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How to take a heroic dose of mushrooms

‘It will show you what you need, not what you want’: macrodoses of psilocybin have been associated with lessened anxiety and a more positive outlook on life – but how do you do it safely?

It’s magic mushroom season in the UK, which means tripping just got a whole lot more accessible. The UK’s native Psylocibe species of mushroom typically grows in abundance between the months of September and December, and, despite being a Class A drug, the mushrooms relatively easy to find and pick, as long as you know what you’re doing

The current mushroom craze revolves around doses at the lower end of the scale – AKA microdoses – which are all about taking a sub-perceptual dose of mushrooms (around 0.1 to 0.9 grams) in a bid to reap the positive benefits. At the other end of the scale, we have the ‘heroic dose’. The term was coined by Terence McKenna, one of the most famous proponents of magic mushrooms, and refers to doses of five grams of the more potent Psilocybe Cubensis species. To put that into perspective, an average macrodose usually sits at around one to 3.5 grams, so a heroic dose is particularly high. 

While there is little research on the psychological impact of taking such a high dose of mushrooms, macrodoses have been associated with lessened anxiety and a more positive outlook on life. That said, the term ‘heroic’ may be misleading — psychedelics are not without their dangers, and it’s well worth weighing the risks before taking such a large dose. Here’s everything you need to know.


As Dr Russell Newcombe, a harm reduction researcher and author of Magic Mushrooms and Tripology, explains, trips are extremely context-dependent, and therefore extremely subjective. “A trip is an interaction of drug, set (mood, personality, experience) and setting, so it’s different for everyone,” he tells Dazed. “On high doses, most people experience four to eight hours of full-blown psychedelia, which includes visual hallucinations, euphoria, hilarity, ego dissolution, oceanic feelings of love or oneness with nature, and often a fair amount of ineffable weirdness.”

If taken as McKenna suggested – in a dark, silent room – heroic doses are associated with breakthroughs, ego death and dissociation from your present reality. You know, the trips we see in movies. Users often describe the experience of taking a heroic dose as “life-changing”

“I think if someone asked what to expect, I would say that no matter what you expect, the medicine will show you what you need, not what you want” – Adam

Josh Cook, 32, recently took six grams of mushrooms in the Netherlands after having positive experiences on lower doses. “This trip, which lasted eight to ten hours, helped me put some issues to rest within myself regarding anger and other emotions I carried from childhood to keep a wall around me for protection,” he tells Dazed. While he didn’t leave reality completely – he was able to navigate himself around Amsterdam all day and the trip wasn’t “too bad, visually” – Josh says he had a “sense of being one part of a complete organism” and a distorted perception of time. Other people report having out-of-body experiences akin to those on DMT

Adam Lane, 30, took 7.5 grams of mushrooms as part of a shamanic ceremony. He says such a high dose shouldn’t be taken recreationally, but rather as a “plant medicine”. “Don’t do it unless you’re being called to do it,” he says. “I think if someone asked what to expect, I would say that no matter what you expect, the medicine will show you what you need, not what you want.”


As mentioned, Terence McKenna used the term ‘heroic dose’ to refer to five grams of dried magic mushrooms, but this will vary depending on the species you’re taking. “The active ingredients of magic mushrooms are psilocin and psilocybin (which converts to psilocin in the body),” explains Dr Newcombe. “Some species contain baeocystin and other compounds, and dried shrooms can contain from around 0.5 per cent to one per cent of these psychoactive ingredients. As a result, their strength and effects can vary.”

It also depends on the person. Dr Newcombe says the “average rule of thumb” for a strong trip is one to two grams of dried shrooms per 50 pounds of body weight, so two to three grams usually covers most people. “What is usually considered a heroic or excessive dose for most people is anything above three to seven grams, and for some people this means up to 15 grams and for others even more.”

Understandably, Dr Newcombe recommends working your way up to a heroic dose “from smaller doses, through standard doses, to strong doses, before taking doses greater than three to seven grams.” This will allow you to understand how magic mushrooms affect you, and help you to choose the most optimal dose for your heroic trip. It will also lessen your chances of having a bad trip.


As always, the safest thing to do would just be to not bother with any of this. But if you can‘t resist, these are some things to consider.


First of all, don’t mix your shrooms with other drugs.

“Though bad trips are infrequent, they do occur, and are harder to handle on larger doses because the trip is longer and more intense,” says Dr Newcombe. “It’s best not to mix high doses of shrooms with other drugs – seven plus grams of shrooms should be enough for the most committed psychonaut.”


“A major shroom trip is best planned and prepared for, so that nothing difficult has to be dealt with during the trip,” says Dr Newcombe. Make sure you won’t be getting any surprise visitors, especially from friends or family members who don’t condone tripping. The same goes for talking to someone on the phone, so it’s a good idea to let people know you won’t be available.

It’s also a good idea to make sure you have everything you need at your location of choice — water, tasty, nutritious food, comfy clothes, a journal, etc — and to make sure your space is as comfortable as possible. 

You should also familiarise yourself with techniques for managing a bad trip. “Bad trips come in different forms but all share the common experience of feeling anxious about what is happening,” says Dr Newcombe. “There are a number of techniques to help people manage bad trips, such as controlling their breathing and distracting themselves by things like walking and listening to peaceful music.”


One of the most common harm reduction practices for those taking psychedelics is to have a trip sitter: someone who isn’t tripping who can look out for you during your experience. 

“Trip sitters and expert trippers can help people get the most out of their trip as well as help them deal with a bad trip, should it occur,” says Dr Newcombe. Ask someone who has experience with magic mushrooms and who makes you feel calm and comfortable to accompany you on your trip, and let them know in advance what you’ll need from them.

Want to learn how to find and pick magic mushrooms? Read our guide here.

Want to safely microdose mushrooms? Read our guide here.

Want to know how to make the best of a bad trip? Read our guide here

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