Psilocybin (Magic Mushrooms) | Uses, Effects, Warning Signs, & Risks

Psilocybin, otherwise known as "magic mushrooms," is a hallucinogenic drug that is used recreationally and in some experimental therapies. The drug is not necessarily addictive, but some people do become dependent on its effects.

Psilocybin is a natural hallucinogenic drug found in certain species of mushrooms. These magic mushrooms, also known as shrooms or caps, can be eaten fresh, brewed into a tea, or dried and smoked.

Psilocybin Mushroom Uses

Since ancient times different varieties of psilocybin mushrooms have been used in the spiritual activities of indigenous New World cultures. This practice continues today in certain areas of Mexico and South America using mushroom varieties such as psilocybe mexicana.

Prior to being designated a Schedule I drug and illicit substance under the Controlled Substances Act in 1970, psilocybin was also used experimentally in psychiatry and psychotherapy.

In more recent years, psilocybin therapy is once again being tested in clinical trials as a potential FDA-approved treatment for drug dependence, anxiety, treatment-resistant depression, and major depressive disorder.

More commonly, psychedelic mushrooms are cultivated and used as recreational drugs, a practice common enough that psilocybin, not unlike cannabis, has been decriminalized in a number of major United States cities.

Effects Of Psilocybin Mushroom

Psilocybin, on its own, is not a psychoactive substance. However, when the drug is absorbed into the body it acts as a prodrug and is converted into psilocin and other substances that bind to serotonin receptors in the brain, generating a psychedelic experience.

The mental and physical effects of these hallucinogenic mushrooms can vary greatly depending on the individual and their mindset and surroundings.

The effects of psilocybin can include:

  • enhanced sensory perceptions
  • distorted sense of time and space
  • feelings of detachment from self or reality
  • visual or auditory hallucinations, including synesthesia (seeing sounds or hearing colors)
  • euphoria and feelings of well-being

Use of psilocybin can also cause side effects, such as:

  • impaired judgment
  • increased breathing, blood pressure and heart rate
  • heart palpitations
  • sweating
  • dry mouth
  • hilarity (extreme amusement and laughter)
  • impaired concentration
  • muscular relaxation, including dilated pupils
  • impaired coordination
  • nausea and vomiting
  • drowsiness
  • tremors

These effects tend to appear around 20 minutes after oral ingestion of the mushrooms and can last up to six hours. If dried mushrooms are smoked the effects will likely occur more quickly and last for a shorter period of time.

Psilocybin Tolerance & Cross-Tolerance

Whenever psilocybin is taken repeatedly over a short period of time the human body begins to rapidly develop tolerance against the drug’s effects. This decreases the drug‘s effects for a period of time, which makes it much less likely that psilocybin will be abused heavily.

In addition, use of psilocybin tends to generate cross-tolerance against other drugs with serotonergic and/or hallucinogenic effects and vice versa.

This includes the psychedelic drugs lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), peyote/mescaline, DMT, MDMA, and MDA, as well as a variety of common antidepressants.

Warning Signs & Risks Of Psilocybin Use

There are several risks, concerns, and warning signs associated with a psilocybin use.

Mushroom Poisoning

Unfortunately, those who use or attempt to use magic mushrooms can sometimes be severely poisoned by accidentally ingesting misidentified poisonous mushrooms.

Personality Changes

In a 2011 study by Roland Griffiths and colleagues it was found that a single high dose of psilocybin could cause lasting changes to personality in healthy volunteers.

Despite these changes being generally positive, relating to openness, altruism, gratitude, forgiveness, and feelings of closeness to others, the study points out that the results are likely inconclusive.

However, this study suggests that psilocybin can have a profound and potentially unpredictable effect on the mental architecture of those who use it.

Bad Trips

Sometimes individuals who take psilocybin will experience feelings of anxiety and fear, along with disturbing sensory effects.

Bad trips are more likely to occur when a person isn’t feeling comfortable or confident as the drug is taken, if an excessive dosage is taken, or if the drug is taken with other substances. But bad trips can also occur without a clear or obvious cause.

In severe cases, psilocybin use can even cause psychosis, a serious medical condition involving delirium, hallucinations, and paranoia. This, in turn, can lead to accidental injuries, self-injury, or suicide attempts.

Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder

Occasionally, psilocybin use can cause intense flashbacks or a re-experiencing of psilocybin’s effects days, weeks, or even months after the drug was used.

These hallucinations can occur suddenly and without warning and are thought to relate to the presence of certain mental health disorders.

Risk Of Addiction

While magic mushroom use doesn’t trigger the development of physical dependence, even in cases of high dose drug abuse, psilocybin can be psychologically addictive in certain cases.

This generally occurs when a person feels they need to keep experiencing the sense of enlightenment or changed consciousness that comes with psilocybin use, leading to chronic use over a long period of time.

This can lead to deteriorating mental health, combination drug abuse, and high-risk drug use leading to accidents and financial or legal jeopardy.

Find Treatment Today

Hallucinogen misuse can be a difficult pattern of behavior to break. If you are interested in receiving professional support on an outpatient basis, please contact Northeast Addictions Treatment Center today.

Written by
Northeast Addition Editorial Team

Published on

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This page does not provide medical advice.

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