associated with psychedelic mushroom usage involve the simultaneous use of other drugs, especially alcohol. Probably the most common cause of hospital admissions resulting from magic mushroom usage involve ‘bad trips’ or panic reactions, in which affected individuals become extremely anxious, confused, agitated, or disoriented. Accidents, self-injury, or suicide attempts can result from serious cases of acute psychotic episodes. Repeated use of psilocybin does not lead to physical dependence. A 2008 study concluded that usage of hallucinogenic drugs (including psilocybin) did not increase the risk of drug dependence in adulthood; this was in contrast to adolescent usage of cannabis, cocaine, inhalants, anxiolytic medicines, and stimulants, all of which were associated with ‘an excess risk of developing clinical features associated with drug dependence.’

Although psilocybin may be prepared synthetically, outside of the research setting, it is not typically used in this form. The psilocybin present in certain species of mushrooms can be ingested in several ways: by consuming fresh or dried fruit bodies, by preparing a tea, or by combining with other foods to mask the bitter taste. Less frequently, mushroom extracts are injected intravenously. The effects of the drug begin 10–40 minutes after ingestion, and last 2–6 hours depending on dose, species, and individual metabolism. A dosage of 4–10 mg is required to induce psychedelic effects. A typical recreational dosage is 10–50 mg psilocybin, which is roughly equivalent to 10–50 grams of fresh mushrooms, or 1–5 grams of dried mushrooms. However, a small number of people are unusually sensitive to psilocybin, such that a normally threshold-level dose of about 2 mg can result in effects usually associated with medium or high doses. In contrast, there are some who require relatively high doses to experience noticeable effects. Individual brain chemistry and metabolism play a large role in determining a person’s response to psilocybin.

Tolerance to psilocybin builds and dissipates quickly; ingesting psilocybin more than about once a week can lead to diminished effects. Tolerance dissipates after a few days, so doses can be spaced several days apart to avoid the effect. A cross-tolerance can develop between psilocybin and the pharmacologically similar LSD, and between psilocybin and phenethylamines such as mescaline and DOM. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI) have been known to prolong and enhance the effects of psilocybin. Alcohol consumption may enhance the effects of psilocybin; one of the primary breakdown metabolites of consumed alcohol, reacts with compounds present in the body to produce MAOIs. Tobacco smokers can also experience more powerful effects with psilocybin, because tobacco smoke exposure decreases levels of MAO in the brain and peripheral organs.

The effects of psilocybin are highly variable and depend on the mindset and environment in which the user has the experience, factors commonly referred to as set and setting. In the early 1960s, Timothy Leary and colleagues at Harvard University investigated the role of set and setting on the effects of psilocybin. They administered the drug to 175 volunteers from various backgrounds in an environment intended to be similar to a comfortable living room. Ninety-eight of the subjects were given questionnaires to assess their experiences and the contribution of background and situational factors. Individuals who had experience with psilocybin prior to the study reported more pleasant experiences than those for whom the drug was novel. Group size, dosage, preparation, and expectancy were important determinants of the drug response. Those placed in groups of more than eight individuals generally felt that the groups were less supportive, and their experiences were less pleasant. Conversely, smaller groups (fewer than six individuals) were seen as more supportive. Participants also reported having more positive reactions to the drug in those groups. Leary and colleagues proposed that psilocybin heightens suggestibility, making an individual more receptive to interpersonal interactions and environmental stimuli. These findings were affirmed in a later review by Jos ten Berge (1999), who concluded that dosage, set, and setting were fundamental factors in determining the outcome of experiments that tested the effects of psychedelic drugs on artists’ creativity.

After ingesting psilocybin, a wide range of subjective effects may be experienced: feelings of disorientation, lethargy, giddiness, euphoria, joy, and depression. About a third of users report feelings of anxiety or paranoia. Low doses of the drug can induce hallucinatory effects. Closed-eye hallucinations may occur, in which the affected individual sees multicolored geometric shapes and vivid imaginative sequences. Some individuals report experiencing synesthesia (mixing of senses), such as tactile sensations when viewing colors. At higher doses, psilocybin can lead to ‘Intensification of affective responses, enhanced ability for introspection, regression to primitive and childlike thinking, and activation of vivid memory traces with pronounced emotional undertones.’ Open-eye visual hallucinations are common, and may be very detailed although rarely confused with reality.

A 2011 prospective study by neuroscientist Roland R. Griffiths and colleagues suggests that a single high dosage of psilocybin can cause long-term changes in the personality of its users. About half of the study participants—described as healthy, ‘spiritually active,’ and many possessing postgraduate degrees—showed an increase in the personality dimension of openness, and this positive effect was apparent more than a year after the psilocybin session. According to the study authors, the finding is significant because ‘no study has prospectively demonstrated personality change in healthy adults after an experimentally manipulated discrete event.’ Although other researchers have described instances of psychedelic drug usage leading to new psychological understandings and personal insights, it is not known whether these experimental results can be generalized to larger populations.

Common responses include: pupil dilation; changes in heart rate, including increases and decreases; changes in blood pressure; nausea; and tremor. The temporary increases in blood pressure caused by the drug can be a risk factor for users with pre-existing hypertension. Some of these effects are caused by the mushroom rather than psilocybin itself. In one study, administration of gradually-increasing dosages of psilocybin daily for 21 days had no measurable effect on electrolyte levels, blood sugar levels, or liver toxicity tests.

Psilocybin is known to strongly influence the subjective experience of the passage of time. Users often feel as if time is slowed down, resulting in the perception that ‘minutes appear to be hours’ or ‘time is standing still.’ These results are consistent with the drug’s role in affecting prefrontal cortex activity, and the role that the prefrontal cortex is known to play in time perception. However, the neurochemical basis of psilocybin’s effects on the perception of time are not known with certainty.

Users having a pleasant experience can feel an ecstatic sense of connection to others, nature, and the universe; other perceptions and emotions are also often intensified. Users having an unpleasant experience (a ‘bad trip’) describe a reaction accompanied by fear, other unpleasant feelings, and occasionally by dangerous behavior. A variety of factors may contribute to a psilocybin user experiencing a bad trip, including ‘tripping’ during an emotional or physical low or in a non-supportive environment. Ingesting psilocybin in combination with other drugs, including alcohol, can also increase the likelihood of a bad trip. Other than the duration of the experience, the effects of psilocybin are similar to comparable dosages of LSD or mescaline. However, in the ‘Psychedelics Encyclopedia,’ author Peter Stafford noted, ‘The psilocybin experience seems to be warmer, not as forceful and less isolating. It tends to build connections between people, who are generally much more in communication than when they use LSD.’

Panic reactions can occur after consumption of psilocybin-containing mushrooms, especially if the ingestion is accidental or otherwise unexpected. Reactions characterized by violence, aggression, homicidal and suicidal attempts, prolonged schizophrenia-like psychosis, and convulsions have been reported in the literature. A 2005 survey conducted in the United Kingdom found that almost a quarter of those who had used psilocybin mushrooms in the past year had experienced a panic attack. Other adverse effects less frequently reported include paranoia, confusion, derealization, disconnection from reality, and mania. Psilocybin usage can temporarily induce a state of depersonalization disorder. Usage by those with schizophrenia can induce acute psychotic states requiring hospitalization.

The similarity of psilocybin-induced symptoms to those of schizophrenia has made the drug a useful research tool in behavioral and neuroimaging studies of this psychotic disorder. In both cases, psychotic symptoms are thought to arise from a ‘deficient gating of sensory and cognitive information’ in the brain that ultimately lead to ‘cognitive fragmentation and psychosis.’ Flashbacks (spontaneous recurrences of a previous psilocybin experience) can occur long after having used psilocybin mushrooms. Hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD) is characterized by a continual presence of visual disturbances similar to those generated by psychedelic substances. Neither flashbacks nor HPPD are commonly associated with psilocybin usage, and correlations between HPPD and psychedelics are further obscured by polydrug use and other

Psilocybin mushrooms have been and continue to be used in indigenous New World cultures in religious, divinatory, or spiritual contexts. Reflecting the meaning of the word entheogen (‘the god within’), the mushrooms are revered as powerful spiritual sacraments that provide access to sacred worlds. Typically used in small group community settings, they enhance group cohesion and reaffirm traditional values. American philosopher Terence McKenna documented the worldwide practices of psilocybin mushroom usage as part of a cultural ethos relating to the Earth and mysteries of nature, and suggested that mushrooms enhanced self-awareness and a sense of contact with a ‘Transcendent Other’—reflecting a deeper understanding of our connectedness with nature.

Psychedelic drugs can induce states of consciousness that have lasting personal meaning and spiritual significance in individuals who are religious or spiritually inclined; these states are called mystical experiences. Some scholars have proposed that many of the qualities of a drug-induced mystical experience are indistinguishable from mystical experiences achieved through non-drug techniques, such as meditation or holotropic breathwork. In the 1960s, Walter Pahnke and colleagues systematically evaluated mystical experiences (which they called ‘mystical consciousness’) by categorizing their common features. These categories, according to Pahnke, ‘describe the core of a universal psychological experience, free from culturally determined philosophical or theological interpretations,’ and allow researchers to assess mystical experiences on a qualitative, numerical scale.

In the 1962 Marsh Chapel Experiment, which was run by Pahnke at the Harvard Divinity School under the supervision of Timothy Leary, almost all of the graduate degree divinity student volunteers who received psilocybin reported profound religious experiences. One of the participants was religious scholar Huston Smith, author of several textbooks on comparative religion; he later described his experience as ‘the most powerful cosmic homecoming I have ever experienced.’ In a 25-year followup to the experiment, all of the subjects given psilocybin described their experience as having elements of ‘a genuine mystical nature and characterized it as one of the high points of their spiritual life.’ Psychedelic researcher Rick Doblin considered the study partially flawed due to incorrect implementation of the double-blind procedure, and several imprecise questions in the mystical experience questionnaire. Nevertheless, he said that the study cast ‘a considerable doubt on the assertion that mystical experiences catalyzed by drugs are in any way inferior to non-drug mystical experiences in both their immediate content and long-term effects.’ This sentiment was echoed by psychiatrist William A. Richards, who in a 2007 review stated ‘[psychedelic] mushroom use may constitute one technology for evoking revelatory experiences that are similar, if not identical, to those that occur through so-called spontaneous alterations of brain chemistry.’

A group of researchers from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine led by Griffiths conducted a study to assess the immediate and long-term psychological effects of the psilocybin experience, using a modified version of the mystical experience questionnaire and a rigorous double-blind procedure. When asked in an interview about the similarity of his work with Leary’s, Griffiths explained the difference: ‘We are conducting rigorous, systematic research with psilocybin under carefully monitored conditions, a route which Dr. Leary abandoned in the early 1960s.’ The National Institute of Drug Abuse-funded study, published in 2006, has been praised by experts for the soundness of its experimental design.

Psilocybin has been a subject of medical research since the 1960s, when Leary and Alpert ran the Harvard Psilocybin Project, in which they carried out a number of experiments to evaluate the therapeutic value of psilocybin in the treatment of personality disorders, or to augment psychological counseling. In the 2000s, there was a renewal of research concerning the use of psychedelic drugs for potential clinical applications, such as to address anxiety disorders, major depression, and various addictions. In 2008, the Johns Hopkins research team published guidelines for responsibly conducting medical research trials with psilocybin and other hallucinogens in humans. These included recommendations on how to screen potential study volunteers to exclude those with personal or family psychiatric histories that suggest a risk of averse reactions to hallucinogens. A 2010 study on the short- and long-term subjective effects of psilocybin administration in clinical settings concluded that despite a small risk of acute reactions such as dysphoria, anxiety, or panic, ‘the administration of moderate doses of psilocybin to healthy, high-functioning and well-prepared subjects in the context of a carefully monitored research environment is associated with an acceptable level of risk’; the authors note, however, that the safety of the drug ‘cannot be generalized to situations in which psilocybin is used recreationally or administered under less controlled conditions.’

The first FDA-approved clinical study of psilocybin since 1970—led by Francisco Moreno at the University of Arizona and supported by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies—studied the effects of psilocybin on nine patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The pilot study found that, when administered by trained professionals in a medical setting, the use of psilocybin was associated with substantial reductions in OCD symptoms in several of the patients. Psilocybin has additionally shown promise to ease the pain caused by cluster headaches, often considered not only the most painful of all types of headaches but ‘one of the worst pain syndromes known to mankind.’ In a 2006 study, half of cluster headache patients reported that psilocybin aborted the attacks, and most reported extended remission periods; similar results were reported for LSD. Only subhallucinogenic doses of the drugs are required for effective treatment, and no other medications have been reported to stop a cluster headache cycle.

Several modern studies have investigated the possibility that psilocybin can ease the psychological suffering associated with end-stage cancer. Preliminary results indicate that low doses of psilocybin can improve the mood and reduce the anxiety of patients with advanced cancer, and that the effects last from two weeks to six months. These results are comparable to those obtained from early studies that explored the use of LSD to improve the psychological well-being of terminally ill patients, but without the experimental rigor employed in modern clinical psychopharmacology research.

A 2009 national survey of drug use by the US Department of Health and Human Services concluded that the number of first-time psilocybin mushroom users in the United States was roughly equivalent to the number of first-time users of marijuana. In modern Mexico, traditional ceremonial use survives among several indigenous groups. Although hallucinogenic Psilocybe species are abundant in low-lying areas of Mexico, most ceremonial use takes places in mountainous areas of elevations greater than 1,500 meters (4,900 ft). Guzmán suggests this is a vestige of Spanish colonial influence from several hundred years earlier, when mushroom use was persecuted by the Catholic Church.


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