The term “hallucinogenic mushrooms” refers to several varieties of wild mushrooms, which produce psychedelic effects when ingested. Because they are hallucinogenic, they produce various psychedelic and psychoactive effects that alter the subjective experiences and cognitions of the consumer.
There are several species of mushrooms that produce these effects, most (but not all) of which belong to the genera Psilocybe, Copelandia and Panaeolus. Some mushrooms of the genus Amanitas are also known for their psychedelic properties, the most common being Amanita Muscaria, also called fly agaric. However, their hallucinogenic effects are produced by different active chemicals.
In psilocybe mushrooms, the active substances are psilocybin and psilocin. In fly agaric mushrooms, the psychoactive substances are mainly ibotenic acid and muscimole. The latter are generally more toxic and can produce extremely unpleasant effects if consumed in large quantities. They are therefore less used than psilocybin mushrooms.
The species of mushrooms consumed vary depending on what is found locally and regionally. Two of the most commonly consumed species in Western countries are Psilocybe Semilanceata, commonly called “psilo”, and Psilocybe Cubensis.
All psilocybe mushrooms produce their hallucinogenic effects by the same mechanisms, but the levels of active substances they contain vary greatly. As a natural drug, it can be very difficult to determine the dosage, since the content of each mushroom is different.
The effects of hallucinogenic mushrooms are quite similar to LSD, but the “trip” is supposedly less strong. The exact effects depend on the amount taken and the dose of active ingredients present. They can include euphoria, heightened and altered senses, visual or auditory hallucinations, heightened emotions and other cognitive distortions.
Mushrooms can be eaten raw or dried and then cooked with other foods. Some people also use them to make tea.
The active ingredients in psilocybe mushrooms, psilocybin and psilocin, are considered Schedule I drugs by the United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances. However, in most cases, these mushrooms themselves are not historically illegal, except for dried preparations. Therefore, they are freely and legally available in the wild and in headshops in many countries.
However, this legal situation has changed in some countries over the past decade. In the UK, for example, the law changed in 2005: dried and fresh unprepared mushrooms are now considered a class A drug and their sale or possession is severely punished.
On the street, hallucinogenic mushrooms are commonly called mushrooms, champis, psilos, mushs or magic mushrooms.
Some species of mushrooms are of course known for their psychedelic effects and each has its own scientific name, while some of the more common varieties have slang names. As mentioned earlier, one of the most widely consumed hallucinogenic mushrooms is Psilocybe Semilanceata (psilo), but there are many others.
Other common species are Psilocybe Baeocystis and Psilocybe Cubensis, but there are many others, both growing wild and cultivated.
All mushrooms that contain psilocybin and psilocin are illegal in the UK and other countries. Amanita Muscaria (fly agaric), on the other hand, is not illegal in the U.K. and remains unregulated in other countries, since it contains different active substances.
Hallucinogenic mushrooms, as their name suggests, induce a psychedelic experience, during which users experience distorted sensory perceptions and hallucinations. Like LSD, this is called a “trip” and the exact effects vary greatly from person to person.
Some people say that mushrooms have given them a positive, happy, even spiritual experience, while others report having a “bad trip” and being plunged into a world of nightmarish visions, panic and anxiety. It is impossible to predict whether a trip will be “good” or “bad” and, once started, the user will have no choice but to let it happen. Generally, the effects of hallucinogenic mushrooms appear about half an hour after consumption and can last between 3 and 6 hours.
In addition to the unpleasant hallucinations of the “bad trip”, users may experience physical discomfort from ingesting the mushrooms, including nausea, vomiting and painful stomach cramps.
However, by far the greatest risk is the accidental consumption of poisonous or even deadly species. Picking the wrong wild mushrooms is a real risk, as it has already resulted in a number of deaths.
Perceptual distortion and delusional thoughts associated with the use of hallucinogenic mushrooms have also caused accidental deaths.
Recreational hallucinogenic mushrooms come from a variety of sources.
First, they are found in the wild all over the world, but usually in relatively small quantities. They are often collected by local consumers who actively seek out species containing the psychoactive compounds called psilocybin and psilocin. Identifying mushrooms is far from easy and can be particularly risky. Consumers often pick poisonous mushrooms by mistake, resulting in serious illness, injury or death.
Only a small number of species are psychedelic in nature, and some of these look very much like inert or poisonous mushrooms.
Prior to the tightening of drug laws regarding the sale and possession of fresh, unprepared mushrooms, large mushroom farms were openly operated in some countries such as the Netherlands. But with the criminalization of fresh mushrooms in the Netherlands and other countries, production has gone underground. Little is known about the extent or details of current mushroom cultivation, except for the occasional police raids on growers.
In general, mushrooms are grown indoors by small independent growers, but there are also larger scale operations. The cultivation of hallucinogenic mushrooms is relatively simple and requires only basic knowledge. It is therefore often undertaken by users for their own consumption. This cultivation involves obtaining the spores of the desired species, and the legality of buying or possessing these spores remains unclear: technically, they do not contain the illicit active substances, but once they are cultivated, they are illegal in many countries.
FACTS AND STATISTICS
- Hallucinogenic mushrooms generate subjective psychedelic experiences, similar to those triggered by LSD.
- There are over 14,000 known species of mushrooms on the planet and only a tiny fraction of them are psychedelic. Many of these mushrooms have no effect, while others are extremely poisonous and deadly if ingested.
- Psychoactive mushrooms have been used by cultures around the world for thousands of years, primarily in religious and cultural ceremonies. In the West, they have received much attention since the 1960s as a “natural alternative” to synthetic (acid) LSD.
- The different varieties of psilocybe mushrooms are the most commonly consumed. They naturally contain the psychedelic substances called psilocybin and psilocin. These chemicals are responsible for the hallucinogenic effects of mushrooms and are prohibited by national and international laws.
- Trips due to hallucinogenic mushrooms can cause a distortion of the senses such as sight, smell, hearing and touch. They can also cause visual and auditory hallucinations.
- A trip can be “good” or “bad” and usually lasts between 3 and 6 hours. It is impossible to predict whether a trip will be good or bad and the latter can be particularly traumatic for the user.
- The possession, sale or consumption of hallucinogenic mushrooms is illegal in most countries. In the United Kingdom, psilocybin mushrooms are considered a Class A drug, whether fresh, dried or prepared. Possession of psilocybin mushrooms is punishable by up to seven years in prison, while distribution is punishable by up to life in prison.
- Hallucinogenic drugs are the least common drug in Western and Central European detoxification centers (just 0.3% of treatment requests), according to the UNODC.
In 2011, a UK crime study showed that hallucinogenic mushroom use among 15-59 year olds had declined since 1996 (self-reported use in the previous year).
- However, the same study shows that in 2010/11, 7.2% of English and Welsh people aged 16-59 admitted to having ever taken hallucinogenic mushrooms, compared to 5.3% in 1996.
- This study shows that 0.1% of the population admitted to having used hallucinogenic mushrooms in the month prior to the study, a statistic that has remained unchanged over 15 years.
- This figure was much higher among 16-24 year olds, at 0.3%.
- The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that hallucinogenic mushrooms are composed, on average, of 0.2 to 0.4% psilocybin and an inconsistent amount of the other psychoactive substance, psilocin.
- In general, the effects of hallucinogenic mushrooms appear after 20 to 30 minutes.
- These effects can last three to six hours on average. The duration and intensity of the effects depend greatly on the variety of mushroom, the amount ingested and the physiology of the individual.
- The sale or possession of fresh mushrooms became illegal in the UK in July 2005 (Class A drug). Prior to this date, the sale or possession of fresh, unprepared mushrooms was legal, unlike dried preparations.
SIGNS OF ADDICTION
Hallucinogenic mushrooms are not known to be as addictive as other illegal drugs, and they produce few, if any, withdrawal effects. Despite the lack of physical dependence, some people may abuse them on a regular basis in order to get the “trippy” psychedelic experience they provide. Some describe these experiences in transcendental and spiritual terms.
As with LSD, an individual may develop a tolerance to the drug after a long period of use and need more and more mushrooms to get the same effect. The long-term effects of heavy use have been little researched, so the psychological and physiological consequences are unpredictable.
In addition, while for many people hallucinogenic mushroom use is a one-time experience, for some it can become a way to escape their lives and the reality of everyday life. These mushrooms can therefore have obvious harmful consequences on their ability to cope with everyday life and make them lose touch with reality. Users can also suffer from “hallucinatory flashbacks”, even when they are not under the influence of mushrooms.
The outward signs of an addiction to hallucinogenic mushrooms include unusual behaviour, a bizarre attitude towards life and everyday life, paranoia and delusions. A “trip” is easily noticed since the person will suffer from a distortion of their cognitive senses and may react to things that do not exist.
In addition, fresh or dried mushrooms may be found in the person’s belongings. If the consumer collects his own mushrooms, he may have books to identify them or, if he tries to grow them, “growing kits” or other materials.
Hallucinogenic mushrooms are not known to be addictive, in the sense that they do not create a physical dependence on the active substances they contain. It is also known that they do not cause strong psychological withdrawal, as is the case with most other class A drugs (UK), such as heroin and cocaine. Finally, no withdrawal effects have been reported.
However, the psychedelic effects of mushrooms can be very disturbing for some individuals, both mentally and emotionally. They can lead to dangerous behaviours under hallucinations, not to mention the dangers inherent to the consumption of wild mushrooms. In people with a history of mental illness or latent psychological illness, hallucinogenic mushroom use can trigger or worsen these conditions.
Addiction in heavy users can be treated in different ways. Because it is not chemically addictive to the brain or body, hallucinogenic mushroom use can be stopped immediately, without any major side effects.
However, the psychological aspect of the relationship with the drug can be more difficult to deal with and may require different forms of counselling and therapy.
Like other hallucinogenic drugs, these mushrooms cause some people to crave the psychedelic state that the active substances once put them in.
Treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and professional counselling can help them connect to the world and their lives, without depending on a potentially harmful psychedelic substance.
Although in most cases it is not necessary, an extended stay in a detoxification center can help some users stay off hallucinogenic mushrooms. In addition to preventing relapse, this “healthy” and supportive environment can be reassuring to the individual trying to cope.
If the user has been using hallucinogenic mushrooms for a long time, he or she may need professional counselling and psychological and emotional support to get used to life without psychedelic drugs. In addition to treatments that focus specifically on their experiences with mushrooms, users may also benefit from more generalized addiction treatments. The goal is to stop the recurring destructive behaviors and actions that always lead the individual back to the drug.
These therapies will help him or her get off the mushrooms, while making sure that he or she does not replace one addiction with another.
Sometimes hallucinogenic mushroom use is accompanied by other legal or illegal drug addictions. In this case, a consultation with an experienced rehab professional may be necessary to plan a strategy for managing the entire addiction pattern. An appropriate treatment program can then begin to address the addictions separately and from a holistic perspective.