Magic mushrooms (“shrooms”) are a drug of abuse because they contain a chemical called psilocybin. People use this hallucinogenic substance to achieve pleasurable effects, such as euphoria, tingling feelings in the body, and visual sensations.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the use of hallucinogens like magic mushrooms is relatively prevalent. For example, as of 2018, 15.8% of people aged 12 and older had used a hallucinogen at some point in their lives. By the age of 26 or older, 17.3% of people had used hallucinogens.1 While these drugs may be seemingly popular, they come with significant safety risks.
The National Drug Intelligence Center reports that magic mushrooms are indigenous to tropical areas of the United States, South America, and Mexico.2
They typically contain 0.2% to 0.4% psilocybin, and they are distinct from other mushrooms because they have long, skinny stems and caps with dark gills on the bottom.
Experts at Brown University have explained that shrooms are not typically considered to be addictive. People who are addicted to other drugs may also use shrooms, but hallucinogen addiction itself is uncommon.3 Despite this fact, it is possible to develop a tolerance to shrooms, which means that a person will have to take more and more of the drug to achieve the same effects. This is problematic because high doses of shrooms can lead to serious consequences, which will be discussed later.
While shrooms are technically not addictive, people may still develop problems with these drugs. In some cases, a clinical condition called a hallucinogen use disorder might be diagnosed. A doctor or an addiction treatment professional can diagnose this condition when a person continues to use hallucinogens, despite serious harm and problems with life functioning.4 For example, if a person continues to use shrooms despite health problems and difficulty completing tasks at work, he or she may meet criteria for a hallucinogen use disorder.
The DEA classifies magic mushrooms in the same category as LSD and heroin.
Given the fact that magic mushrooms are illegal and potentially dangerous, people who use them may describe them using street names in an attempt to conceal their drug use. According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, the following street names are linked to magic mushroom use:
The National Drug Intelligence Center reports that people take magic mushrooms by mouth. They have a bitter taste, so a person may add them to other foods to improve their flavor. For instance, some people cover the mushrooms with chocolate or brew magic mushrooms into teas.2
Short-term effects of magic mushroom use appear about 20 minutes after using the drug and last for about 6 hours, per the National Drug Intelligence Center.2 NIDA reports that short-term effects of hallucinogenic drugs like magic mushrooms include seeing and hearing things that are not actually there, as well as experiencing sensory stimuli more intensely. For instance, colors may appear brighter while under the influence of magic mushrooms.
Other short-term effects include:2
Nausea and vomiting
Lack of coordination
As their place on the schedule suggests, shrooms are by no means a safe drug. According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, psilocybin can create serious psychological consequences, such as difficulty separating fantasy from real life. People who take large doses of psilocybin may also experience panic or psychosis.2
In addition to the concerns discussed above, a Johns Hopkins University study of nearly 2,000 people who used shroom found that another danger associated with this type of drug is “bad trips” during which people have frightening or negative experiences while under the influence of a hallucinogen. The study revealed the following findings:5
Based on the results of this study, it appears that shrooms can be dangerous, especially if a person suffers a “bad trip.” Unsafe behavior (such as violence) is possible, and some people may even require medical treatment.
Over the long-term, repeated use of shrooms can create additional negative effects. For example, NIDA cautions that long-term hallucinogenic drug use can cause persistent psychosis, in which a person is out of touch with reality. Others may develop hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD), in which they have flashbacks of the hallucinogenic experience they had while under the influence of shrooms. They may also suffer from ongoing distortions in visual perception, such as seeing strings attached to objects.5
It is possible to take too high of a dose of magic mushrooms, but it is doubtful that a person using magic mushrooms will suffer from a fatal overdose. According to a 2016 study of 12,000 people who use shrooms, only 0.2% had required emergency medical care after using mushrooms. This rate of emergency medical treatment is about five times lower than what occurs with other drugs, like MDMA, LSD, and cocaine.6
As discussed previously, high doses of shrooms can cause panic or psychosis, which some may consider to be indicative of an overdose. The real risk with magic mushroom abuse, according to the National Drug Intelligence Center, is that people may mistakenly ingest poisonous mushrooms, which can be fatal.7 That being said, high doses of magic mushrooms are typically not toxic, but toxic effects can certainly be seen if someone mistakes a poisonous mushroom for the hallucinogenic type.
As mentioned earlier, shrooms are not typically considered addictive, so they are not usually associated with significant withdrawal symptoms. The Alcohol and Drug Foundation has explained that some people may experience psychological effects or tiredness after they stop using shrooms. It is also important to remember that after a person stops using magic mushrooms, he or she may experience flashbacks and hallucinations, even if the person hasn’t used the drug for years.8 So, while stopping magic mushroom use may not be linked to significant physical withdrawal symptoms, people may still experience consequences after they stop mushroom use.
While shrooms are not generally regarded as an addictive drug, some people may develop problems and experience difficulty stopping their use. For example, some people may continue to use shrooms because they enjoy the euphoric effects or the visual distortions they experience while under the influence. Over time, they may suffer from consequences, such as bad trips or psychosis. They may even continue to use the drug despite having flashbacks of drug use that may interfere with performance at work or school. If a person continues to use despite these consequences, he or she may have developed a hallucinogen use disorder that requires treatment.
If a person has been using magic mushrooms and is having difficulty stopping, they need to reach out for help from an addiction treatment professional to assist them with discontinuing their drug use. NIDA states that therapy may be useful for helping people to overcome the fears associated with flashbacks and to recover from the consequences of hallucinogenic abuse. Some people may also benefit from taking antidepressants or antipsychotic medications to help them manage long-term effects, such as psychosis or mood problems, linked to magic mushroom abuse.6
While most experts do not view magic mushrooms as addictive drugs, this type of drug still has the potential to be dangerous and to create long-term problems, such as psychotic behavior or flashbacks to drug use. Some people may also experience bad trips, which can create anxiety and be rather disturbing.
If you are suffering from the negative consequences associated with ongoing magic mushroom abuse, there is help available to assist you with recovery. Reach out to a treatment professional today to begin your journey toward a drug-free lifestyle.