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Psilocybin

Also known as

shrooms, magic mushrooms, sacred mushrooms, teonanácatl, blue caps, boomers, booms, buttons, caps, champ, fungus, funguys, God's flesh, hombrecitos, las mujercitas, little smoke, Mexican mushroom, mushies, mushroom soup, mushroom tea, mushrooms, musk, pizza toppings, rooms, silly putty, simple Simun, zoomers, philosopher's stone, magics, liberty cap, liberties, amani, agaric.

Classification

Psychedelic, Hallucinogenic.

Overview

Fly agaric

'Hallucinogenic mushrooms' is the name commonly given to psychoactive fungi, containing hallucinogenic compounds, most commonly psilocybin and psilocin. At low doses, hallucinogenic drugs have as their primary effects perceptual distortions and alterations of thought, or mood, with the presence of lucid awareness and minimal effects on memory and orientation. Despite their name, the use of hallucinogenic drugs rarely results in true hallucinations. The hallucinogens are a chemically diverse class. Grouping the hallucinogens based on their chemical structure includes, but is not limited to, three major classes: indolealkylamines or tryptamines (e.g. LSD, psilocybine and psilocin), phenethylamines, including mescaline and methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA); and cannabinoids [1].

Magic mushrooms is the popular term for mushrooms or toadstools that contain active drugs. There are several different species of mushrooms, the ones that people use for their positive effects are the hallucinogenic types contain psilocybin. These change the body's functions and reaction and the way the brain sees things [2].

A number of different species of mushrooms contain active hallucinogenic chemicals, but the ones most commonly used in the UK are from the psilocybe genus. Probably the best known species is psilocybe semilanceata, or the 'Liberty Cap' mushroom. Other groups, such as panaeolus, copelandia and amanita, also have hallucinogenic properties [2].

Liberty cap

'Magic mushrooms' is a slang word for psilocybe semilanceata or 'liberty cap' mushrooms (the most common type of 'magic mushroom' in the UK) and any other mushroom which produces similar 'trippy' effects, like hallucinations.

It is important to know that different types of 'magic mushroom' will differ in how strong and how toxic they are.

For example, the amanita muscaria or 'fly agaric' mushroom is stronger than the traditional 'liberty cap' mushroom.

After picking, magic mushrooms are often eaten raw or are dried out and stored. Some people use the dried mushrooms to make tea. Drying reduces the weight of the 'magic mushrooms', but not their potency. People don't tend to eat fly agaric mushrooms raw as they can make you feel really sick and also because there is a greater risk of poisoning and death from this family of mushrooms [3].

What does it look like?

Mushrooms grown in the UK are small cream to brown coloured with a nipple at the peak of the cap [2]. In its pure form, psilocybin is a white crystalline powder [4].

'Magic Mushrooms' have long, slender stems which may appear white or greyish topped by caps with dark gills on the underside. Dried mushrooms are usually a reddish rust brown colour with isolated areas of off-white [5].

Varies according to type of mushroom, and the state of the mushroom. Accurate identification requires a good mushroom field guide and experience is valuable. Some UK mushrooms are highly toxic and so correct identification is essential [6].

'Magic mushrooms' grow wild in the UK and can be easily picked if you know where to find them. As you'd expect with something that grows naturally, the strength varies depending on the freshness, the season and where they grow [3].

  • Liberty caps (Psilocybe Semilanceata), are small, tan-coloured mushrooms and look a little like a woolly hat on a thin stalk. They also bruise blue when they're touched.
  • Fly agaric (Amanita Muscaria), are more like the red and white spotted toadstools you'll see in fairytale books and films. Some of these types of mushroom are poisonous, so if you don't know what you're doing, you certainly shouldn't take them [3].

Source

Both psilocybin and psilocin can be produced synthetically, but this form of the drug is not often found. Users purchase hallucinogenic mushrooms and by-products from smartshops and on the Internet, or pick them wild. The cubensis varieties are cultivated specifically (mostly in the Netherlands). The types of magic mushrooms most commonly sold by smartshops in the Netherlands are the Psilocybe cubensis varieties.

Online shops sell a variety of hallucinogenic mushroom products ranging from fresh mushrooms to spore prints, spawnbags and growkits. The majority of online shops offer international shipping, although most sites do not ship to countries where sales are prohibited [1].

Psilocybin mushrooms grow in all parts of Britain during the autumn. Users may go on a picking spree during this time, dry the mushrooms and store for later use. Some are sold on the illicit market when out of season [7].

The Fly Agaric and Liberty Cap mushroom (along with some related species) grow wild in the UK. Until recently other strains were cultivated in the UK commercially or imported from mainland Europe. Some home-grown production still takes place, clandestinely, in the UK [6].

Prevalence

Prevalence estimates for last year use of hallucinogenic mushrooms among young adults (15 - 34-year-olds) range between 0.0% and 2.2%. Due to low prevalence questions about the use of hallucinogenic mushrooms are not routinely included in general population surveys.

Lifetime prevalence for the use hallucinogenic mushrooms among 15 - 16-year-old school students ranged from 1% to 7% in the 24 EU Member States and Norway with ESPAD surveys in 2011 with only the Czech Republic reporting a prevalence level of 7% [1].

According to Home Office statistics published in 2016, the use of magic mushrooms amongst 16 - 59 year olds in England and Wales was 0.4%. (1.3% amongst 16 - 24 year olds). This is a slight reduction on previous years [8].

Street price

Supplies needed for mushroom cultivation can be purchased over the Internet. The prices of the kits vary between EUR 23 - 140, depending on the type of hallucinogenic mushroom species for which spores are available. Psilocybe Mexicana, also known as 'Philosopher's stones' or truffles, cost between 10 and 17.5 EUR per 10 grams online in 2011 (unpublished results) [1].

According to the DEA, while street prices fluctuate, psilocybin mushrooms generally cost $20 for 1/8 ounce and $100 to $120 for an ounce. In addition, synthetic psilocybin and psilocyn can be produced, although this practice is rare because the process is difficult and expensive, and the end product is difficult to store [9], [10].

If you buy them, they can cost up to £5 for a handful [3].

Why take it?

Effects similar to LSD [2].

Sought after effects

  • senses become distorted,
  • changes to time, space and meaning - 'trips' can be ecstatic experiences [2].
  • at low doses, they can make you laugh like a hyena,
  • they distort all your senses and merge them together - you can hear the colour red, see the sound of laughter,
  • you have lots of deep and meaningful thoughts about the universe, and just feel a general brilliant insight into life,
  • time tends to pass more slowly, minutes seem like hours. Everything feels like a dream,
  • you feel really happy, calm, and generally tripped-out,
  • at higher dosages, you can have full-blown hallucinations, similar to an LSD trip, or see things even when your eyes are closed. If you see nice things, you generally have a fab time [11].

Undesired effects

  • distortions or 'trips' like frightening paranoid nightmares,
  • can negatively affect people who have mental health problems [2],
  • what if you pick the wrong mushroom?! The biggest danger of magic mushrooms is eating a poisonous one by mistake,
  • you can get a crippling stomach ache and feel sick; some lucky users also get a bad dose of diarrhoea,
  • if you have a bad trip, you could be stuck with intense feelings of sheer terror until the drug wears off,
  • having a distorted view of reality can be pretty dangerous if you're trying to cross a road, or similar,
  • some users get a pretty bad headache that lasts for days afterwards [11].

How long do its effects last?

Onset of effects

  • oral - 30 - 240 minutes [3], 15 - 30 minutes [10], [12], 15 - 60 minutes [13],
    • soup or tea - 5 - 10 minutes [14].
  • nasal - 5 - 10 minutes [12].

Peak

  • oral - 90 - 180 minutes [10], 2 - 4 hours [13].

Offset

  • oral - 2 - 6 hours [10].

Duration of effects

  • oral - 4 - 6 hours [14], 4 - 10 hours [3], 3 - 6 hours [12], 4 - 8 hours [13].
  • nasal - 2 - 4 hours [12].

After-effects

  • oral - 2 - 6 hours [3], 3 - 12 hours [12],
  • nasal - 3 - 12 hours [12].

Pharmacology

Psilocin mainly interacts with 5-HT1A, 5-HT2A and 5-HT2C receptor subtypes: it is a mixed receptor agonist. In contrast to LSD, psilocin does not have an effect on the dopamine receptor. Tryptamines and phenethylamine hallucinogens both have a relatively high affinity for serotonin 5-HT2 receptors, but they differ in their affinity for other subtypes of serotonin receptors. The correlation between the relative affinity of hallucinogens for 5-HT2-receptors and their potency as hallucinogens in human beings suggest that an important component of the mechanism of action of these substances is through stimulation of brain 5-HT2-receptors. A primary role for the 5-HT2-receptor in the mechanism of hallucinations is further suggested by the observation that antagonists of the 5-HT2-receptor are effective in blocking the behavioural and electrophysiological effects of hallucinogenic drugs in animals and in man. Although 5HT2-receptors are certainly involved, at present, it is not possible to attribute the psychedelic effects to any single 5-HT receptor subtype.

Behavioural effects are dependent on dose and the individual reaction and sensitivity to psilocybin, previous experiences and the setting. The major effects are related to the CNS, but there are also some sympathomimetic effects. The subjective effects, however, may vary greatly between individuals and from one episode of use to the next within the same person. The effects range from mild feelings of relaxation, giddiness, euphoria, visual enhancement (seeing colours brighter), visual disturbances (moving surfaces, waves), to delusions, altered perception of real events, images and faces, or real hallucinations. The sensory distortions may be coupled with restlessness, incoordination, feelings of anxiety, impaired judgement of time or distance, sense of unreality or even depersonalisation. These effects may be termed 'bad trips' by users and can also involve panic reactions and psychosis-like states.

In general, the physiological effects are not significant, but may include dizziness, nausea, weakness, muscle aching, shivering, abdominal pain, dilation of pupils (mydriasis), mild-to-moderate increase in heart rate (tachycardia) and breathing (tachypnea) and elevation of blood pressure. Generally, body temperature remains normal. However, pronounced physical symptoms such as severe stomach pain, persistent vomiting, diarrhoea etc. have been recorded [1].

The active alkaloids in Psilocybe mushrooms (principally psilocybin, psilocin and baeocystin) are the main components responsible for the entheogenic effects. Of these, psilocybin is the most sought after and most stable psychedelic compound, although it is converted to psilocin in the body after ingestion.

Psilocybin and psilocin are both indolealkylamines and structurally similar to the neurotransmitter serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine or 5-HT). Psilocin is a mixed receptor agonist, and mostly interacts with the 5-HT1A, 5-HT2A and 5-HT2C receptor subtypes, though unlike LSD not the dopamine receptors.

It is the 5-HT2-receptors in the body that are thought to be largely responsible for the psychedelic effects of consuming mushrooms, as they are particularly receptive to the hallucinogens found within them, although their role may not be greatly more significant than any other of the 5-HTs.

For Fly Agaric (/amanita muscaria/), the main active agents are muscimol (a psychoactive alkaloid not unlike psilocybin, but an agonist of the GABAA receptors) and the neurotoxin ibotenic acid; this can also produce entheogenic effects at higher doses, but the majority of it is excreted unaltered in urine [2].

Elimination

Within the first hour of use, psilocybin is converted into psilocin, which is then excreted within the first 8 hours [14].

Mode of use

The material may be eaten raw, boiled in water to make tea, or cooked with other foods to cover its bitter flavour [1].

Fresh or dried psilocybin mushrooms can be ingested orally either whole (often prepared with a food item such as peanut butter or pizza to hide their bitter taste), sprinkled on top of food, or after being brewed to make a tea [9]. Dried mushrooms can also be crushed into a powder and prepared in capsule form. In its pure powder form, psilocybin can be prepared in capsules, tablets, or solution. Psilocybin can be consumed orally, sniffed, smoked, or injected [9]. Psilocybin has a bitter, unpalatable taste [5].

After picking, magic mushrooms are often eaten raw or are dried out and stored. Some people use the dried mushrooms to make tea. Most people take between 1 - 5 grams. People don't tend to eat fly agaric mushrooms raw as they can make you feel really sick [3].

Magic mushrooms are eaten fresh, cooked or brewed into a tea. The dried version is sometimes smoked, mixed with cannabis or tobacco [14].

Signs of usage

Some of the signs of addiction to magic mushrooms are similar to the red flags of addiction to other substances. When a good portion of the user's waking hours are spent thinking about getting or using the shrooms, the person has gone from a recreational user to someone with an addiction issue.

If the individual who has been using mushrooms is experiencing flashbacks in between trips, this is also a sign of addiction. A flashback can occur in a non-drug context when a particular sight, sound or smell reminds the individual of a previous event.

When the flashback is a drug-related one, the individual re-experiences something he saw or felt while tripping. Not everyone who tries magic mushrooms is going to end up getting flashbacks, whether he is addicted or not. These types of flashbacks are not necessarily triggered by a particular sight or sound. It can occur for no logical reason as well.

During a flashback, the person may experience visual distortions similar to the hallucinations he experienced while tripping. In some cases, the flashback is an emotional one, and the individual re-experiences the feelings he had during a trip.

A person may be addicted to using mushrooms when his first response to anything unpleasant in life is to zoom out by using it again. When mushrooms get in the way of doing well at school or at work, this is another sign of addiction [15].

Effects

Psilocybin affects the CNS by disturbing the normal interaction of nerve cells and the functioning of the neurotransmitter serotonin, to which it is structurally similar [9]. The effects produced by psilocybin and psilocyn are highly variable and depend on several factors, including the age, type, and dosage amount of mushroom used, the setting the mushroom is used in, the users expectations, past drug experiences, and personality. The effects of synthesised psilocybin and psilocyn are more predictable [16].

Magic mushrooms can give you a good trip, making you feel confident, relaxed and in good spirits - or they can give you a really scary bad trip. You won't know what will happen until you take them. The more you take, the longer your trip could last. If you feel that you're having (or going to have) a bad trip, let your friends know and get their help. Go to a nice quiet spot where you feel safe and can relax [3].

They can also have other effects -

  • Magic mushrooms can distort colours, sounds and objects. They can make you feel as if your senses are mixed up so that, for example, you think you can hear colours and you can see sounds. Some people can feel more emotionally sensitive or more creative or feel enlightened.
  • They can also speed up and slow down your sense of time and movement.
  • They can make it feel like you're dreaming when you're awake.
  • Sometimes, magic mushrooms can make you feel disoriented, tired or sick and can give you stomach pains or diarrhoea [3].

Mushrooms taken for the 'high' are labeled psilocybin mushrooms. This is the organic compound naturally produced in mushrooms, in over 200 varietal types. Most users take these mushrooms in much the same way that everyone eats them - on pizza, in salads, stir fries, etc [15].

Immediate effects

Ingesting these types of mushrooms has a strong hallucinogenic effect that begins to affect the user within 20 - 30 minutes. Early effects of the active ingredients in mushrooms, psilocybin, psilocin, and baeocystin, are broken down into psilocin once they have been taken. The initial feelings are described as mild anxiety or anticipatory sensations. Entire physical body sensation of energy or mild electricity running through the body is common.

As the drug begins to take effect more powerfully, visual and mental changes take place. These are beginnings of strong emotional and mental charges, such as insight, new perspectives, and changing feelings, sometimes confusion and mild anxiety. Most users report a lot of laughter and strong visual hallucinations when eyes are closed.

The effects one feels on mushrooms is similar to those experienced on LSD or mescaline. Users generally report high euphoric sensations, along with great mental and emotional clarity and vision. As the drug becomes more powerfully integrated into the body of the user, vivid visual hallucinations occur.

Some users experience mild nausea and anxiety that may border on paranoia. This occurs most often with high doses of psilocybin. The effects last most strongly for 4 - 6 hours, with a residual period of up to three hours while the drug wears off for the user. This can prevent users from falling asleep or being able to mentally function.

Research since 2010 is beginning to show the effects of mushrooms, using brain imaging. This data is proving to be of some value in treatment for depression and other psychological problems. Beneficial applications of psilocybin may include treatment for memory loss, such as amnesia or possibly Alzheimer's as well as other mental health problems where decreases in ruminating thought patterns are required [15].

Short-term effects

The short-term effects of psilocybin usually appear within 20 to 90 minutes of ingestion and may include -

  • visual or auditory hallucinations,
  • mixed-sensory experiences such as hearing colours or seeing sounds,
  • changes in perception of time,
  • spiritual experiences,
  • detachment from reality or self,
  • intense emotions,
  • increased respiration, temperature, and blood pressure,
  • heart palpitations,
  • increased perspiration,
  • tremors,
  • loss of appetite,
  • dry mouth,
  • sleep disturbances,
  • nausea,
  • blurred vision,
  • dilated pupils,
  • a loss of coordination,
  • paranoia,
  • psychosis [17],
  • stomach ache,
  • mild anxiety,
  • clammy hands,
  • nausea,
  • vomiting,
  • confusion,
  • anxiety [18].

Physical effects

  • nausea,
  • vomiting,
  • abdominal cramps,
  • diarrhoea,
  • muscle relaxation, weakness, and twitches,
  • yawning,
  • drowsiness,
  • dizziness,
  • lightheadedness,
  • lack of coordination,
  • pupil dilation,
  • tearing,
  • dry mouth,
  • facial flushing,
  • increased heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature,
  • sweating followed by chills and shivering,
  • numbness of tongue, lips, or mouth,
  • feelings of physical heaviness or lightness,
  • feelings of floating [16].

Cognitive effects

  • emotion enhancement - this effect can be described as being more prominent, consistent and profound when compared to other traditional psychedelics such as mescaline or LSD. this can lead to strong feelings of compassion, urgency and even completely sporadic moments of intense emotional significance that can also be periodically effected by enhancement and suppression cycles.
  • enhancement and suppression cycles - this can be described as constant waves of extremely stimulated and profound thinking which are spontaneously surpassed in a cyclic fashion by waves of general thought suppression and mental intoxication. these two states seem to switch between each other in a consistent loop once every 20 - 60 minutes.
  • language suppression - this effect can be described as a perceived inability or general unwillingness to talk aloud despite feeling perfectly capable of formulating coherent thoughts within one's internal narrative. it is much more common among inexperienced users.
  • addiction suppression [19],
  • analysis enhancement - this effect is consistent in its manifestation and outrospection dominant,
  • catharsis,
  • cognitive euphoria,
  • conceptual thinking,
  • confusion,
  • creativity enhancement,
  • delusions,
  • déjà vu,
  • ego replacement - although this effect is more likely to occur with lsd or dmt, it is still technically possible,
  • empathy, love, and sociability enhancement - this effect differs from mdma and other entactogens in that it isn't as central to the experience, feels less forced and more natural and is experienced at a less consistent rate. the sociability enhancement in particular only occurs rarely and it appears to be more emotional,
  • existential self-realisation,
  • exposure to inner mechanics of consciousness,
  • feelings of eternalism,
  • feelings of impending doom,
  • feelings of interdependent opposites,
  • feelings of predeterminism,
  • feelings of self-design,
  • immersion enhancement,
  • increased music appreciation,
  • memory enhancement,
  • memory suppression,
  • ego death,
  • mindfulness,
  • novelty enhancement,
  • personal bias suppression,
  • rejuvenation,
  • simultaneous emotions.
  • spirituality enhancement,
  • subconscious communication,
  • thought connectivity,
  • thought organisation,
  • time distortion,
  • unity and interconnectedness,
  • wakefulness [10].

Visual effects

Enhancements

  • colour enhancement - in comparison to other psychedelics, this effect may appear to be more saturated,
  • pattern recognition enhancement,
  • visual acuity enhancement [10].

Distortions

  • drifting - (melting, flowing, breathing and morphing) - in comparison to other psychedelics, this effect can be described as highly detailed, realistic, slow and smooth in motion and static in appearance,
  • after images,
  • colour shifting,
  • colour tinting,
  • depth perception distortions,
  • diffraction,
  • environmental orbism,
  • perspective distortions,
  • scenery slicing,
  • symmetrical texture repetition,
  • tracers,
  • visual haze [10].

Positive effects

  • mood lift, euphoria,
  • increased giggling and laughing,
  • creative, philosophical or deep thinking -a ideas flow more easily,
  • boring tasks or entertainment can become more interesting or funny,
  • sensation of insight,
  • life-changing spiritual experience,
  • intense feelings of wonder,
  • paradoxical feeling of a normalcy and deep alteration of psyche,
  • may interrupt cluster sequences in those suffering from cluster headaches [13].

Neutral effects

  • feeling more emotionally sensitive,
  • general change in consciousness (as with many psychoactives),
  • time perception alteration,
  • time seems to pass more slowly (minutes seem to take hours),
  • sensitivity to light; lights seem brighter,
  • starring and rainbow patterns around pinpoint lights,
  • increased detection of motion in peripheral vision,
  • open and closed-eye visuals (common at medium or stronger dose),
  • sleepiness, lethargy,
  • pupil dilation,
  • sensation of energy or buzzing in the nevous system/peripheral limbs,
  • memories come to life [13].

Negative effects

  • intense feelings of fear
  • headache, usually as effects wear off, sometimes beginning the next day, lasting for up to 24 hours
  • nausea, flatus, gastrointestinal discomfort, especially when mushrooms are eaten raw and/or dry
  • mild to severe anxiety
  • dizziness, confusion
  • lightheadedness or fainting (in cases of lowered blood pressure)
  • can precipitate or exacerbate latent or existing mental disorders
  • working memory disruption (reduced ability to do tasks requiring current remembering and attention) [13].

Bad trips

Sometimes a person may experience the negative effects of 'magic mushrooms' and have what is called a bad trip and may experience the following -

  • unpleasant and/or intense hallucinations
  • anxiety
  • paranoia
  • panic or fear [20], [9], [14].

Coming down

After ingesting 'magic mushrooms', delayed headaches may occur, which can continue for up to 2 days. After taking mushrooms a person may experience -

  • exhaustion,
  • depression,
  • anxiety [9], [14].

Tolerance

Tolerance develops rapidly with continued use. Discontinuing use for a week or so will return people to their normal tolerance level [21], [14].

Tolerance builds up rapidly with mushrooms. For 24 hours after a trip you have to take twice as much to repeat the same effect. Tolerance lasts about four or five days after the last use. There is also some cross-tolerance with other psychedelic drugs of the tryptamine family (such as LSD and DMT) but not Ecstasy or Ketamine.

If a user turns to mushroom as a way to escape from his problems and finds the experience a helpful coping mechanism, the temptation is for him to turn to magic mushrooms instead of finding better ways to deal with the stresses of everyday life. The user's brain also gets used to the pleasant experience that comes with escaping from reality in this way and wants to have it repeatedly [15].

Overdose

The use of 'magic mushrooms' rarely results in any life-threatening symptoms. If a large amount or a strong batch of mushrooms is consumed, the person may experience -

  • agitation,
  • vomiting,
  • diarrhoea,
  • loss of muscle control,
  • panic or paranoia,
  • psychosis,
  • seizures,
  • coma [22], [9], [14].

Risks

There are many different types of mushroom in the UK and some, like the fly agaric, are so poisonous that they can kill you. That means the biggest danger to your health when taking magic mushrooms is eating a poisonous mushroom by mistake. If you have eaten poisonous mushrooms you'll soon know it. If this happens to you or a friend it's really important to get medical help as soon as possible. If you do have to go to hospital, it's helpful to take an example of the mushroom that's been eaten, so the doctors can identify it [3].

Here's what else magic mushrooms could do to you -

  • They could give you a bad trip. These are seriously frightening and unsettling. And you can't tell whether you're going to have a bad trip or a good trip until it's too late.
  • You can get flashbacks some time after taking magic mushrooms.
  • Your perception of your body and the world around you can be distorted, which means you may be at risk because you're not in complete control of what you're doing.
  • If you have any mental health issues, magic mushrooms can make them worse [3].
  • As with all psychedelics there is a risk of having a bad trip this can be extremely confusing and distressing with some people experiencing panic attacks. To minimise this risk always make sure you have a good set and setting going into the trip. It is also a good idea to have a fast acting benzodiazepine (e.g. Alprazolam) with you in case things get really out of hand.
  • Mushrooms can in rare cases cause HPPD which causes disturbances to vision including; difficulty focusing on bight objects (eg screens), visual 'snow' and tracers following moving objects.
  • Although mushrooms do not cause schizophrenia or other mental illness it can bring previously dormant or unnoticed mental conditions to the surface. If you have a history of mental illness in your family you will be at much higher risk.
  • Some poisonous mushrooms can look very similar to magic mushrooms, eating these could result in permanent damage to your liver and kidneys or even death. Always be certain that what you have are psilocybin mushrooms and if in any doubt do not eat them.
  • Flashbacks where the user experiences some aspect of the trip days, weeks or even years after taking magic mushrooms have been reported. Flashbacks are controversial and are not recognised by the medical community [23].

Short-term

Accidents whilst under the influence, anxiety, emotional distress (i.e. bad-trip). Poisoning, by accidentally picking a more toxic variety of mushroom [7].

Long-term

As with other hallucinogenic substances there may be some risk of triggering underlying psychological problems. Not physically addictive although they can create short-term increases in tolerance [7].

Purity

Hallucinogenic mushrooms show a large variety in potency. The potency depends on species, origin, growing conditions and harvest period. The most potent species, e.g. Psilocybe semilanceata, contain up to 1% (g/g; 10 mg psilocybin per 1 g dried mushrooms), although for other species (e.g. Psilocybe azurenscens, Psilocybe bohemica) higher concentrations than 1% g/g have been reported. The maximum amount of psilocybin and psilocin in Psilocybe cubensis (ordinary psilocybe) is about 0.6%. The average percentage of active ingredients in dried mushrooms is about 10 times as high as in fresh mushrooms. This is mainly because about 90% of the weight of fresh mushrooms is made up by water. Variations in potency are lower in cultivated mushrooms than in those growing in the wild.

Some hallucinogenic mushrooms contain various amounts of phenethylamine. Phenylethylamine is a sympathomimetic amine; it can be responsible for cardiovascular effects (tachycardia) and other unwanted reactions.

Reports from the United States suggest that often mushrooms sold as hallucinogenic mushrooms prove to be normal grocery-bought mushrooms laced with LSD, PCP (phencyclidine) or other substances. In an 11-year study, 886 samples that were said to be psilocybin were analysed. Only 28% of these were hallucinogenic mushrooms, while 35% were other drugs, mostly LSD or PCP, and 37% contained no drug at all [24].

The potency of mushrooms varies, but most have .2% to .4% psilocybin and only trace amounts of psilocyn [10].

Variable as mushrooms vary in strength. It can be very difficult to titrate dose, especially when mushrooms have been dried, or cooked. A moderate dose range of 10 to 30 could prove very strong or very week depending on the quality and size of the mushrooms, and way they are taken [6].

Health implications

Can cause lasting psychological impact in sensitive individuals. The risk is low for most users; however, people with a history of mental illness should steer clear of hallucinogens including Magic Mushrooms.

There is also a risk of poisoning, possibly fatal, where poisonous mushrooms are taken in error.

Fly Agaric mushrooms contain Ibotenic Acid which is toxic and causes unpleasant side-effects such as nausea. These mushrooms are heated to break down the toxic compounds before consumption [6].

Addiction

Can you get addicted

Magic mushrooms are not addictive, but like with LSD you can become tolerant of the effects quite quickly - and that means you'll need to take more to get the same effect as before [3].

Mushrooms are not physically addictive but you wouldn't want to take them on a regular basis. As with any mind-altering substance, users confirm that their psychological effects can be so compelling making it hard to resist. A psychological dependency on magic mushrooms is a real possibility, and should not be discounted by users. Some people turn to psychedelic mushrooms out of curiosity. Others look for a way to escape from negative aspects of everyday living and look to tripping on mushrooms to help them cope with the feeling of being depressed or bored. A third explanation for why some would look to the so-called magic mushrooms is to help them deal with emotional issues.

While tripping on mushrooms, the individual's perceptions are distorted. People familiar with both drugs have described the experience of using mushrooms as a similar but milder trip than they would have on LSD. The user can feel as though time has slowed down, speeded up or even come to a complete standstill. Part of the attraction to using the mushrooms may be that the user feels that they are communicating with a Higher Power. This aspect can be desirable to a person who feels stressed, awkward, uncomfortable or just misunderstood in his or her everyday life [15].

Withdrawal

People withdrawing from 'magic mushrooms' may experience -

  • cravings,
  • fatigue,
  • irritability,
  • reduced ability to experience pleasure [20], [9], [14].

Harm Reduction

There are many dozens of species of mushroom, both native and introduced, that grow wild in the UK. Some are edible, a few have hallucinogenic properties, but many are highly toxic to humans. If eaten, they can cause any number of health problems, from mild stomach cramps to coma and, in extreme cases, even death. It is therefore extremely dangerous to pick them, and you should never do so unless you’re with someone who knows exactly what species they are [2].

  • If you are taking them already prepared, make sure you start with very small amounts until you learn your own dose tolerance.
  • Remember that Fly Agaric is considerably more potent than the psilocybes, so take this into account when dosing (use smaller amounts) [2].

Try to make sure you're with friends or people you trust, or at least make sure someone knows where you are [2].

Mushrooms are known as being relatively safe psychedelics, with no documented causes of death from the consumption of psilocybin mushrooms. However, when picking mushrooms it is important to be sure about the species, as many wild mushrooms are poisonous and can cause death - with some poisonous strains looking similar to common psychedelic strains [13].

Drug testing

Magic mushrooms are quite similar in tone and effect to LSD. Users typically ingest these naturally-occurring fungi by eating it raw or dried, or turning it into a tea and drinking it. As these mushrooms contain varying amounts of the mind-altering substances psilocybin and psilocin, powerful psychedelic trips are a typical effect [15].

Magic mushrooms and drug testing

Most corporate and sports testing programs use a basic drug test to check for 5 types of substances: amphetamines, cocaine, opiates, PCP and cannabinoids. It does not commonly test for the presence of psilocybin and psilocin, the primary psychoactive substances in magic mushrooms. The same goes for the extended employment drug tests employed by most companies.

However, testing for psiclocybin can be done once it is specifically requested, especially in cases of probation for a mushroom-related offense. These tests are more comprehensive and are ultimately more expensive than your standard drug test.

Unlike marijuana, psilocybin is not soluble in fat, and therefore will not stay in a user's system for long. Within the first hour of use, psilocybin is converted into psilocin, which is then excreted within the first 8 hours. Portions, however, remain for up to seven days, and can be detected in the blood or urine [15].

Legality

  • The 2005 Drugs Act amended the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 to clarify that both fresh and prepared (e.g. dried or stewed) magic mushrooms that contain psilocin or psilocybin (such as the 'liberty cap') are Class A drugs. This means it's illegal to have this type of magic mushrooms for yourself, to give away or to sell
  • Possession is illegal and can get you up to seven years in jail and/or an unlimited fine.
  • Supplying someone else, even your friends, can get you up to life imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine [3].

What if you're caught?

If the Police catch you with magic mushrooms, they'll always take some action. This could include a formal caution, arrest and prosecution [3].

  • A conviction for a drug-related offence could have a serious impact. It can stop you visiting certain countries - for example the United States - and limit the types of jobs you can apply for [3].

Did you know?

  • Like drinking and driving, driving when high is illegal - and you can still be unfit to drive the day after using magic mushrooms. You can get a heavy fine, be disqualified from driving or even go to prison.
  • Allowing other people to supply drugs in your house or any other premises is illegal. If the police catch people supplying illegal drugs in a club they can potentially prosecute the landlord, club owner or any person concerned in the management of the premises [3].

Mixing with other drugs

Mushrooms are powerful psychedelics and should not, as a rule, be mixed with other mind-altering drugs, especially not by the inexperienced or the far from home.

Please note: there have been very few scientific studies into the effects of combining psychoactive drugs. The information presented here is anecdotal. It is based on the subjective reports of experienced users. Different people will respond differently to different drugs and drug combination. Know your body [14]

  • alcohol - takes the edge off the effect and can help you to relax; drunkenness disappears during the trip; large amounts increase the nausea; do not drink on the comedown (alcohol is a depressant),
  • amphetamines - increased weirdness; energizing; paranoia usually increased; comedown can be rocky,
  • cannabis - dulls the experience in the come-up; heightens the peak; brings back the effect during comedown,
  • ecstasy (MDMA) - known as 'candy-flipping'; the ecstasy good feeling can reduce chance of a bad trip but pay attention to ecstasy's safety requirements,
  • heroin - no information available,
  • LSD - cross tolerance usually present; not much point in taking other psychedelics at the same time,
  • tobacco - up to you, no dangers, but you may be more aware of the damage it's doing to your lungs [15].
  • magic mushrooms + ice, speed or ecstasy - can increase the chances of a bad trip and can also lead to panic [9],
  • magic mushrooms + some psychiatric medications - mushrooms should not be taken by people on psychiatric medications as a relapse or worsening of the condition could occur [25], [14].

Harm reduction advice

There are many dozens of species of mushroom, both native and introduced, that grow wild in the UK. Some are edible, a few have hallucinogenic properties, but many are highly toxic to humans. If eaten, they can cause any number of health problems, from mild stomach cramps to coma and, in extreme cases, even death. It is therefore extremely dangerous to pick them, and you should never do so unless you're with someone who knows exactly what species they are [2].

  • if you are taking them already prepared, make sure you start with very small amounts until you learn your own dose tolerance,
  • remember that Fly Agaric is considerably more potent than the psilocybes, so take this into account when dosing (use smaller amounts) [2].

Try to make sure you're with friends or people you trust, or at least make sure someone knows where you are [2].

  • Bad trips are more likely to happen with higher doses and where the user already feels anxious. For this reason it is best to be with people you trust and in a safe place if you plan to take mushrooms.
  • In the UK there are many fungi growing wild, some of which are poisonous leading to stomach upsets, coma and even death. Never consume mushrooms that have not been positively identified.
  • As with all drugs it is best to start with a small dose [8].

History

Most psilocybe mushrooms are native to the Central and Southern Americas, where they have been used for a variety of reasons, primarily shamanistic though also recreationally, for hundreds (probably thousands) of years. Europeans first encountered them when Spanish missionaries started cataloguing the religious practices of Central and South American tribes. Their popularity increased after the author and botanist Robert Gordon Wasson published his account of his experiments (including his own experiences) with the mushrooms. Psilocybin and psilocin were isolated as the active hallucinogenic ingredients in the 1960's, and they were controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

Fly Agaric (amanita muscaria) is found in the Northern hemisphere, and is known in both the Old and New Worlds - it has been used as a hallucinogenic by native populations from the Dogrib Athabascan of the Mackenzie Mountains in north-western Canada, to the Koryak of Siberia, and from north India to Finland [2].

Historically, Central and South American Indians have considered hallucinogenic mushrooms, called 'god's flesh', to be sacred. Mushrooms have been used in social and religious rituals to produce visions to aid in treating illnesses, solving problems, and contacting the spirit world. In the mid-1950's, Albert Hofmann, who is credited with discovering LSD, isolated the active ingredients of mushrooms and determined psilocybin to be the major hallucinogenic component in the mushrooms, and psilocyn to be a minor component [16].

A huge number of hallucinogenic plants and fungi were used by ancient tribes and civilisations, usually as a means of entering the spiritual world. Fly agaric mushrooms were used by medicine men or 'shamans' of north east Asia and Siberia. Liberty caps were seen as sacred intoxicants by the Aztecs of Mexico at the time of the Spanish invasion in the 1500's. They do not seem to feature much in European history, although pagan witches used hallucinogenic plants from the potato family, especially Deadly Nightshade and Henbane.

Use of magic mushrooms for pleasure in the UK appears to have developed in the late 1970's as, what was then, a legal alternative to LSD. Fly agaric use is still rare but use of liberty caps has become more common, especially amongst teenagers [8].


References

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  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 Mushrooms, 2017, http://www.release.org.uk/drugs/mushrooms
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 3.16 Magic mushrooms, 2016, http://www.talktofrank.com/drug/magic-mushrooms
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