Mushrooms that cause psychoactive effects are known as magic mushrooms, psychedelic mushrooms or shrooms. People use them to experience hallucinations and distorted thinking. Some take the drug in search of spiritual or religious experiences.
The effects of psychedelic mushrooms can vary. People can have positive experiences with the drug, but some have bad trips characterized by terrifying thoughts or living nightmares.
The psychoactive chemicals in magic mushrooms are Schedule I controlled substances because they have a high risk of abuse and no known medical purpose. Small studies have found preliminary evidence that these chemicals may have psychological benefits for some people. But research on the health benefits of psychedelic mushrooms isn’t conclusive.
Psilocybin is the drug in magic mushrooms. It’s found in certain types of mushrooms native to tropical and subtropical regions throughout North and South America, Europe and Southeast Asia.
Most magic mushrooms contain between 0.2 and 0.4 percent psilocybin. They also contain a small amount of psilocin, a metabolite of psilocybin.
When a person eats psychedelic mushrooms, the psilocybin is converted to psilocin in the body. Psilocin is the chemical that causes the psychoactive effects of magic mushrooms, according to a 2017 study published in the journal Drug Metabolism Reviews.
Mushrooms are generally not illegal drugs. However, psilocybin and psilocin are Schedule I controlled substances, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Possession of mushrooms containing psilocybin or psilocin is illegal in the United States.
Psychedelic mushrooms are swallowed. They’re often mixed with other foods, brewed as a tea or coated in chocolate to improve the taste.
Some people crush the mushrooms into a powder. They then sprinkle the powder on top of foods or mix it in beverages. The powder can fit in capsules or tablets. However, it’s risky to take capsules purchased on the street because it’s impossible for most people to determine what’s inside.
It’s also difficult to determine if a mushroom contains psilocybin. Eating the wrong type of mushroom can cause stomach discomfort, nausea, vomiting or poisoning.
Psilocin in magic mushrooms prevents certain brain cells from communicating properly. The parts of the brain in charge of mood, cognition and perception can’t talk to one another. As a result, people experience hallucinations.
In addition to hallucinations, effects of psychedelic mushrooms include:
The effects are felt between 20 minutes and two hours after consuming the drug, and they last between three and six hours. But the psychoactive chemicals in magic mushrooms stay in your system for longer periods of time. Psychedelic mushrooms don’t show up on standard drug tests, but specialized drug tests can detect psilocybin or psilocin.
Magic mushrooms do not cause life-threatening overdose symptoms. But hallucinations may increase the risk of suicidal behavior, accidents or reckless behavior, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Mistaking poisonous mushrooms for psilocybin mushrooms can also lead to death.
Little is known about the long-term risks of psychedelic mushroom use. Multiple studies of people consuming low doses of the drug in controlled settings did not reveal any serious health effects. However, large doses were associated with dysphoria, anxiety and panic in one study. These side effects were treated with interpersonal support.
Several hallucinogens have a low risk of causing hallucinogen persisting perception disorder. Also known as HPPD, the disorder is characterized by visual disturbances and flashbacks to hallucinations. The flashbacks may continue for months or years.
However, the only documented case of magic mushrooms causing HPPD occurred when a person mixed the drug with marijuana, according to a 2005 case study in the journal European Psychiatry.
A lack of known risks does not indicate that magic mushrooms are safe. Similar drugs, such as LSD, also increase the risk of persistent psychosis. This condition is characterized by paranoia and visual hallucinations. However, the prevalence of persistent psychosis is low.
Psychedelic mushrooms do not cause addiction or dependence. Addiction is a disease characterized by compulsive drug-seeking behavior and an inability to stop using drugs despite serious consequences. Dependence is a physical adaptation that causes withdrawal symptoms when the drug isn’t present.
When consumed regularly, magic mushrooms cause tolerance. The body adapts to the psychoactive chemicals, and people have to consume larger doses over time to feel the same effects. After repeated use, the person won’t feel any effect.
Psilocybin also increases a person’s tolerance to LSD and mescaline, the drug in peyote. Similarly, LSD abuse increases a person’s tolerance to psilocybin. This is called cross-tolerance.
Behavioral therapy may benefit people experiencing lingering symptoms from psychedelic mushroom use. People addicted to other types of drugs may require rehab, but most people do not go to rehab primarily for magic mushrooms.
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