Psilocybin “magic” mushrooms grow in various regions around the world and are an intensely potent drug of abuse. If you you or someone you love is using magic mushrooms, seek help right away.
Psilocybin or psilocin mushrooms are any mushrooms of the genus Psilocybe. The naturally-occurring ingredients, psilocin and particularly psilocybin, are extremely hallucinogenic chemicals — and upon being ingested, the user can experience an overwhelming psychedelic “trip.” More than 75 known species of mushrooms, found in the United States and several other regions, contain these components.
While these actual ingredients are defined as Schedule I drugs in the U.S. (the highest level of abuse and addiction potential), mushrooms themselves are not considered illegal. Their appearance is not unlike mushrooms you may have in your kitchen: long, slender stems with dark caps. Most of these so-called “magic” mushrooms contain only 0.2–0.4% of psilocybin and even lower amounts of psilocin. But if your teen takes even a small dose, it can cause an intense and unpredictable intoxication. Approximately 9.2% of American 12th graders have used a hallucinogen besides LSD (e.g. mushrooms) in their lifetime.
Hallucinogenic mushrooms are most commonly referred to as magic mushrooms or simply “shrooms.” Other slang terms for mushrooms include:
- Blue Meanies
- Cow Patties
- Liberty Caps
- Magic Mushrooms
- Sacred Mushrooms
- Silly Putty
When teens begin experimenting with psychedelic drugs, it can turn their life upside down. These experiences can alter their sense of reality and bring them into a warped state of mind that they may have trouble leaving. Once the effects of mushrooms wear off — 6 or 7 hours after they’re consumed — the user may feel disjointed and depressed by the “real world.” This is known as a psychological withdrawal. This causes many users to use the drugs over and over again to repeat the experience. And the more shrooms your teen consumes, the higher their tolerance will become, forcing them to require larger doses to feel the same effects.
While there’s no research that shows magic mushrooms are physically addictive, like heroin or some other illicit drugs, teens can get addicted to tripping on hallucinogens and the culture surrounding these drugs. Psilocybin mushrooms are often associated with hippie culture, alongside marijuana and LSD, and users who get so swept up in taking these drugs that they have trouble living a normal life.
Magic mushrooms can be found both wet and dry, but are typically dried before consumption. They are then usually eaten — either by themselves or mixed with food to help mask the strong unpleasant taste. Other popular methods of use include brewing them into a tea, crushing them into a powder and swallowing it in capsule form, or baking them into chocolate “edibles.”
Users will often combine mushrooms with other drugs, especially other psychedelic drugs. This is increasingly popular at concerts and music festivals, where shrooms are often sold. Mixing mushrooms and ecstasy (MDMA) is referred to as “trolling.” The term “hippie flip” is used to describe the combination of shrooms and either LSD or ecstasy, and “Jedi flipping” is the combination of all three. These extreme combinations are increasingly popular among young people, and the results can be disastrous.
If your son or daughter is abusing mushrooms, you may notice some obvious indicators. Teen mushroom use can have an immediate impact on their behavior, their relationships and their school performance. The symptoms of the mushroom trip itself can be alarming — should you catch your teen during a trip, it will be hard to ignore.
Symptoms of mushroom use might include:
- Strange and erratic behavior
- Losing touch with reality
- Confusion or paranoia
- Dilated pupils and facial flushing
- Missing school
- Changing friend groups
- Refusing to be seen or talk with family
- Using other drugs
When you ingest psilocybin mushrooms, you are basically poisoning your body. The mind and body are at risk for serious consequences of drug abuse, and the high from shrooms can be even more volatile and life-threatening than many harder drugs depending on the potency of the mushrooms and how much your teen consumes. Shrooms take around 20 minutes to kick in and last for around 6 hours, but a lot can and does happen in that span of time. And the longer your teen continues to use mushrooms, the more at risk they are for extreme side effects.
Effects on the Brain
The side effects of magic mushrooms are predominantly psychological. Once shrooms enter the bloodstream, the user’s mental state can enter peculiar and jarring territories — their emotions and thoughts will bounce all over the place for the duration of the trip. Sometimes it can become overwhelming and make the user a danger to themselves and others. This is referred to as a “bad trip.”
Other side effects in the brain from the drug use can include:
- Disordered perception
- Heightened senses
- Hallucinations (seeing, hearing or feeling things that aren’t there)
- Difficulty focusing or thinking
- Severely impaired judgment
- Anxiety, tension and restlessness
- Paranoia and panic
- Sense of detachment from body
- Inability to distinguish fantasy from reality
As with other hallucinogens, shrooms can cause teens to have intensely spiritual experiences or revelations. They can begin to say or believe things that seem outlandish, and following their trip, possibly have trouble making sense of what happened. They might feel an increased attachment to nature, or with certain people — on the other hand, they may suddenly feel uncomfortable with their surroundings and feel a sort of depression. If you notice your teen exhibiting this behavior without an explanation, you should investigate the possible involvement of mushrooms.
Effects on the Body
Physical side effects of mushrooms are easy to spot. Though your teen may hide their mushroom use from you, and take them at a friend’s house or out in nature, you might notice these effects on their body during or after one of their trips.
Physical side effects of mushrooms can include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal cramps
- Muscle weakness and twitches
- Dizziness, lightheadedness and lack of coordination
- Increased heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature
- Sweating and shivering
- Numbness in the face
- Drowsiness and yawning
Overdose and death are uncommon with magic mushrooms. With that being said, teens who abuse shrooms may wind up in harm’s way. The dissociative mental state, paired with the inherent sickness and other physical side effects, can be a recipe for danger. In 2004, a girl high on mushrooms was killed after walking into traffic, and in 2008, an 18-year-old boy jumped to his death out of a window while tripping. Numerous stories like this pop up around the globe, and several hundred poison control calls involving shrooms are received each year. Additionally, certain species of mushrooms are indeed poisonous. Consuming one of these mushrooms by mistake can land a teen in the ER and possibly result in serious health problems.
Mushrooms can be a gateway to not only other drugs, but a slippery slope of personal drama. Teens who pick up a shroom habit can quickly watch the other areas of their life suffer. They can see their grades fall, and may even be kicked out of school if they’re caught tripping on or in possession of shrooms during class. This habit can also cause them to lose friends, grow distant from family and develop antisocial behaviors or a dual diagnosis — a co-occurring mental disorder like depressive disorder or anxiety. No teen plans on ruining their life when they first experiment with psychedelics. But history has proven that a shroom habit often paves the way for a laundry list of issues.
If you believe that you or a loved one may have a problem with mushrooms, reach out to a family doctor or one of the many addiction counselors and professionals in your area. At The Recovery Village, we are available to talk you through your situation and help you figure out what treatment options are available for you. Our help is free and confidential.
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“Psilocybin Fast Facts.” National Drug Intelligence Center. U.S. Department of Justice, Aug. 2003. Web. 1 Mar. 2016.
“Ventura County Man Charged with Sale of ‘Magic Mushrooms’ Consumed by Teen Later Killed on Freeway.” FBI. Federal Bureau of Investigation, 21 Jan. 2009. Web. 1 Mar. 2016.
“Teenager Dies in Magic Mushroom Incident.” DutchNews.nl. DutchNews, 4 Aug. 2008. Web. 1 Mar. 2016.
Arnett, George. “How Bad Trips on LSD and Magic Mushrooms Compare.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited, 23 Dec. 2014. Web. 1 Mar. 2016.
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