What are magic mushrooms?
Magic mushrooms are wild hallucinogenic mushrooms that can change the way the mind perceives things and give a sense of euphoria.
Written by spunout
Fact checked by experts and reviewed by young people.
Magic mushrooms are naturally occurring mushrooms that cause psychedelic effects. This effect is caused by the presence of psychoactive or mind-altering substances in the mushrooms, such as psilocybin.
There are a number of different species of mushroom that can cause psychedelic effects. The ‘liberty cap’ mushroom (psilocybe semilanceata), a small and potent mushroom, is one of the most commonly found magic mushrooms in Europe. Other species occur in the wild, while some are cultivated indoors.
Magic mushrooms are considered a hallucinogenic drug and its effects are often compared to LSD, and the experience is similarly described as a ‘trip’.
How do magic mushrooms work?
Magic mushrooms are typically ingested and can come fresh, dried or dried and then crushed into a powder. They can be eaten as is, made into tea, or mixed into something sweet like chocolate. Mushroom powder may also be sold in capsule form. Mushrooms can have a strong, bitter, earthy taste and rubbery texture, so some users may find consuming them unpleasant.
Magic mushrooms can also come in the form of ‘truffles’. Psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) can also be found in synthetic form.
When taken, the substance psilocybin is converted in the body into a chemical called psilocin.
Recent research suggests that magic mushrooms also affect parts of the brain related to our sense of time, our ability to reflect on the past and our sense of self. It is thought that this is why users report feeling a loss of sense of self, increased connectedness with others and the world around them when taking mushrooms.
What are the short-term effects of magic mushrooms?
The effects of magic mushrooms depend on the dose. It can take anything up to an hour to feel the effects of mushrooms and the high can typically last from 4-6 hours.
How you experience magic mushrooms can depend on various factors, such as your mindset at the time, who you are with, your surroundings, dosage and more. Psychedelic trips are hard to predict and no two trips are the same.
Some users may experience nausea or vomiting while ‘coming up’ on mushrooms, or during the trip.Similar to other psychedelics, magic mushrooms change the way the mind perceives things. Users report feeling a sense of euphoria or child-like wonder about the world around them, and may also feel giggly, silly and excited.
Sensory experience may be heightened. Mundane things in life may seem infinitely fascinating, but also overwhelming depending on the intensity of the trip. Users may find themselves thinking in new and interesting ways, or gaining a new perspective on issues in their lives.
Magic mushrooms and hallucinations
Some hallucinations can occur while under the effects of magic mushrooms depending on dose. Visual hallucinations can occur both within your mind (closed-eye hallucinations) and in the world around you (open-eye hallucinations). Mushrooms may also cause users to experience sounds differently or, more rarely, sound-related (auditory) hallucinations.
Visual experiences when your eyes are closed can range from bright colours and geometric patterns to seeing elaborate dreamscape-visions. Open-eye hallucinations can involve seeing moving patterns on surfaces around you; the colours of objects changing or becoming brighter; or, at higher doses, objects around you transforming or you seeing things that aren’t really there.
What are the risks of taking magic mushrooms?
Magic mushrooms can look very similar to other species of mushrooms that are unsuitable for human consumption. This can cause serious illness and even death if species of mushrooms are mixed up during the picking process. It is always better to avoid picking your own mushrooms if you are new to them to avoid the possibility of mixing species up.
Taking mushrooms can impair a user’s judgement and encourage odd behaviour. This may make them more likely to do something like walk out into a road or get into some other situation where accident and injury is possible.
Those who take medications that affect serotonin such as antidepressants, migraine medications including Imitrex and Treximet (sumatriptan) or herbal remedies such as St John’s Wort are advised not to take psilocybin. This is due to the possible risk of developing a potentially life-threatening condition called serotonin syndrome.
Due to its psychedelic effects, people with a family history of psychosis or paranoid schizophrenia are advised to avoid magic mushrooms, due to how psychedelic drugs can trigger psychotic illness within people who are genetically predisposed to develop them.
Magic mushrooms and addiction
Like LSD, mushrooms are not generally thought of as addictive or habit-forming. Users quickly develop a high tolerance for mushrooms, so taking the drug consistently will produce extremely diminished psychedelic effects. It is possible for users to become very attached to the psychological impact of these drugs, however.
A ‘bad trip’ on magic mushrooms
Taking magic mushrooms can be very overwhelming and generate a lot of anxiety, panic and confusion. A user may find themselves thinking obsessively about their life or experience a lot of social anxiety, and this may make them feel tense or afraid. They may also find their mind drifting to painful moments in their lives or reflecting on aspects of themselves they may struggle with, which can make someone feel sad or anxious.
A ‘bad trip’ may make a person lose touch with reality or feel like they cannot communicate with those around them. Hallucinations may cause tension or fear, or a user may feel very uncomfortable within themselves for the duration of the trip.
It is difficult to predict how a user will respond to taking mushrooms or whether they will experience a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ trip before it starts. Magic mushroom trips can be very physically and mentally draining, regardless of whether someone has a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ trip.
If you or someone you know is tripping on mushrooms, it is better to remain in a safe, familiar environment such as your home for the duration of the trip and to spend the time with a friend or loved one who can help in the event that something goes wrong. Being in public or crowded settings can be upsetting and stressful while tripping on mushrooms. Pre-planning a trip to ensure that you are in the right headspace and environment to remain as safe as possible throughout the experience can reduce the risks of something going wrong.
If you want to help someone who is experiencing a bad trip:
- Move the person to a quiet non-stimulating environment
- Reassure them everything is going to be okay while speaking gently and quietly
- Encourage them to breathe slowly and deeply to prevent hyperventilation
- Remind the person that the effects of the drug will eventually wear off
- Remove to hospital if worried or unsure about whether the person is experiencing a drug emergency
What does the law say about magic mushrooms?
The Misuse of Drugs Act controls magic mushrooms. It is therefore illegal to possess, produce or supply them.
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