The words “magic mushrooms” might elicit images of tie-dye clothing, long-haired hippies, and free love.
But as I traveled to Jamaica’s Treasure Beach, these stereotypes were far from my mind. More hardened stoic than doting flower-child, I was en route to MycoMeditations, a psilocybin-guided wellness retreat, where my life would change forever.
Psilocybin (the active compound in magic mushrooms) is making a resurgence in scientific circles for its profound ability to impart life-changing healing for the mind. Reputable mainstream institutions have rekindled their study of the molecule’s impact on everything from fears associated with terminal illnesses to childhood trauma to depression, and the results from even a single dose are staggering.
But my purpose for going was singular.
I’m closing in on a half-century in age and I’ve spent more of my life on antidepressants than not. My thoughts oscillate between shame and disappointment about past events and angst and distress about future possibilities. Do we all have these moments? Yes. Mine, however, were relentless, invading every facet of my life including my work, my relationships, and my health.
The half-dozen mainstream psychiatric drugs I’ve tried simply numbed me, and I ultimately decided therapy and pharmaceuticals were not enough. I was done with anesthetized emotions and symptom-management. I was ready for something that would not quash my feelings but help me feel them boldly.
Several medical institutions have new thoughts about depression, indicating it’s more likely attributed to environmental events than chemical imbalances. This seed of thought, brought into the light by Michael Pollan’s latest book, led to my trek to MycoMeditations in Jamaica, where there are no laws against the use of psilocybin.
Curious about a healing journey with medicinal mushrooms? Here’s what you can expect from this retreat.
You’re Going to Take a Lot of Mushrooms
Over the seven-day retreat, I took three doses of mushrooms, escalating in volume each time. My first dose was 4 grams, which brought me to a meditative state. For comparison, most recreational mushroom trippers take only about 2 grams. I didn’t feel much more than a relaxing, meditative vibe, which I later learned was likely caused by the SSRI medications still in my system.
My second dose two days later was 10 grams. If it sounds like an insane amount of mushrooms, then you’re getting the point. At this high dose, I weaved in and out of dream-like states, and all sense of time disappeared. But it didn’t get me where I needed to go.
“Now what?” I asked Justin Townsend, one of the owners of MycoMeditations, the CEO, and our group facilitator. Justin has guided myriad people on therapeutic mushroom trips, and I trusted his experience when it came to the next step. With his expertise, plus the onsite nurse, therapist, and multiple guides, I knew I was in good hands.
Then he said it: 14 grams.
It turns out, the average person would need to ingest 30 pounds of mushrooms to overdose.
“Am I going to die?” was my first thought.
It turns out, the average person would need to ingest 30 pounds of mushrooms to overdose. Newsflash: You’d likely pass out before you shoveled that amount into your system.
Nevertheless, 14 grams is a lot of fungi.
You’re Going to Make Real Friendships That Last a Lifetime
I befriended 12 guests on the excursion, which is the typical size for a MycoMeditations retreat.
Introductions with everyone were forced and shallow upon our first meeting, like you might expect from a group of strangers coming together in trepidation. Some came for anxiety like me, while others sought help with grief, sexual assault trauma, or physical pain.
A few of us had dabbled in ‘shrooms in our early years while others had no experience at all. There were artists, writers, scientists, bankers, and the like; and we were split evenly with both men and women, ranging in age from early 40s to late 70s.