Mushrooms (also known as psilocybin mushrooms, psychedelic mushrooms, magic mushrooms and shrooms) are a kind of hallucinogen found in certain species of mushrooms. Although not considered to be physically addictive, psilocybin mushrooms can be psychologically addictive.
Understanding Mushrooms Abuse
People who take mushrooms may purchase them dried from a dealer, or harvest them fresh in the wild. Hallucinogenic mushrooms grow all over the world, but in the United States they are most often found growing in animal feces, like in a cow pasture.
According to the Drug Enforcement Agency’s Drugs of Abuse publication, mushrooms are taken orally, but because they are quite bitter, many people prefer to brew them as tea or mix them with other foods to mask the flavor. The effects begin about 20 minutes after ingestion, and last around six hours. These include:
- relaxation similar to low doses of marijuana
- fear, paranoia or panic
- introspective, spiritual experiences
- visual and auditory hallucinations
Although it was once presumed that the more dreamlike effects of psilocybin mushrooms must be caused by over-stimulating the brain, recent studies have surprised researchers by revealing that the drug actually suppresses brain activity.
A 2012 article in Time Magazine reported on this discovery, stating that “reducing the brain’s activity interfered with its normal ability to filter out stimuli, allowing participants to see afresh what would ordinarily have been dismissed as irrelevant or as background noise. [Study participants] described having wandering thoughts, dreamlike perceptions, geometric visual hallucinations and other unusual changes in their sensory experiences, like sounds triggering visual images… Indeed, if we always paid attention to every perceptible sensation or impulse like this, we’d be incapable of focusing at all.”
A 2014 study showed that magic mushrooms also work “by creating a hyperconnected brain.” Psilocybin induces long-range, temporary connections between regions of the brain that don’t normally communicate with each other.
Signs and Symptoms of Mushrooms Abuse
Here are some signs and symptoms that may indicate that someone you know is taking mushrooms:
- dilated pupils
- hallucinations/strange behavior or comments
- difficulty telling the difference between fantasy and reality
- rapid changes in body temperature
- sweating, chills
- stomach pain, nausea, vomiting
- difficulty concentrating
- muscle relaxation and loss of coordination
Dangers of Mushrooms Abuse
For many years it was believed that psilocybin mushrooms could cause or intensify mental health problems such as schizophrenia and depression. This belief has been called into question by more recent studies that have determined that while there may be individual cases of harm (such as cases of HPPD, where the hallucinogenic effects persist after the drug leaves your system) there is a lack of evidence that psilocybin use leads to lasting mental health issues.
An article from National Public Radio quoted Matthew W. Johnson, a psychologist in the psychiatry department at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, as saying, “There seems to be no evidence of overall negative impact — and even some hints of benefit — associated with the use of psychedelics.”
That being said, not all mushroom trips are “good trips.” In fact, while many people do find psilocybin enjoyable, the drug is equally likely to challenge you with seriously introspective, possibly disturbing experiences. The drug has also been known to induce paranoia, panic attacks and psychosis, especially in high doses. Having a good experience on the drug is partly due to luck, and partly due to people taking small amounts in a controlled environment, usually with another person to “look after” them.
Who Abuses Mushrooms?
While some people take mushrooms to have fun, more knowledgeable users understand that experiences on the drug are unpredictable, and enjoyment is far from guaranteed. Frequent users are more likely to crave the mind-opening neurological effects of psilocybin, seeing it as a valuable psychological and spiritual experience.
A 2014 article in the Washington Post states that Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris, a post-doctoral researcher in neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London, conducted a study on psilocybin that found “Our firm sense of self—the habits and experiences that we find integral to our personality—is quieted by these trips… the drugs may unlock emotion while ‘basically killing the ego,’ allowing users to be less narrow-minded and let go of negative outlooks.”
This kind of experience, while not always enjoyable while it is happening, can have positive aftereffects that last for months or longer.
Although hallucinogens like psilocybin mushrooms are not physically addictive, you can develop a tolerance if you use them frequently. This will require you to increase your dosage to achieve the same level of mind-altering effects. Although you would have to ingest copious amounts of psilocybin mushrooms to “overdose” in the usual sense of the word, there are frequent cases where users have misidentified poisonous mushrooms and died. The more often you take mushrooms, the more likely it is that you will suffer from a similar mistake.
Psychological addiction is possible with mushrooms. There are two primary concerns with this sort of addiction. The first is that regular use makes you more vulnerable to potential dangers such as accidentally ingesting poisonous mushrooms, or harming yourself or others because you are not sufficiently aware of your surroundings while hallucinating. The second concern is that your need to escape reality may indicate that you suffer from serious emotional distress, past or ongoing trauma, and/or undiagnosed mental health conditions that require treatment.
Am I Addicted to Mushrooms?
At its core, the question of whether or not you are an addict depends a great deal on how your drug usage impacts your life and the way you see yourself.
The 12-step program Narcotics Anonymous lists the following questions in their publication, Am I an Addict? Honestly consider each one to determine if you might be addicted to mushrooms. Remember as you read that it isn’t so much how many “yes” answers you have that indicate addiction, but more how you feel as you consider how to respond to each question.
- Do you ever use alone?
- Have you ever substituted one drug for another, thinking that one particular drug was the problem?
- Have you ever manipulated or lied to a doctor to obtain prescription drugs?
- Have you ever stolen drugs or stolen to obtain drugs?
- Do you regularly use a drug when you wake up or when you go to bed?
- Have you ever taken one drug to overcome the effects of another?
- Do you avoid people or places that do not approve of you using drugs?
- Have you ever used a drug without knowing what it was or what it would do to you?
- Has your job or school performance ever suffered from the effects of your drug use?
- Have you ever been arrested as a result of using drugs?
- Have you ever lied about what or how much you use?
- Do you put the purchase of drugs ahead of your financial responsibilities?
- Have you ever tried to stop or control your using?
- Have you ever been in a jail, hospital, or drug rehabilitation center because of your using?
- Does using interfere with your sleeping or eating?
- Does the thought of running out of drugs terrify you?
- Do you feel it is impossible for you to live without drugs?
- Do you ever question your own sanity?
- Is your drug use making life at home unhappy?
- Have you ever thought you couldn’t fit in or have a good time without drugs?
- Have you ever felt defensive, guilty, or ashamed about your using?
- Do you think a lot about drugs?
- Have you had irrational or indefinable fears?
- Has using affected your sexual relationships?
- Have you ever taken drugs you didn’t prefer?
- Have you ever used drugs because of emotional pain or stress?
- Have you ever overdosed on any drugs?
- Do you continue to use despite negative consequences?
- Do you think you might have a drug problem?
Mushrooms Addiction Treatment
There are quality, affordable treatment programs across the United States that can help free you from the hold drug abuse has on your life.
Therapies your recovery plan will likely include are:
- Individual, group and family counseling
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Holistic treatments such as yoga and massage
- Relapse Prevention