Psilocybin or magic mushrooms are naturally occurring and are consumed for their hallucinogenic effects. They belong to a group of drugs known as psychedelics, because of the changes experienced to perception, mood and thought. The key ingredient found in magic mushrooms is psilocybin. When psilocybin is taken, it is converted in the body to psilocin, which is the chemical with the psychoactive properties.1
What do they look like?
Magic mushrooms look much like ordinary mushrooms. There are many different types of magic mushrooms. The most common ones in Australia are called golden tops, blue meanies and liberty caps.2 Magic mushrooms look similar to poisonous mushrooms that can cause a person to become very sick and can result in death.
They can also come as dried material in capsules. Synthetic psilocybin appears as a white crystalline powder that can be processed into tablets or capsules, or dissolved in water.3
How are they used?
Shrooms, mushies, blue meanies, golden tops, liberty caps.
Effects of magic mushrooms
There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries some risk. It’s important to be careful when taking any type of drug.
Magic mushrooms can affect everyone differently, based on:
- size, weight and health
- whether the person is used to taking it
- whether other drugs are taken around the same time
- the amount taken
- the strength of the mushroom (varies depending on the type of mushroom).
The effects of magic mushrooms usually begin in 30 minutes when eaten, or within 5–10 minutes when taken as a soup or tea, and can last for approximately 4–6 hours.2
During this time, the person may experience:
- euphoria and wellbeing
- change in consciousness, mood, thought and perception (commonly called a trip)
- dilation of pupils
- perceptual changes, such as visual and auditory hallucinations
- stomach discomfort and nausea
- fast or irregular heartbeat
- increased body temperature
- breathing quickly
- facial flushes, sweating and chills.1,2
The use of magic mushrooms rarely results in any life-threatening symptoms. If a large amount or a strong batch of mushrooms is consumed, the person may experience:
- muscle weakness
- panic or paranoia
Sometimes a person may experience the negative effects of magic mushrooms and have what is called a bad trip and may experience the following:
- unpleasant or intense hallucinations
- panic or fear.1,4
After ingesting magic mushrooms, delayed headaches may occur, which do not usually last for longer than a day afterwards.5
After taking mushrooms a person may experience feelings of:
Some people who regularly use magic mushrooms may experience flashbacks. A flashback is when a magic mushroom experience reoccurs, they are usually visual distortions that involve perceptual or emotional changes. Flashbacks can occur weeks, months or even years after the drug was last taken. This can be disturbing, especially if a frightening experience or hallucination is recalled. Flashbacks can be brought on by using other drugs, stress, tiredness or exercise and usually last for a minute or two.2,3
Using mushrooms with other drugs
Magic mushrooms + some psychiatric medications: Mushrooms should not be taken by people on psychiatric medications as a relapse or worsening of the condition could occur.1
Tolerance and dependence
Tolerance develops rapidly with continued use, resulting in the drug having little to no effect over time. Discontinuing use for a week or so will return people to their normal tolerance level.2
Health and safety
The main risk involved with taking magic mushrooms is that some of them look very like certain types of poisonous mushrooms. So it is important to know what you are taking – if in doubt, do not take them.2
If you believe you or someone else may have eaten a poisonous mushroom do not wait for symptoms to occur, contact the Victorian Poisons Information Centre (Tel 13 11 26).
If the person has collapsed, stopped breathing, is having a fit or is suffering an anaphylactic reaction, immediately ring triple zero (000) for an ambulance.
For more information on poisonous fungi, including their identification and symptoms please visit The Better Health Channel.
Taking mushrooms regularly does not appear to result in physical dependence, those who use them regularly are unlikely to experience difficulty in stopping use.3 There are not many withdrawal effects known, however a person withdrawing from magic mushrooms may experience some psychological effects or fatigue.2