Each capsule contains approximately .1 gram of dehydrated psilocybin mushrooms and causes a psychedelic trip that can last anywhere from 4 to 6 hours. When the capsules are ingested, colors become vivid and overly saturated, and surrounding patterns begin to move like ocean waves, our source reported. (Photos by Kayden Mulrooney and Peyton White)
Altering the mind is an experiment that some freely offer themselves to with the hope or relief of fun. However, rolling the dice with drugs brings risk; WKU students shared insight from their experiments.
A junior from Greenville said she microdoses with psilocybin, or psychedelic mushrooms. Psilocybin is a drug that converts to psilocin, a psychoactive chemical, and alters emotions and senses when ingested, according to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, microdosing is the practice of taking small amounts of psychedelic drugs to treat anxiety, depression or headaches.
The Greenville junior said she initially decided to try therapy in college as she struggled with anxiety and depression.
She said she felt that she needed medications, but she did not want to try antidepressants. The Greenville junior said she watched family members become “shells” of themselves after beginning antidepressants and had no desire to let the same happen to herself.
“I wanted to feel happy. I didn’t want to feel numb anymore,” the Greenville junior said.
She said she wanted to try microdosing after deciding therapy was not enough for her; she had struggled with anxiety and depression since the eighth grade and had had enough.
Before her sophomore year, during the summer of 2021, the Greenville junior said she tried psilocybin for the first time.
She said she researched psilocybin trips and what to expect beforehand. Through internet searches and conversations with friends, she said she knew to expect nausea, as well as how to manage her tolerance and go into a trip with a positive mindset. She said she was confident that she would be comfortable.
The Greenville junior said she went to a friend’s house with psilocybin capsules and a smoothie to mix them with. After drinking the smoothie, she said she didn’t feel “high” like she normally does after smoking marijuana. Instead, she said she felt warm.
“I just felt safe if that makes sense. It was interesting,” she said. “I just didn’t have to worry about anything. Any stress I had was out the window.”
After about 40 minutes, the Greenville junior said she experienced extreme nausea.
She said she remembers wanting to throw up but not being able to. She said she had learned about this phenomenon during her research but wished she knew exactly how intense it would be.
“That would definitely freak someone out, especially if they weren’t expecting it,” the Greenville junior said. “That would probably ensue a bad trip, but I knew it was going to happen.”
The Greenville junior said the nausea went away after 45 minutes, and the visual effects started to set in. The ceiling began to expand and contract and colors became more saturated, she said.
She said she struggled to find juice in the fridge because of the change in colors. She said she expected to see red fruit punch and saw purple instead.
The Greenville junior said the trip almost took a bad turn when she went to the kitchen — she began to feel stressed and started to panic.
When she looked at the ground, she said her friend’s cat was watching her. The Greenville junior said she was overcome with the idea that the cat knew exactly what was happening. As the cat stared into her eyes, she said her anxiety started to melt away. After that, she said the trip went smoothly.
“If she wasn’t there, I think it would have been really bad, and I would not have done it after that,” the Greenville junior said.
Although she has tripped three times since first trying psilocybin, the Greenville junior said she primarily microdoses psilocybin to improve her mental health.
She microdosed for the first time during her sophomore year and said it instantly changed her mental state.
The Greenville junior said she experienced heightened focus and was able to understand her lectures easier. Even her notes were neater and clearer, she said.
She said she continued to take regular doses about once a week for the rest of the fall 2021 semester. During the spring 2022 semester, she said she was able to transition to only taking a dose about every three months to refresh.
Through this method, the Greenville junior said she achieved her desired mental state and no longer struggled with anxiety or depression. Although she still has short spells, she said it is no longer a constant struggle to get out of bed in the morning.
She said her last dose was during October 2022, and she only plans to take another if she notices a change in her mental state.
The Greenville junior said she would warn anyone considering trying psilocybin to be careful and research the potential negative experiences.
She said she learned the hard way not to mix psilocybin with other substances. Although she had been warned against it during her research, she said she made the mistake of smoking marijuana too soon after one of her trips.
While camping with friends, the Greenville junior said the group decided to smoke after having tripped on psilocybin together earlier in the day. She assumed the psilocybin would be well enough out of her system to not affect her anymore. Instead, the Greenville junior said she experienced her “worst high ever.”
The Greenville junior said she became “glued to the ground” and could barely convince herself to get up and go to the bathroom when necessary.
“I had to make it a mental dilemma,” she said. “I’m like, ‘OK, first step: sit up. Second step: stand up. Third step: walk. Fourth step: use the bathroom.’”
She said she felt as if the bad high canceled out her positive trip from earlier that day.
“Everything I wasn’t feeling for the entire day kind of caught up with me,” she said. “All I knew is I was scared.”
A senior from Newport also had a negative experience with THC, the psychoactive element of weed. The senior said she is a recreational smoker now, but she used to smoke weed habitually during her sophomore year.
THC cartridges, which are illegal in the state of Kentucky, contain concentrated marijuana that can be inhaled through vaporizers, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The senior from Newport said the accessibility of her THC vape pen made it easy for her to smoke multiple times during the day and before bed.
The COVID-19 pandemic heavily affected her sophomore year, and she said dealing with that stress worsened her mental health.
“I fell into smoking in order to help combat all the anxiety and things surrounding that,” she said.
The Newport senior said she smoked to decompress from the stress of the day. This led to her becoming dependent on smoking to cope with her declining mental health, she said.
If she didn’t smoke during the day, she said she would have no appetite and couldn’t sleep.
The Newport senior said this dependence lasted throughout her sophomore year and fed a depressive episode. She said she was constantly sluggish and unwilling to complete work.
“It just kind of brought me down to a place that was not worth it,” she said. “I would have been a lot more myself if I hadn’t been smoking every day.”
After about a year of smoking at this rate, the Newport senior said a friend noticed her declining mental state along with her new habits.
This friend took her aside and sat her down to discuss what she had observed. The friend said she needed to stop smoking so often. The Newport senior said this conversation was a part of what made her decide to smoke in moderation during her junior year.
“I just really didn’t want to disappoint her,” she said.
In order to take her focus off of smoking, the Newport senior said she filled her time with activities like going to the gym.
“It was pretty hard,” she said. “I’m usually very overwhelmed, and so I liked the calming feeling that smoking brought me.”
The Newport senior said that another reason she decided to smoke less often was the experience of having a “green out,” which is the phenomenon of becoming ill from THC or Delta 8 products, according to Drug and Alcohol Research and Training Australia.
“I just remember being like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m going to die right now’ because everything started spinning,” she said.
She said she felt like she couldn’t stand without passing out, so she went inside to lie on the couch and tried to stay conscious.
She became mindful of her breathing during the experience and said she didn’t want any of her roommates to walk in and become worried for her. The Newport senior said this made her more cognizant of how others were perceiving her habits.
She said the green out took some of the fun out of smoking.
“Before, I had generally positive experiences with it, and that was a really scary experience,” the Newport senior said.
After that, she said she took two months off smoking.
Now the Newport senior said she only smokes recreationally, maybe once or twice a week and never before a class.
She said she is also wary of the chance of coming into contact with laced substances, especially when she has a THC cartridge.
“They could literally be from anywhere, and there could be anything in there. You really can’t test carts,” she said.
Agent Matt Travis with the Kentucky State Police is stationed at the Warren County Drug Task Force and assigned to Drug Enforcement Special Investigations.
Because illegal substances are bought and sold on the “black market,” Travis said that it is highly dangerous to experiment. These drugs can be dangerous on their own, but the possibility that they could be laced makes them deadly, he said.
Any time someone buys illegal substances off the street, Travis said they are “rolling the dice” because of what the substances could have been mixed with.
“There’s really no way to ever know exactly what you’re getting every time,” he said.
If people are experimenting with friends and become concerned about their well-being, Travis said it is important to look out for irrational speech and behavior. These could be signs of someone needing medical attention.
Travis said the most dangerous substance to be mindful of is fentanyl. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration laboratory, six out of 10 fentanyl-laced pills contain potentially lethal doses of fentanyl.
Depending on how batches are mixed, there might be one set of pills good for an effective high but another too potent, Travis said.
“That person may have put too much fentanyl in the pills, and then you go from something that was effective at getting you high to effectively killing you,” he said.
When someone has passed out, can’t breathe or won’t wake, Travis said it may be time to seek medical attention or administer Narcan™. Narcan™ is a nasal spray that can help reverse opioid overdoses, according to Narcan™’s official website.
“There’s just so many unknowns about what you’re buying or what it could be laced with,” Travis said. “And that would be my cautionary tale to anyone that thinks they’re wanting to experiment.”
A 22-year-old senior learned the lesson of ingesting potentially laced THC first-hand. While on a trip out of state with friends, she said she greened out after only one hit from a pen.
She said she is unsure if the cart had THC or Delta in it, but she knew that something wasn’t right after hitting it.
She said her head felt like “a million pounds,” and she began to feel ill. She spent the next two hours in a bathroom throwing up.
“I have never been that sick ever,” the 22-year-old senior said.
She said she believes that anyone indulging in any substance takes a risk, even when drinking alcohol. Most of the time, she said those experimenting just have to “hope for the best.”
“You have to know that sometimes you’re going to have a good experience, and sometimes you’re going to have a really bad experience,” she said.
The 22-year-old senior can legally buy Delta 8 products, so she said she prefers to go to a business to buy carts and edibles.
She said she would warn new smokers to be careful about who they buy from. She said not everyone has the best intentions, and it is important to be cautious.
There is still reason to be cautious with controlled substances, though. In December 2022, she said she had edibles with friends and ended up high for three days. She said the group misread the package and assumed the Delta 8 gummies were less potent than they were.
The 22-year-old senior took about a quarter of a gummy and said she felt comfortable to take another quarter before it set in.
The rest of the group took similar amounts and experienced an intense high during the first day, she said. According to the online dispensary Modern Apotheca, a high from a Delta 8 gummy should last up to six hours. The next morning, she said they were still high upon waking up and immediately texted one another to figure out what was happening.
“Everyone was like, ‘What’s going on? Do you guys feel like this too?’ and then that’s when we realized the package said 500 milligrams,” she said.
The recommended dosage of Delta 8 for daily users with a high tolerance is 45 to 150 milligrams, according to the Center for Forensic Science of Drug Rehabilitation and Recovery.
Reading the package of any substance is important, the 22-year-old senior said. If she and her friends had realized that each gummy had 500 milligrams, she said they would not have taken as much.
“Know what you’re consuming, and do it in a safe way so you’re not walking around on the third day not even able to tie your shoes,” she said.
Jon Knarreborg, the CEO of Dazed8, said product-labeling and cannabinoid education are most important when thinking about the safety of customers. Dazed8 is a company that sells hemp derived products, including Delta 8 and CBD.
The marketing director of Dazed8 Ethan Williams said proper labeling comes into play when deciding on dosages.
“Everyone has a different tolerance to marijuana products,” Williams said. “So we also create a lot of marketing material and informational things that we give out to our stores to ensure that the customer knows exactly what they’re buying.”
The 22-year-old senior said she learned her boundaries and vices during her time experimenting.
During her junior year, she used smoking to cope with what was going on around her. She said she was living on her own and going through a difficult breakup.
“I was using it to not be sad or kind of disappear from what was going on in my life,” she said.
Once she started missing classes and having to drop courses because of her drug use, she said she had to reevaluate her reasons for smoking. She said she started monitoring when she smoked. If she had a class the next morning, she would refrain from smoking that night.
“And so just trying to hold myself accountable and recognize that I want to do this recreationally, not as a coping mechanism,” she said.
She said the hardest part about pulling back from smoking was the “fear of missing out.” While her friends never pressured her to smoke, she said she always wanted to be a part of what they were doing together.
However, she said she decided it would be best to transition to only smoking two or three times a week in order to better concentrate on college.
“This is not what I’m here to do. I’m here to get an education. I don’t want to be here any longer than I already have to be,” she said she told herself.
The 22-year-old senior said she still smokes at least once a week with her friends but makes sure she completes her work first.
She said she doesn’t intend on stopping completely but that it is important to monitor why she smokes.
Her advice to others experimenting is to never use substances to cope. She said no subtance is going to “take the pain away.”