Shrooms: Effects, Side Effects, and Treatment
In This Article
Magic mushrooms, or shrooms, have been traditionally used in spiritual and medical contexts for centuries. However, the effects of shrooms on mental and physical health have recently become more widely researched.
This blog post explores the various effects of shrooms, from the potential side effects to the possible therapeutic benefits. It also outlines treatments available for those who use them in multiple capacities.
What are Shrooms?
Shrooms are a type of mushroom that contains the psychoactive ingredient psilocybin. Psilocybin is a hallucinogenic substance that the body converts to psilocin, which affects the central nervous system.
Common street names for shrooms include:
- Magic mushrooms
- Pizza toppings
The effects of shrooms can differ considerably based on several factors, such as the type, age, and dosage of the mushrooms. External factors like the user’s environment, mindset, prior drug experiences, and personality also significantly determine their effects.
Shrooms as Psychedelic Drugs
Shrooms are classified as psychedelic drugs, or “psychedelics,” a class of substances that can cause profound alterations in consciousness and perception.
Ingesting shrooms may induce:
- Visual and auditory hallucinations
Other effects may include intense emotions, altered perception of time and space, enhanced creativity, and mild visual hallucinations.
A recent study revealed that around 9.68% of U.S. adults tried psilocybin. This is a notable increase compared to the 8.5% reported in 2016 and the 8.8% in 2017. These findings suggest a consistent rise in psilocybin use over time, with 2018 being a particularly significant year.
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Where Do Shrooms Come From?
Historically, shrooms were deeply embedded in the cultures of several Central and South American civilizations. They used these mushrooms in social and religious contexts to induce visions and hallucinations.
These practices aimed to heal ailments, address community problems, or establish contact with spiritual entities. However, introducing a new drug policy in the U.S. in 1968 deemed them illegal.
Over 75 mushroom species have this ingredient, the most common being Psilocybe cubensis (liberty caps). These species occur naturally and are native to tropical and subtropical areas of the following regions:
- South America
- Southeast Asia
- United States
While shrooms are native to these countries, users can cultivate them in labs or at home.
Shrooms vs. Acid (LSD)
Contrary to mushroom users, many users report the effects of LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide) as “extrospective,” meaning that it makes its users focused on the world around them. This may be due to the different effects of the drugs, the surrounding environment in which users consume them, or a combination of these factors.
Like all psychedelics, LSD and shrooms have some shared effects on consciousness, such as inducing:
- Feelings of unity
- Heightened senses
- Distortions of reality
However, there’s a big difference in each drug's historical and social context. LSD is a synthetic chemical, while psilocybin is naturally occurring.
Scientists invented LSD in 1938, and it became popular in the 1950s and 1960s. In contrast, psychedelic mushroom usage has existed for centuries or even millennia.
Are Shrooms Legal?
Legally speaking, shrooms aren't directly scheduled by the Controlled Substances Act. However, psilocybin (found in all types of magic mushrooms) is a Schedule I drug. This means it’s illegal, has a high potential for abuse, and has no known medical usage.
The FDA has granted special designation to certain psilocybin-based drugs under clinical testing and trials for treating depression. This allows for expedited approval in recognition of their promising role in combating treatment-resistant depression.
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What are the Physical and Mental Effects of Shrooms?
You will feel the effects of shrooms approximately 20 minutes to 2 hours after ingesting them. Depending on the dose, you will experience a “trip” lasting 3 to 6 hours, possibly longer.
Taking shrooms can lead to the following effects:
The physical effects of psilocybin include:
- Muscle weakness and twitches
- Drowsiness and dizziness
- Lack of coordination
- Pupil dilation and facial flushing
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
- Increased body temperature and sweating
- Numbness in the face and extremities
- Feelings of heaviness, lightness, or floating
- Nausea, vomiting, cramps, and diarrhea
The mental effects of psilocybin include:
- Audial, visual, and tactile hallucinations
- Heightened and distorted senses
- A blending of the body and its surroundings
- Detachment from the body
- Altered impressions of space
- Confused sense of time
- Spontaneous recollections of past experiences
- Feelings of unity with the environment
- The perception of involvement in spiritual or religious encounters
Occasional psychedelic drug use doesn’t appear to have significant long-term adverse effects on mental health.
There’s a growing belief in the potential medical benefits of using substances like shrooms, LSD, MDMA, or peyote to address mental health conditions.
What are the Side Effects of Shroom Use?
While the effects of shrooms can be enjoyable and beneficial, they can also cause some unpleasant side effects. The most common ones are as follows:
Short-Term Side Effects
Short-term side effects of shrooms that may cause danger or harm to the user include:
- Difficulty focusing
- Inability to pay attention or concentrate
- Confused or irrational thinking
- Impaired judgment
- Intense preoccupation with insignificant thoughts, experiences, or objects
- Tension, anxiety, and restlessness
Some users may be susceptible to having a “bad trip” and experience highly adverse reactions, including:
- Frightening hallucinations
- Intense confusion
- Severe disorientation
- Frantic agitation
- Extreme sadness
- Panic or terror
Research suggests that fatigue and delayed headache due to nitric oxide release are common adverse short-term effects of psilocybin-containing mushroom usage.
Long-Term Side Effects
The most significant reported long-term effect of shroom usage is the occurrence of “flashbacks.” The DSM-V classifies these as Hallucinogen-persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD).
A “flashback” is a spontaneous recurrence of psychedelic mental effects. It may include the following:
- “Halo” vision
- Trails attached to moving objects
- Flickering or intensifying lights and colors
- False motion in peripherals
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Are Shrooms Addictive?
There are no studies classifying shrooms as addictive substances. However, users can develop a pattern of consistent use that resembles addiction. This is known as Hallucinogen Use Disorder.
Repeated use of shrooms will cause a person to build up tolerance quickly. It may also lead to cross-tolerance for other drugs, including LSD and mescaline.
A higher drug tolerance will demand a higher amount of a drug to experience its desired effects. This leads to regular, repeated use at higher dosages.
However, with a period of abstinence, tolerance levels will decrease.
How Do Users Abuse Shrooms?
Users abuse shrooms in various ways. Some may take multiple doses over a short period to achieve an intense euphoric state. Others will use shrooms with other substances, especially alcohol, which amplifies the effects.
Abusing psychedelics can lead to dangerous outcomes, such as unpredictable behavior, mental health problems, and physical harm from accidents.
Can You Overdose on Shrooms?
Psilocybin mushrooms are generally considered safe, with the short duration of their effects. However, there have been occasional cases of adverse reactions that required emergency medical treatment.
Of 9,233 people who used magic mushrooms in 2021, only 19 (0.2%) reported seeking emergency medical treatment. This translates to a risk estimate of 0.06% per incident.
Being young was the main factor associated with a higher risk of seeking medical treatment. The most common symptoms users experienced were anxiety/panic and paranoia/suspiciousness.
The main reasons for these incidents were having a poor mindset, being in a hostile environment, and combining substances. In the report, 99% of the users returned to normal within 24 hours.
What are the Signs of Shrooms Overdose?
There are no definitive physical signs of an overdose of shrooms. However, a person exhibiting the following behaviors may be at risk:
- Inability to communicate in a clear and coherent manner
- Disorientation or confusion
- Extreme anxiety, paranoia, or fear
- Hallucinations lasting for extended periods
People with mental health issues, especially a history of psychosis, are at greater risk when consuming shrooms. It's essential to seek medical attention if any of these signs occur.
If you or someone has taken too much and is experiencing an intense “trip” or feeling overwhelmed, stay with them. Provide reassurance until the effects have worn off.
To prevent accidental injuries, remove potential hazards from the environment. Call for medical assistance immediately if symptoms don't improve.
How Do You Treat Shrooms Addiction?
While hallucinogenic mushrooms aren’t considered addictive, users may need treatment for adverse responses to the drug.
Treatment for Bad Trips
“Bad trips” may require hospitalization. Here, trained medical staff will help you “come down” by placing you in a safe, secure room with minimal sounds and motion.
If necessary, healthcare providers will administer a low to medium dose of a benzodiazepine. Afterward, they will closely monitor you to ensure you don’t harm yourself or others.
Treatment for Flashbacks or Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD)
In the case of “flashbacks” or HPPD, there is currently no known medical treatment. However, studies suggest that some anti-seizure medications, including lamotrigine and clonazepam, may provide lasting relief.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy may provide insight into coping with the distress of HPPD. Counseling and psychotherapy can also help you develop strategies for dealing with “flashbacks” and other related psychological issues.
Other Treatment Options
Group therapy can benefit users who want to discuss their experiences in a safe, supportive setting. In these meetings, you'll learn about the risks of drug use and how to avoid it in the future.
Support groups can also provide an opportunity for members to receive education and resources on addiction recovery. Additionally, family counseling may help those battling mental health issues due to shroom usage.
Clinical Research on Shrooms
Medicinal mushrooms (MMs) are gaining attention for their numerous pharmacological properties. Particularly in oncology, experts already utilize mushrooms for their immunomodulatory and antitumor effects.
Their integration with conventional treatments enhances their efficacy while diminishing adverse reactions. MMs also possess the following properties that can treat various conditions:
- Antioxidant activity
- Antitumor effect
- Antibacterial action
- Antidiabetic effects
- Anti-inflammatory action
- Antiviral action
- Antihypercholesterolemic properties
Psilocybin for Mental Illness
New research suggests that psilocybin may offer a promising alternative for managing these mental health conditions:
- Anxiety disorders
- Alcohol use disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Tobacco use disorder
The current studies have some limitations due to their small sample sizes and restricted applicability to larger populations.
Is Taking Shrooms Dangerous?
Not all mushrooms are safe to consume. Some poisonous mushrooms are even lethal. There are legal repercussions in doing so, and it may lead to adverse physical and psychological effects.
It’s essential to remember that there is an inherent risk of overdosing on shrooms due to the varying amounts of psilocybin present in each mushroom species. It’s highly recommended to seek reputable and tested sources for people who wish to experiment with shrooms.
How Do You Take Magic Mushrooms Safely?
Taking magic mushrooms is risky, and the consequences can be incredibly damaging. Doing it safely is important if you decide to pursue the experience.
Here are some tips on how to stay safe:
- Start with a low dose (<0.1-0.5g of dried mushrooms). Increase gradually until you achieve the desired effects.
- Have someone with you with prior experience who can help guide your journey.
- Stay in a safe and calming environment like nature or your home. Avoid situations where you may feel overwhelmed or out of control.
- Eat something light before taking the mushrooms to avoid nausea.
- Hydrate often while on the journey.
- Have an exit plan and know when to call for help.
- Refrain from driving or operating any heavy machinery.
Taking shrooms in the right setting and mindset can be an incredible and transformative experience. However, staying safe and mindful of potential adverse outcomes is essential.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as advice to take shrooms. If you have any questions or concerns, please consult your healthcare provider.
Small Dosages and Their Impact
Microdosing psychedelics involves taking very small doses of a psychedelic substance. This includes mushrooms and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD).
Despite its rising popularity, microdosing lacks sufficient scientific evidence to prove its consistent results.
One study reveals groundbreaking discoveries related to microdosing. It uncovers the positive effects, such as enhanced mood (26.6%) and increased focus (14.8%).
However, it also highlights the potential challenges, including physiological discomfort (18.0%) and heightened anxiety (6.7%).
Magic mushrooms, or shrooms, are a powerful hallucinogenic drug with long-lasting effects. People with mental health issues, especially a history of psychosis, are at greater risk when consuming them.
In terms of treatment, there is currently no known medical solution for “flashbacks” or HPPD. However, some anti-seizure medications may provide lasting relief, and cognitive-behavioral therapy can help with coping strategies. If you or someone you know struggle with shroom usage, seek help from medical professionals and support groups for addiction recovery.
Remember that not all mushrooms are safe, and microdosing is relatively uncharted territory. Consult your healthcare provider for advice before consuming any psychedelics, even in small doses.
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