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What Are Hallucinogenic Mushrooms?

We think of mushrooms as a food. But some kinds of mushrooms contain substances that can cause hallucinations.

Hallucinogenic mushrooms contain psilocybin and psilocyn. These substances, in large enough doses, have effects similar to the drug LSD.

Hallucinogenic mushrooms might be either fresh or dried. People take them as drugs by eating them, mixing them with food to mask the bitter taste, or brewing them in a tea for drinking.

Short-Term Effects

When someone takes mushrooms, the body converts the psilocybin into psilocyn. Scientists believe that psilocyn affects serotonin, one of the chemicals in our brains. Increased amounts of serotonin can create feelings of euphoria and altered perceptions of reality.

The effects of mushrooms generally begin after about 30 to 45 minutes. They can last as long as 6 hours. Early effects typically include nausea and excessive yawning. After these initial effects, the "trip" begins.

A trip might be mild, leaving a person feeling drowsy or relaxed. But higher doses or stronger mushrooms can bring on hallucinations, anxiety, paranoia, and nervousness. The person may have a distorted sense of time, place, and reality. Too large a dose can lead to a long-term mental health condition known as psychosis.

The length and intensity of each mushroom trip can vary. It depends on how strong the mushrooms are and how much someone took. How a trip turns out also depends on the user's mood, personality, and expectations.

Some trips may be enjoyable, but others lead to terrifying thoughts of losing control, intense paranoia, panic attacks, and fears of death. With mushrooms, it's very hard to predict what sort of trip each user will have. There's also no way to end a bad trip until it has run its course, which could be hours later.

The physical effects of mushrooms can include:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • increased heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature
  • muscle weakness
  • drowsiness
  • lack of coordination
  • dilated pupils

In very rare cases, if someone takes a huge amount of mushrooms, the side effects can be severe enough to cause death.

Long-Term Effects

People who take mushrooms often can build up a tolerance to psilocybin and psilocyn. They have to take larger and larger amounts to feel the same effects. This greatly increases the dangers of using mushrooms.

Long-term use also can lead people to crave the drug in order to feel happy, deal with life, or cope with emotional issues. Long-term users have an increased risk of psychiatric diseases like schizophrenia and psychosis.

Some mushroom users have flashbacks where they relive some part of a drug trip when they're no longer high. Flashbacks can come on without warning. They might happen a few days after taking mushrooms or months later.

Other Possible Problems

It's extremely difficult to know how strong mushrooms are. Buying mushrooms is also risky because some mushrooms are drugs, but others are extremely poisonous: A number of mushroom species can make people violently ill or even kill them.

Hallucinogenic mushrooms can give people stomach cramps or make them throw up. They also give some users diarrhea. Problems like these can be caused by the mushrooms themselves, but they might mean that someone ate a poisonous mushroom and needs immediate medical attention. Don't take any chances. If you or someone you're with feels sick after taking mushrooms, get to a hospital or call 911 right away.

Because mushrooms alter a person's sense of reality and affect judgment, trying to drive while under the influence of mushrooms is likely to cause accidents.

Mushrooms are an illegal drug listed as a Schedule I substance in the United States. This means they have a high potential for abuse and serve no legitimate medical purpose. Possession or use of hallucinogenic mushrooms is punishable by fines and jail time.

How Can Someone Quit?

There are no withdrawal symptoms when quitting mushrooms, but it can still be hard to stop. That's because people become dependent on mushrooms to feel good or cope with life. Signs that someone might have an addiction to mushrooms include flashbacks, problems at school or work, and constantly thinking about getting or taking more mushrooms.

There are no specific treatments for mushroom addiction. Many people rely on treatment programs or counseling and the help of support groups to help them kick the drug.

Avoiding Mushrooms

Mushrooms may seem like no big deal compared with some other drugs. But a lot of people don't realize they can very easily have a bad trip. That kind of experience could be like a worst nightmare come true, and there's no way to wake up from it until the mushrooms are done with you. And then there's the fact that a trip might be to the ER if the mushrooms end up being poisonous.

Some people who take mushrooms are never the same mentally after a bad trip. All in all, it's a good idea to avoid taking this drug.

Reviewed by: Julia Brown Lancaster, MSN, WHNP-BC
Date reviewed: February 2014