Shrooms vs Acid: 3 Surprising Differences (and Why)

By far the most popular psychedelics across the globe are psilocybin mushrooms and LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide).

Commonly referred to as shrooms and acid colloquially, these substances have become more scientifically researched and de-stigmatized for usage as personal growth, creativity, and expanded consciousness tools.

The debate around shrooms vs acid cannot be easily settled one way or another because each person is different as are their goals.

However, there are some key differences that make shrooms vs acid a compelling question for psychedelics users.

Shrooms vs Acid: Which is “Natural”?

One of the greatest arguments in the debate between lsd vs mushrooms is that the latter compound is a naturally occurring product and therefore is safer. This is only partially true.

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is a semi-synthetic compound derived from a natural compound (lysergic acid) from the fungus ergot [1].

This LSA was a major spiritual and educational tool in ancient Greece known commonly as the “Mysteries of Eleusis”.

Scientists now believe that the Greek intellectual elite were consuming this lysergic acid thousands of years ago [2].

Psilocybin mushrooms have been used for thousands of years as well.

Evidence from 9000 – 7000 BC suggest humans living in the Sahara desert in modern day Algeria were using psilocybin mushrooms [3].

shrooms vs acid

Plenty of evidence from the Aztec culture suggest the “fresh of the Gods” was used for ceremonial purposes.

To some degree, when analyzing shrooms vs acid, they are both naturally-derived in some form.

Obviously the mushrooms come a bit more clearly from the ground, but that may not mean it is necessarily better.

Experiences with LSD vs Shrooms

Both LSD and mushrooms are considered to be classic psychedelics, but their experiences and classifications are different in many ways.

For one thing, psilocybin is considered a tryptamine while LSD is considered an ergoline (also different from the family of peyote and mescaline).

These classifications might suggest vast differences, but in reality both compounds interact highly with the serotonergic system and specifically 5-HT 2A [3].

The biggest difference in the experience of shrooms vs acid is the setting and context of these two drugs.

LSD was first discovered in a laboratory and coincided with psychoanalysis work whereas psilocybin seems to be considered a more spiritual and ceremonial compound focusing on shamanic and ritual practice.

One of the first scientists who discovered and worked with LSD was Stanislav Grof from what is now the Czech Republic.

He worked extensively with LSD as part of his practice in the 1950s. He would later compare “…their potential significance for psychiatry and psychology to that of the microscope for medicine or the telescope for astronomy.” [4]

Even in Michael Pollan’s new book How to Change Your Mind, he relates an experience with LSD that seems bereft of ceremonial aspects opting for more classical psychiatric care [5].

There is nothing wrong with this, but it is interesting to note how these substances were co-opted and developed by different segments of society.

In contrast, psilocybin mushrooms have been used in many traditions across the globe for thousands of years.

Psilocybin usage was virtually unknown in the west until Gordon Wasson’s famous 1957 piece in Life Magazine so the ceremonial context may be a modern re-creation of these practices, but in many circles it still has a more shamanic context.

The preconceptions of what these substances can do based on these contexts makes a big difference in the experience of LSD vs shrooms.

For both LSD and psilocybin mushrooms, the “set and setting” are incredibly important.

This is a reference to your mindset at the time of taking the substance and the setting / environment where you do it.

A Subjective Comparison of Shrooms vs Acid

This will not be the case for everyone, but a subjective difference between LSD and mushrooms can include the mind vs body focus of each compound respectively.

At times LSD can feel a bit more “heady” and mind oriented while mushrooms can be more physical in nature.

This may be because the body has to convert psilocybin into psilocin in the stomach thus creating a physical experience (sometimes unpleasant), which is amplified by the psychoactive properties.

This is a highly simplistic and subjective opinion of the nuances and some people have drastically different experiences.

Scientific Studies on Psilocybin vs LSD

An instrumental person in both the development of psilocybin and LSD was Albert Hoffman.

In psychedelic history circles his folklore is more readily associated with a famous bike ride where he began tripping on acid, but in the late 1950s he also synthesized the pure form of psilocybin [6].

From here the studies for both compounds flourished. The initial research over 70 years ago provided us with a series of compelling reasons to use either mushrooms or LSD.

Benefits of hallucinogens include therapeutic effects on convulsions and neurosis [7], they helped depressive and anxiety symptoms [8], and there is evidence in healthy adults that they can increase neurogenesis and forming new connections (i.e: rewiring the brain) [9].

Part of the reason psychedelics can be so helpful for enhancing life as well as solving medical problems is because different regions of the brain communicate that aren’t used to doing so.

In one brain imaging study, scientists visually saw the connectivity of the brain on LSD or shrooms:

psilocybin connectivity

What is most fascinating, beyond all the medical value for patients who have some form of sickness, is what psychedelics like LSD and mushrooms can do for healthy adults who are lacking in spiritual context.

Oyasin was developed to reharmonize people with nature, which includes a healthy respect for a higher power whatever that looks like.

Religion used to be the source of spiritual guidance, but with more people distrusting these institutions (for good reason), spirituality and mystical experiences are sought more often.

Studies in 1962 and later in 2006 confirm that psilocybin (and other psychedelics) can create a mystical or spiritually-rich experience.

Researchers found that 61% of psilocybin users reported a “complete mystical experience”, which was one of the most influential in their life [10].

The groundbreaking statistic in the research came in 2011 when famed researcher Rolland Griffiths published a 14-month follow up of psilocybin users where 94% of volunteers rated their experience as one of the top 5 most spiritually significant in their lives [11].

In a world bereft of spiritual meaning, both mushrooms and LSD can be powerful tools that indigenous people have called “god’s flesh” or “the god within”.

Default Mode Network: A Boon For LSD and Mushrooms

Research from Imperial College London within the past decade has been most impressive for understanding whether shrooms vs acid might be more effective.

Dr. Carhart-Harris lead the way with the first fMRI (brain scans) of patients using mushrooms or LSD.

In his studies, he found a particular cluster of neurons called the default mode network (DMN) shut down during the use of psychedelics [12].

Explaining his findings simplistically, Carhart-Harris found that the DMN is responsible for our ego and sense of “self”.

With our DMN we have a clear us vs. them. There is the outside world and then there is each individual specifically.

But when the DMN shuts down during psychedelic experiences, it’s possible to bring down that ego wall and see the connection with other people, cultures, environments, and more.

This is one of the reasons Michael Pollan’s new book has discussed the default mode network at length. It’s an important benefit whether or not you declare shrooms vs acid better.

Which is Safer? LSD vs Mushrooms

In the LSD vs mushrooms debate, safety and efficacy are high on the priority list, but both compounds are considered to be very safe for the majority of healthy adults.

The only exception would be schizophrenics or people who have mental health disorders.

The pure substance of LSD vs psilocybin mushrooms is equal in safety, but the war on drugs has put pressure on the development of lysergic acid, which can impact the quality.

For example, a replacement drug for LSD sometimes sold on the streets is called 25l-NBOMe, which has similarly disorienting effects as LSD, but is toxic at higher doses.

As of 2015, there were 19 people who had overdosed on using 25l-NBOMe [13].

While this creates fear and hysteria among some people, the real answer is education and science.

One way to avoid 25l-NBOMe is by using an Ehrlich’s Reagent test kit (find one at Dance Safe for $20), which will tell you whether you purchased the right compound.

As the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has cracked down on chemists developing LSD, it has become harder and harder to maintain the purity of the chemical compound.

This is an unfortunate remnant of the “war on drugs” started by Nixon decades ago.

In contrast, psilocybin is much easier to find available (because it grows readily) and doesn’t have the same toxicity concerns as LSD (unless you’re picking them in the wild!)

As we’ll describe below, sometimes LSD can be easier so a $20 Ehrlich test kit should be all you need to provide adequate safety for both compounds.

Dosing LSD vs Mushrooms

Dosing psilocybin mushrooms can be a challenge, which is where LSD can become much easier.

Because of the potency of acid, each tab usually has 100 mcg, which is plenty to have a strong psychedelic trip.

In contrast, the mushroom variation is great. The percentage of psilocybin on a specific strain of mushrooms is hard to determine.

The caps and stems of each mushroom may produce different quantities and generally it is a challenge to get the exact psilocybin dosage.

That being said, one valuable way to dose mushrooms is with a combination of a few ingredients:

  • Coffee grinder
  • Lemons
  • Table / teaspoon

Simply add the psilocybin mushrooms into the coffee grinder, create a fine powder, and then put a teaspoon of the mixture into a cup.

Afterwards, add half a lemon of juice, water, and the resulting mushroom lemonade should be well dosed (or at least measurable!)

Of course, LSD can be much easier since a single serving is on a piece of blotter paper.

The range of dosage on LSD can be anywhere from 1 – 300 mcg per paper so be sure to check what the dosage of your batch might be.

As an organization, Oyasin believes in the right of all humans to have freedom over their mind and body, but we also feel strongly that guided and ceremonial experiences are more effective than dosing alone or with friends.

For the most profound effect, we suggest guided psychedelic experiences.

Microdosing LSD vs Shrooms

These days a growing trend is to compare LSD vs shrooms and create a microdosing protocol from these classic psychedelics.

Most current research focuses on moderate to large doses of psychedelics, but there are some studies about microdosing LSD or microdosing shrooms.

In a landmark 1966 study by Dr. James Fadiman, he discovered that microdosing could provide problem solving benefits in working professionals [14].

In the study, 27 professionals were told to bring a major problem they had been struggling with for weeks.

Out of these professionals (many of which were architects, mathematicians, engineers, and others) 12 had breakthrough solutions, which included patented technology.

That is over 44% of the sample population, which had a microdosing-induced breakthrough for real problems.

Not long ago I made a video about microdosing LSD and how it can be done most effectively. Check it out below:

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1637017/
  2. Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal. Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work.
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14578010
  4. Stanislav Grof. LSD: Doorway to the Numinous. Pg. 32.
  5. Michael Pollan. How to Change Your Mind. Pg. 237.
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/13537892
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/13815609
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20819978
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28677095
  10. https://www.jstor.org/stable/1384454
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21674151
  12. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-13282-7
  13. https://www.dea.gov/divisions/hq/2013/hq111513.shtml
  14. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychedelics_in_problem-solving_experiment