Mushrooms are a substance that grows in the ground and contain fungi. These are often referred to as psychedelic mushrooms, magic mushrooms, or shrooms. Seventy-five different species contain the chemical psilocin or psilocybin. These two chemicals are known to induce psychedelic events. While the drugs are used at concerts or for religious experiences today, they have a long history of use dating back centuries. They are used by individuals to invoke deep consciousness. That naturally grown mushrooms are seen as an important ritual dating as far back as 9,000 B.C. in North African cultures.

The drug has also been used in the ancient Mayan and Aztec cultures in Central America. They refer to the substance as “teonanacatl,” which translates to “flesh of the gods.” Spanish Catholic missionaries left their journals behind that document their experiences with mushrooms when they came to the new world in the 16th century. It shows how long these practices have been in human existence, and our experimentation with drugs is prevalent even in ancient times. Drugs like mushrooms have been around for centuries, but it isn’t until now that scientists have extended the depths of their research.

Mushrooms can take effect in a person’s body in as little as 20 minutes after being consumed, and they can be eaten alone or consumed with food. Often, it is brewed into tea and drank; this is more common when being used during religious ceremonies. The effects can last anywhere from four to six hours depending on the dose. The duration of the “trip” is long enough to create intense alterations to the body and brain chemistry to have harmful effects that lead to chronic health conditions.

The psychedelic substance contains LSD-like properties and produces alterations of autonomic function, motor reflexes, behavior, and perception. Some psychological consequences, which can cause brain damage, include hallucinations. The hallucinations can cause someone to engage in risky behavior and harm themselves. Other effects can be an altered perception of time, and an inability to discern fantasy from reality.

Panic reactions and psychosis are likely, but more so when the user consumes large doses. Other long-term harms include an elevated risk of psychiatric illness, flashbacks, impaired memory, and tolerances. While many may overlook some of these risks, they can and do occur.

The online publication, Vice, released an article that highlights several mushroom trips that user’s endured. The author, Allison, describes her trip at a music festival in Detroit in 2011. She mentions that her friend had some pills, which happened to be mushrooms ground up into capsules. Allison took one along with her friends, and all of a sudden she describes “being on a different level than them, I think.”

She had reached a point where she was unable to speak, describing the festival as “being on an alien planet.” Her friends were shaking her telling Allison to speak, but she states that shadows were following me and I was in and out of reality. “It doesn’t matter if I die right now. I would be happy if I died.” She goes onto say she was not depressed at the time and shows how dangerous mushrooms can be. Thoughts of death possessed a seemingly happy woman and had she followed through; this would be a different story. Self-injury is a potential harm of the drug.

Fortunately, Allison made it through the experience unscathed, but not everyone is so lucky. Her experience should be taken as a lesson to not use mushrooms, but for those that do, you must be aware of the physical harm that can occur.

Physical Harm from Mushrooms

Many of psilocybin’s effects are reserved for the short-term, but those who use the drug and have pre-existing conditions increase the odds of the impact to become much more harmful. Some short-term effects of mushrooms include:

  • Increased heartbeat
  • Loss of muscle control
  • Shaking
  • Poor coordination
  • Rapid or abnormal breathing
  • High blood pressure

The changes to heart rate and blood pressure can trigger heart attacks, strokes, or pulmonary embolisms in people with underlying heart conditions. Someone that abuses psilocybin or psilocin mushrooms frequently can cause a heart problem they were originally unaware of having. Other more dangerous drugs such as cocaine or amphetamines can cause heart damage because they increase the heartbeat and blood pressure, and when they’re abused can cause heart failure.

Other physical harms of mushrooms include:

  • Nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea
  • Twitching
  • Drowsiness, yawning, lightheadedness
  • Pupil dilation
  • Tearing, dry mouth, facial flushing
  • Increased body temperature
  • Numbness of the tongue, lips, or mouth
  • Feelings of physical heaviness or lightness and feelings of floating

The changes in breathing can lead to lung failure. If someone can survive this, oxygen deprivation can cause long-lasting brain or muscle damage. Changes in judgment caused by drug intoxication include a loss of reality, muscle control, and physical coordination that can cause a person to have an accident. Broken bones and organ damage can lead to a permanent disability.

A long-lasting physical effect from abusing mushrooms is known as cross-tolerance. Since the drug works similarly to LSD and marijuana, someone who abuses the substance will develop a high tolerance because of their use. Some reports suggest that mushrooms can be addictive, or lead to physical tolerance, but not enough information has been made available to the public to verify these.

Psychological Harms of Mushrooms

The main impact of mushrooms is psychological, and it has been thought of as expanding consciousness. Changes to the brain state and neuron interactions can be the start of chronic effects. One of the most frightening is panic attacks and paranoia. In the story listed above, it caused adverse effects for quite some time. Although Allison was ok, she still had to deal with the anxiety of the event.

Using mushrooms a single time can lead someone to experience panic attacks, feel as though they are being watched, or detach from reality and show psychotic symptoms. The feelings will intensify for those who abuse the drug, and the individual can end up harming themselves or others due to violent outbursts. It can lead to hospital visits with lasting damage from accidental harm during a period of detachment. 

Psilocybin-induced psychosis possesses similar characteristics as schizophrenic outbursts, and someone who is at risk for developing the disorder may trigger the mental condition by abusing psychedelics. The changes to brain chemistry can disrupt normal pathways and make anxiety or bipolar disorders far more intense.

Other psychological effects include:

  • Heightened sensory experiences and perceptual distortions
  • Auditory, tactile, and visual hallucinations
  • Seeing music or hearing colors, known as synesthesia
  • Inability to focus, maintain attention, concentrate, or think
  • Impaired judgment and preoccupation with trivial thoughts, experiences, or objects
  • Altered perception of space and time
  • Unable to distinguish fantasy from reality
  • Mood changes
  • Paranoia

Like other hallucinogenic drugs, mushrooms can cause intense flashbacks even after a single use. Flashbacks can result in a mild experience or severe hallucinations. While they last for a short period, they can be disruptive. If you have become tolerant of mushrooms, you are at an increased risk of brain damage and other harms we mentioned above. If you need help to stop using mushrooms before any permanent damage is sustained, Arete has you covered.

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