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Magic mushrooms (psilocybin)

Psilocybin is a hallucinogen and the principal psychoactive, or "mind-altering," component of a certain species of mushrooms known as "magic mushrooms." "Magic mushrooms" may be sold on the street as dried whole mushrooms, or as a brown powdered material. Psilocybin can also be made in illegal labs and sold on the street as a white powder, in tablets, or in capsules.

Magic mushrooms are often eaten raw or cooked. They may be steeped in hot water to make a mushroom "tea" or mixed with fruit juice to make a drink sometimes called "fungus delight." Less often, the powdered mushrooms or psilocybin may be snorted or injected.

Magic mushrooms and poisonous mushrooms may look alike making it hard to tell them apart. Some people may mistakenly consume poisonous mushrooms thinking they are magic mushrooms.

Also known as: magic, magic mushrooms, mushrooms, shrooms, mushies, fungus, and fungus delight.

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Effects and health risks

The effects of magic mushrooms (or psilocybin), as well as any other illegal drug, can be unpredictable. They may vary from person to person or from occasion to occasion. The way a person feels after consuming magic mushrooms (or psilocybin) depends on many factors including:

  • the user's age and weight
  • the user's mood, expectations, and environment
  • if ingested, whether the user has eaten recently and the amount of food in the stomach
  • any medical or psychiatric conditions the user may have
  • the amount of mushrooms or psilocybin taken (dose)
  • how often and for how long magic mushrooms (or psilocybin) have been used
  • the use of other drugs, including alcohol, non-prescription, prescription, and street drugs

How fast psilocybin reaches the brain varies depending on how the mushrooms or psilocybin are taken. The effects of psilocybin are generally felt within a few minutes of drinking the tea or 30 minutes after eating mushrooms. The effects last for about three to six hours.

Short-term effects

Psilocybin can produce perceptual distortions  (visual or auditory). Mixing of the senses can also occur giving one the impression that they can "see" music or "hear" colours. Users may also experience hallucinations and a loss of touch with reality. Psilocybin can also cause a person to feel anxious and have panic attacks.

Short-term use of psilocybin can produce many other effects including:

  • light-headedness
  • dilated pupils (causes blurred vision)
  • nausea and vomiting
  • dry mouth
  • numbness, particularly facial numbness (paresthesia)
  • exaggerated reflexes
  • sweating and increased body temperature followed by chills and shivering
  • muscle weakness and twitching
  • increased blood pressure and heart rate

A user might also experience:

  • paranoia
  • confusion and disorientation
  • severe agitation
  • loss of coordination
  • loss of urinary control
  • convulsions

Long-term health risks

Although the effects associated with the long-term use of psilocybin have not been studied, the use of psilocybin has been associated with:

  • Psychosis. Some people have developed prolonged psychosis resembling paranoid schizophrenia. Psychosis is a mental disorder that affects the personality and is characterized by a loss of touch with reality.
  • Birth defects. The effects of psilocybin on a developing fetus are unknown.

Overdose

Overdose with magic mushrooms (or psilocybin) alone has not been directly associated with death, however, consumption with other drugs or alcohol may increase the risk of experiencing serious adverse health effects.

Addiction and withdrawal

Addiction to psilocybin or to magic mushrooms is not common and little evidence exists of either physical or psychological dependence with continued use of these substances. However, people can become tolerant to the effects of psilocybin with regular use. Complete tolerance (where no amount of psilocybin can produce the desired effects) can develop within several days of continued use.

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