Psilocybin afterglow effect: Understanding the lasting benefits


Have you ever heard of the term afterglow? It’s almost the exact opposite of a hangover in every way. 

Like a hangover, it describes how we feel after the effects have worn off. Except the substances used are psychedelics and the feeling lasts longer than a day. It can last weeks if not months.

The word afterglow even sounds like some jargon for regular music festival goers. But in fact, this term is not only accepted by the scientific community but has been studied for many decades.

In fact, the afterglow was studied way back in 1969 and it was called Peak Experiences And The Afterglow Phenomenon

The author W. N. Pahnke’s explained that a psychedelic afterglow is often described as an ‘elevated and energetic mood with a relative freedom from concerns of the past and guilt and anxiety’. 

As always, using verbal language feels like a suboptimal way of explaining any aspect of psychedelic experiences, but here in this blog, we will give it our best shot.

Unpacking the Afterglow

In the realm of psychedelic experiences, the “afterglow” is not just a residual buzz—it represents a profound psychological shift. 

Afterglow is akin to a mental reset, a feeling of emotional unburdening. describes the afterglow effect by referring to it as the positive mental and physical effects that someone experiences after the original effects of a drug have subsided.

Sagejournals concluded that: 

“Results support narrative reports of a subacute psychedelic ‘afterglow’ phenomenon comprising potentially beneficial changes in the perception of self, others, and the environment.”

What Triggers Afterglow?

Other psychoactive substances such as LSD, DMT, Ayahuasca, and San Pedro all trigger psychedelic afterglow. This after-effect is not exclusive to psilocybin but will be our area of focus in this blog.

Does Dosage Matter?

When it comes to enjoying an afterglow experience, it’s not mandatory to experience a macro (hero) dose.

Afterglow is also observed and reported by microdosers. Taking sub-perceptual doses of a psychoactive compound can indeed trigger subtle but potent afterglow effects.

How Long Does Afterglow Last?

I am personally of the opinion that there is a short-term afterglow and a long-term afterglow effect.

Studies show lasting positive effects on mood and outlook up to six months after a single psilocybin session.

Recently, I interviewed Bodhy Buit on our podcast. He wrote his thesis on Microdosing at Work and during this conversation, we discussed the longer-term effects of microdosing on his research participants.

As it turns out, there may be afterglow effects still impacting the team months after their group microdosing experience. 

We promised to check in with Bodhy again in a year. By then we hope there will be more reports of the afterglow effects from his participants.

Short Term Afterglow

Psilocybin’s afterglow is hypothesized to emerge from the compound’s ability to modulate neurotransmitter systems, particularly serotonin. This modulation, which seems to occur in the brain’s prefrontal cortex, facilitates neuroplasticity—the brain’s ability to reorganize and form new neural connections. 

This modulation seems to induce an individual’s lasting recalibration of their emotional and cognitive baseline, and enhanced mood.

The afterglow aligns with the downregulation of the brain’s default mode network (DMN), which is responsible for self-referential thoughts and mind-wandering. 

Psilocybin’s damping effect on the DMN may contribute to a diminishment of negative thought patterns, allowing for a state of mental clarity and emotional ease that lingers well after the substance’s direct effects have worn off.

Long Term Afterglow

Psilocybin prompts profound neuropsychological changes.

At a molecular level, psilocybin transforms psilocin, which engages serotonin receptors. This engagement mainly influences the 5-HT2A receptors in the brain, leading to an altered state of consciousness during the psychedelic experience.

This acute serotonergic activation is strongly correlated with the notable persistence of positive mood and cognitive shifts.

This interaction with serotonin receptors does more than just transiently tweak brain chemistry—it may also fortify neural pathways and stimulate neurogenesis. 

This neuroplastic potential implies that the afterglow might play a role in consolidating learning and enhancing mental flexibility.

After a psilocybin experience, many report a heightened sense of emotional balance and cognitive clarity. 

This lingering state is a benevolent echo that can potentially accompany an individual for days or even weeks afterward. 

Even for microdosers, the afterglow effect may subtly interweave into daily life, elevating their baseline cognitive and emotional functioning without the need for another dose.

Afterglow Vs Tolerance

I feel that many confuse afterglow with tolerance. explains tolerance as: 

“occurs when someone’s body or brain no longer responds to a prescription or recreational drug in the same way it once did.” 

In other words, chasing the dragon for a specific kind of buzz.

Psychoactive compounds do not have to be used this way. Their potential beneficial effect on us is independent of any ‘buzz’ they might provide.

Afterglow is not tolerance because it refers to a level of neuronal plasticity instead of the response to a recreational drug. 

Tolerance is a much bigger topic and I will write more about this in a future blog.

Integrating the Afterglow into Daily Life

The afterglow can easily be renamed as the afterGROW Exposure to psychoactive substances can induce neuroplasticity

This means that new synaptic connections have been made, and others have been pruned and optimized. 

Now the task is to maintain these new synaptic connections, in other words; we integrate.

Integration to me means closing the gap between who we are now and the next version of ourselves.

These are a few of the ways we can reinforce our afterglow experience and integrate.

  1. Meditate regularly to reflect on and integrate the insights gained during the afterglow experience.
  2. Set actionable goals to keep yourself accountable and on track.
  3. Practice finding awe, gratitude, and wonder as often as possible, find the magic in the mundane and the joy in the ordinary.
  4. Track and journal Use our SweetSpot App (iPhone, Android) and start collecting data on yourself to gain a macro view over time.
  5. Engage in community and connect with others who are consciously using psychedelics as a tool for growth like our Facebook group, or our Discord channel.

If you want to dive deeper into this topic, I recently wrote a blog about psychedelic integration and would love to know your thoughts on it.

The Future of Psilocybin Research and Therapeutic Use

With the gradual destigmatization and intensifying scientific interest, the horizon for psilocybin research is promising. 

I firmly believe that as we continue this psychedelic renaissance journey, citizen scientists remain a vital part of the guidance needed moving forward.

We need to hear more anecdotal reports of long-term afterglow experiences. We need more individual data to be harvested, shared, and discussed.

As we, fellow psychedelic users draw attention to certain areas of interest, the scientific community eventually concedes and begins rigorous study. These rigorous studies then provide the evidence needed to confirm the psychedelic community’s suspicions and assumptions. 

Instead of the tail wagging the dog, we as community members can guide the future of psychedelic research by sharing our experiences and our questions.

Feel free to start here and comment below.

As always, 

Shine bright. Do good. Flow strong.

Asha ✨

8 thought on “Psilocybin afterglow effect: Understanding the lasting benefits”

8 Comments. Leave new

  • Hi,
    Do I have an afterglow with microdosing?
    How do I know?
    I started microdosing 2 weeks ago (with Stamets stack protocol). How do I know if microdosing is working for me?
    How do I know if the Lions Mane is doing something?
    Maybe is too early to sense that, but if you have any answer to help me figure out, I would thank you very much.

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  • Asboth Péter
    22 February 2024 13:24

    hi! what do you think about using the Stamets stack, so microdose psilocybin, lionsmane and niacin?

  • Awesome read….I am a big believer in the afterglow. Certainly beats a hangover

    • Asha Sultana
      27 February 2024 11:31

      Hi Dexter,

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the article and that you have your own experience with Afterglow. It really is awesome. Longer lasting, long list of benefits and much more subtle and graceful than any hangover could ever aspire to be 😉


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