Risks of Mushroom Use & Effects on the Body
Psilocybin mushrooms (magic mushrooms) have been used for thousands of years for ceremonial purposes. Their use gained popularity in the counterculture movement as individuals sought to find alternate ways to have hallucinogenic experiences.
While many people consider mushrooms to be safe, there are many risks associated with their use. We’ll go over mushrooms, their use, risks and dangers, and how to get help if you or a loved one is struggling with hallucinogen misuse.
What Are Magic Mushrooms?
The term magic mushrooms actually refers to well over 100 species of mushrooms that contain the psychoactive drug psilocybin (4-phosphoryloxy-N, N-dimethyltryptamine). Many of these contain other psychoactive substances, although psilocybin is typically deemed to be the major psychoactive substance in the mushroom.
Other names for psilocybin mushrooms are:
- Sacred mushroom.
- Los mujercitos.
- Little smoke.
- Silly putty.
- Simple Simon.
Psilocybin is considered to be a Schedule I controlled substance by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which classifies it as having no medicinal uses and a high potential for the development of abuse and physical or psychological dependence.
Effects of Magic Mushrooms
Magic mushrooms are typically eaten but can also be brewed in a tea. Individuals eat the mushrooms for their psychoactive effects. These effects will typically begin within one hour of ingesting the drug and may last as long as six hours. The effects of ingesting the mushrooms are documented as resulting in:
- Euphoric and cognitive effects that include very vivid hallucinations (mostly visual but can occur in any sensory modality).
- Vivid perceptions of the environment, such as very acute and intense colors or sounds.
- Alterations in one’s sense of time, such that time moves much slower.
- Depersonalization (the feeling as if one is separated from one’s body).
- Derealization (the feeling as if other things are not real).
- Significantly slowed and disorganized thinking processes.
- Mood swings that can alternate from positive moods to more negative moods, such as anxiety or depression; anxiety; panic attacks; and even delusion due to alterations in sensory perceptions.
- Decreased fear to threatening environmental stimuli.
Physical effects of mushrooms include:
- Increased heart rate.
- Changes in blood pressure (both hypertension and hypotension).
- Increased reflexes.
- Poor motor coordination.
- The development of shakiness or tremors.
- Pupil dilation.
- Fever, and/or chills in some cases.
There are several other negative ramifications of chronic psilocybin use that include:
- Panic and/or psychotic reactions from large doses.
- The potential to engage in poor judgment while being under the influence of psilocybin.
- The inability to decide between what is real and what is not real while under the influence of the drug.
- A potential to ingest potentially poisonous mushrooms by mistake.
- A very small probability that an individual will develop hallucinogen-induced persistent perception disorder, which consists of repeated flashbacks when the drug has not been taken.
Additional Side Effects of Mushroom Misuse
In addition, a number of research studies have indicated that the use of psilocybin results in several interesting changes in normal functioning that include:
- Dissociative experiences (depersonalization and derealization) as well as rare experiences like synesthesia, where one has a sense of mixed sensory perception, such as hearing color.
- Inhibits information processing by disrupting the activity of the thalamus, an area of the brain that is the relay station for all environmental stimulation except smell. The thalamus basically checks all incoming information (except the sense of smell), categorizes it, and sends it to the appropriate processing center in the brain. Psilocybin appears to disrupt this process.
- Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (flashbacks), or an experience where a person relives the experience of their mushroom use, despite not being under the influence of mushrooms. These can occur weeks, months, or even years after last use.
Can You Overdose on Mushrooms?
It is possible to overdose on mushrooms. An overdose is very rarely fatal, but the effects can have a profound impact on physical and psychological well-being.
Signs of a mushroom overdose include:
- Anxiety and panic attacks.
- Nausea and vomiting.
An overdose typically lasts about 6-8 hours, though some effects may take significantly longer to wear off.
Magic Mushroom Tolerance & Dependence
The use of magic mushrooms on a regular basis is associated with very rapid development of tolerance to psilocybin. Tolerance occurs when individuals need more of a specific substance to get the effects that once occurred at lower doses. However, there is no evidence that individuals who regularly use magic mushrooms can develop physical dependence on them.
Physical dependence occurs when individuals develop both tolerance and withdrawal symptoms to a drug. Withdrawal occurs after the development of tolerance and consists of a series of negative physical and emotional effects from discontinuing a drug or significantly cutting down its dose. Despite the classification of psilocybin by the DEA, there is very little evidence to suggest that psilocybin is a major drug of abuse, and there are no recorded fatalities of overdosing on psilocybin alone. Fatalities associated with psilocybin often include use of other dangerous drugs, such as alcohol.
Are Psilocybin Mushrooms Addictive?
Even though psilocybin is not considered to be a drug that has a high potential for abuse, it can be misused. Individuals demonstrating psilocybin misuse (a hallucinogen use disorder) will engage in a number of dysfunctional activities associated with use of the drug. These include issues like
- Spending significant amounts of time using the drug or trying to find the drug.
- Using the drug to cope with everyday stressors.
- Using the drug in situations where it is physically dangerous to do so.
- Using the drug repeatedly despite experiencing negative ramifications of use (problems at work, problems in relationships, failing to maintain important commitments, continued use in spite of psychological or physical damage, etc.).
- The development of significant tolerance.
The development of a hallucinogen use disorder represents the development of a severe mental health disorder that requires an individual to undergo intense and targeted treatment. Those struggling with mushroom abuse will not experience the severe physical withdrawal effects that some drugs produce; however, there are number of negative emotional and psychological effects that these individuals may experience as they attempt to recover from their substance use disorder.
In addition, many individuals use magic mushrooms in conjunction with other drugs of abuse, such as alcohol, and individuals with co-occurring substance use disorders are more difficult to treat than individuals who develop a substance use disorder to one type of drug.
Treating Hallucinogen Use Disorders in California
If you or someone you care about is struggling with their mushroom use there is effective and compassionate help available. At our inpatient rehab in Southern California we used evidence-based addiction-focused healthcare to help people live a life of meaningful recovery.
For more information about our different levels of addiction treatment, how to use insurance coverage for rehab, other payment options, or to start the admissions process, contact our admissions navigators 24/7 at . Not only can they answer your questions about our treatment center, but they can also tell you about what to expect in inpatient treatment and address any concerns you may have.