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Article Summary

A Guide To Mushrooms Addiction

Although mushrooms are not known to be addictive, certain varieties contain psychoactive chemicals that cause hallucinations and distortions in perception, auditory, and visual senses. Among these are magic mushrooms that contain psilocin and psilocybin, which are typically found in Mexico and Southwest America.

Many species of mind-altering mushrooms have been used over the past few centuries in healing ceremonies, spiritual rituals, and medicines. Further, psychotherapy researchers used magic mushrooms for some time before the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) banned them under the Controlled Substances Act. Today, people widely abuse them for the psychedelic effects they cause.

Understanding Mushrooms

Also referred to as shrooms, magic mushrooms are fungi with the psilocybin chemical. This chemical occurs naturally as a psychedelic compound.

Over 180 mushroom species contain psilocybin (or psilocin, its derivative). In Mesoamerica, these mushrooms have had a long history of use in religious and spiritual rituals. Now, they are among the most popular of all recreational psychedelics in Europe and the United States.

They have also been used for therapy in the treatment of a wide range of disorders and ailments, including but not limited to addiction, depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and cluster headaches.

However, magic mushrooms are now illegal. They are also categorized as Schedule I controlled drugs in the U.S., although the DEA and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) recently allowed some small albeit highly controlled human studies into the potential usefulness of these substances in psychiatric and medical settings.

Since they are hallucinogens, psychedelic mushrooms alter your consciousness and state of mind. Since they are fungi, there are concerns about magic mushrooms because they are quite similar to some varieties of toxic mushrooms.

In many cases, magic mushrooms - which are grown in South America, the United Kingdom, Mexico, and the U.S. contain psilocybin. When ingested, this chemical will break down and produce psilocin, another chemical that causes hallucinations.

Most of the varieties available in the black market are dried and sold to users. The user will then eat the mushrooms or brew them into a tea for leisurely drinking. Although there are natural varieties, you may also find mushrooms that have been produced synthetically.

After consuming mushrooms, you will experience alterations in your senses and state of consciousness. As a direct result, you may get a psychedelic experience, or experience synesthesia - the crossover of senses such as seeing sounds and hearing colors.

When this happens, you would be said to have to go through a trip although visual hallucinations may be more prevalent. The trip typically lasts anywhere from 5 to 12 hours.

Other names for magic mushrooms include:

  • Shrooms
  • Boomers
  • Caps
  • Liberty Cap
  • Silly Putty
  • Simple Simon

The CSAR (Center for Substance Abuse Research) reports that two related elements are the main hallucinogenic components found in the different known mushroom species. These chemicals include psilocybin and psilocin. Most mushrooms contain 0.2 to 0.4 percent of the former and only trace amounts of the latter.

Regarding physical appearance, psychedelic mushrooms are quite similar to the mushrooms you would typically buy at any grocery store for cooking or eating. The only difference between the two is that magic or psychedelic mushrooms have psilocybin. The drugs are sold crushed or dried, although some sellers may provide crushed mushroom powder in the form of a tablet.

Mushroom Uses

Psilocybin mushrooms have had a long history of abuse for their various psychedelic properties. In the past, they were ingested during ceremonial and religious rites to alter reality and perceptions.

Over the years, their use has evolved although they still play an active part in the mainstream drug culture. However, they only gained prominence during the 70s (hippies movement) where they were referred to as magic mushrooms. They eventually made their way into new groups of adolescents and onto college campuses.

In many cases, they are sold illegally although some people know how they look like and can find them before eating or making tea from them. Although this form of abuse becomes a habit, the effects the drug causes tend to be different every time you use them. This difference makes mushrooms quite dangerous.

Since psychedelic mushrooms are often sold in dried form, some users eat them whole. However, others prefer to add them to hot water to make tea. Another cluster of abusers will create fungus delight by mixing their mushrooms with fruit juice.

Alternative modes of use include adding them as ingredients to a favorite dish or desserts. This mostly happens because they are slightly bitter, so mixing them with other ingredients can hide the unpleasant flavor.

In many cases, people use magic mushrooms to:

  • Have fun
  • Have something to do
  • Escape from reality

However, in the 60s and 70s, several pre-clinical trials were conducted. They suggested promising roles for psilocybin and the other psychedelics in the same class for the treatment of the following disorders:

a) Treating Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches are as painful as they are disruptive. Although they tend to be more intense than a migraine, they may not last quite as long. However, night attacks are quite severe and painful, certainly more than daytime attacks. Still, both kinds will significantly interfere in your life.

Several anecdotal reports show that psilocybin mushrooms might be useful in treating cluster headaches. In the 2000s for instance, medical professionals noticed that psilocybin was useful after some patients reported that their condition was in remission following the recreational use of the psychedelic mushrooms and subsequent self-medication.

b) Treating Anxiety and Mood Disorders

Further, anecdotal evidence points towards psilocybin as an effective treatment for such mood disorders as anxiety and depression. Dr. James Fadiman collected such evidence over several years, and most of them are quite accurate.

The Federal Government also allowed a couple of highly controlled scientific studies to check on the therapeutic potential of magic mushrooms in the treatment of mood disorders.

On such small pilot study was carried out in 2011 to test the effects of the psilocybin in mushrooms on end-of-life anxiety and depression in patients who have terminal cancer.

In the study, the patients had advanced-stage cancer as well as clinical diagnoses of anxiety or stress related to the disease. The researchers noticed a significant improvement in the patients, showing that psilocybin treatment worked effectively on the measures of anxiety and depression for up to 6 months after the end of the trial.

Other studies show that psilocybin mushrooms are effective at successfully reducing the symptoms of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) in some patients who did not respond to conventional SRI (serotonin reuptake inhibitor) drug therapy. In the study, all the patients involved displayed reductions in OCD symptoms of between 23 to 100%.

c) Treating Addiction

In the 50s and 60s, researchers used classic hallucinogens in preclinical trials for the treatment of addiction with promising results. However, most of these psychedelics (including magic mushrooms) were made illegal in most of Europe and the U.S. As a result research came to an abrupt stop.

Recently, there has been a resurgence in the use of psilocybin mushrooms (among other psychedelics) as useful therapeutic tools for treating addiction. As part of a comprehensive assisted treatment plan, psilocybin shows great promise especially in the treatment of alcoholics as reported by non-clinical trials in a study from 2015.

After the psilocybin was administered, the alcoholics displayed significant reductions in drinking. They were also more likely to abstain from drinking once mushrooms were added to their treatment program.

The drug may also have a potential with regards to helping people quit tobacco. A recent trial showed that several treatment sessions with psilocybin mushrooms as part of a greater cognitive-behavioral therapy program produced a success rate of 80% among tobacco smoking study participants (about 12 out of the 15 subjects). In comparison, other conventional cessation methods (cold turkey, patches, and gum) only have a success rate of about 35%.

However, the federal government classified psilocybin mushrooms as Schedule I drugs back in the 70s, which is why research into their therapeutic effects was virtually non-existent until recently.

Mushroom Effects

As mentioned above, most abusers ingest psilocybin mushrooms in their whole form. On a typical trip, when the dose is quite moderate (1 to 2.5 grams), you might feel your emotional experiences intensifying. The drug may also increase your introspection and alter the functioning of your psychological faculties in the form of hypnagogic experiences.

In this case, you will be drift through a transitory state between sleep and wakefulness. This state is typically described as a waking dream while brain imaging studies prove that tripping on mushrooms is similar (at least neurologically) to dreaming.

Other effects of using magic mushrooms include but are not limited to:

  • Auditory hallucinations
  • Blurred vision
  • Changes in emotions, perceptions, and moods
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Reduced heart rate
  • Distortions of images, sounds, and sights
  • Feelings of enlightenment
  • Lack of coordination
  • Lightheaded feelings
  • Loss of energy
  • Mental stimulation
  • Nausea
  • Perception changes
  • Pupil dilation
  • Sedation
  • Shaking
  • Sleepiness
  • Visual hallucinations
  • Weakness

Most of the effects listed above are likely to last for the entire duration of the trip. However, the more serious effects can continue weeks, months, or years after you quit using the substance. However, the effects tend to lessen soon after the drug runs its course.

That said, magic mushrooms tend to have other outcomes in various aspects of your life. For instance, there is always the potential that your substance abuse could lead to the loss of your family and other meaningful relationships. It may also spell the end of your job/career, which would ultimately result in you losing your financial stability. If you are caught using or holding the drugs, you could also be tried and found guilty, which would result in you spending some time in prison.

If you are curious about trying these drugs for your first time, you might inevitably worry about a bad trip - which includes reckless behavior, uncontrollable paranoia, and dysphonia hallucinations. In many cases, a bad trip is entirely possible.

Mushroom Side Effects

Most of the early psychosis effects from using psychedelic mushrooms last for 4 to 6 hours, as we've noted above. However, when taken in high doses, the drug can lead to adverse side effects, which can eventually prove dangerous or even fatal.

Since psilocybin mushrooms occur naturally, when you take them (brewed in tea or eaten whole), they can cause hallucinogenic effects. This high or trip tends to come with a wide variety of side effects.

In general, the intensity of these side effects tends to vary depending on the type and size of the magic mushrooms you used, as well as the amount of the drug you ingested. According to Brown University, you may experience the following side effects:

  • Anxiety
  • Body tingling
  • Changes in perception
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Frightening hallucinations
  • HPPD, or hallucinogen persisting perception disorder
  • Inability to differentiate between reality and fantasy
  • Inability to differentiate external cognition from internal cognition
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Lack of coordination
  • Lightheadedness
  • Mental relaxation
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nausea
  • Overdose
  • Panic
  • Paranoia psychosis
  • Physical relaxation
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Unexpected flashbacks
  • Vomiting

Additionally, psychedelic drugs such as magic mushrooms have also been linked to ongoing psychological difficulties, memory loss, and cognitive impairments. These severe side effects are highly likely to last for several weeks, and you might not be able to make appropriate judgments with regards to continued drug use.

In some cases, the side effects listed above combined with your heightened emotional state can cause a bad trip. When this happens, you may appear paranoid, nervous, and anxious. These feelings could also be accompanied by terrified emotions, as well as intense nausea and vomiting.

Unfortunately, you can do nothing about a bad trip after ingesting magic mushrooms except wait for it to run out. In fact, these side effects do not respond well when you make quick attempts to sober up.

Mushroom Addictive Qualities

Generally speaking, magic mushrooms are not physically addictive. However, several psychological influences can cause you to repeat your abuse. Over the several days following your use of the drug, you can experience psychological withdrawal. During this time, you may have some difficulty discerning reality. This is according to CSAR (the Center for Substance Abuse Research).

The Center further finds that those who are prone to abusing psychedelic drugs may also have co-existing poly substance abuse or mental health disorders, while others are influenced by environmental stresses or their peers.

After using psilocybin mushrooms for some time, tolerance can develop quickly. Tolerance will also peak after frequently using this drug in short-term intervals in which the results are weakened.

Increasing the dosage will only lead to more adverse effects, and you may be unable to feel the effects you desire until you abstain from abusing the hallucinogenic mushrooms for a period.

Some users now prefer psilocybin to other hallucinogens because the former are not produced chemically. However, this does not mean that mushrooms do not carry a potential for addiction.

In fact, mushrooms have been classified as a Schedule I drug. Although they may not produce side effects that are physically addictive, you can still develop tolerance to the drug.

When this happens, you will need more mushrooms to achieve the same kind of trip you used to experience when you were new to the drug. Although this may not be dangerous - physically speaking - increasing the dose can impair your judgment, memory, and decision-making. It may also cause adverse changes in your personality.

Some of the factors that determine whether you will become psychologically addicted, however, include:

  • Mood
  • Physical environment
  • Previous experiences
  • Sense of happiness and well being
  • State of mind
  • Strength of the dose

Mushroom Overdose

Otherwise referred to as mushroom toxicity, a psychedelic mushroom overdose does not occur because you abused psilocybin. Rather, it will happen when you ingest the wrong kind of mushroom.

To overdose on the right kind of mushrooms, you might have to ingest around 30 pounds (if your weight is 160 pounds). As such, most emergency admissions from an overdose are due to mushroom poisoning when you take the wrong kind of mushroom.

The following are some of the signs of an overdose or toxicity:

  • Decreased heart rate
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Liver toxicity
  • Loss of control
  • Mental confusion
  • Paranoia, or paranoid feelings and thoughts
  • Severe vomiting

If you experience any of these symptoms, you need to get to a hospital immediately. Where possible, bring samples of the mushrooms you ingested to the hospital. The doctors might be able to identify the mushroom type and help you overcome the consequences of the overdose.

Mushroom Withdrawal

As mentioned above, mushrooms do not display any physiological symptoms of direct addition. However, long term users may experience flashbacks, insomnia, and depression.

A flashback refers to the experience of the trip lasting for days, months, and/or years after you use the drug. Most of these unexpected psychedelic trips are caused by sleepiness, using other substances (such as marijuana or alcohol), and stress.

That said, abusing mushrooms comes with no withdrawal symptoms - at least, there is no direct evidence documented on these symptoms.

Mushroom Dangers

According to the CSAR, magic mushrooms tend to affect the CNS (central nervous system) where they disrupt the interaction of the functioning of serotonin and nerve cells.

The effects of psilocin and psilocybin vary and may depend on such factors as dosage amount, your age, and the type of mushrooms you took. They also depend on your expectations, past drug experiences, personality, and environment.

Since these effects are unpredictable, it is also difficult to predict how you will react to them. However, research shows that mushrooms ultimately impair the chemical makeup in your brain. This may cause chemical imbalances in the brain after the drug wanes from the system.

If you continue abusing psychedelic mushrooms, therefore, you are highly likely to suffer permanent brain damage. Further, you may experience seizures as a result of prolonged use of the drug, while other abusers carry a high risk of a heart attack.

Among the dangerous effects of taking psychedelic mushrooms, however, is related to the hallucinations you are likely to experience. In some cases, you may also have a bad trip, which could negatively affect your life.

If you start hearing or seeing things that do not exist - especially if these hallucinations are related to bad things - you may become aggressive or violent. Similarly, the trip may compel you to make bad decisions that put your life (or the lives of others near you) in jeopardy. These risks are higher if you unintentionally ingested poisonous magic mushrooms.

Brown University reports that among the dangers related to psilocybin mushrooms revolves around misidentification. To this end, it may be difficult for you to identify psilocybin mushrooms from the poisonous varieties. This is because most poisonous mushroom species also cause the same hallucinogenic effects associated with magic mushroom. However, they could lead to death.

Of course, even when you take high doses of psilocybin mushrooms, you can experience the following dangerous effects - some of which may prove to be fatal at the end of the day:

  • Increased blood pressure, which is hazardous to those with hypertension
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased body temperature, accompanied by sweating and chills
  • Feeling intense fear
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Disordered and confused thoughts
  • Panic attacks
  • Paranoid delusions
  • Depression
  • Loss of reality
  • Severe agitation
  • Loss of coordination
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Difficulty focusing and concentrating
  • Impaired judgment
  • Inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality

The safest choice, therefore, is to stay away from psychedelic mushrooms and refuse to ingest them. Since they are hallucinogens, the reactions to these drugs are unpredictable. They are also highly likely to produce effects that will destabilize your mind and life.

Research also shows that there are links between using hallucinogens such as magic mushrooms during pregnancy and high risks of birth complications and miscarriage. If you take these drugs when you are expecting, therefore, the incidence of congenital disabilities in your baby might be higher. Similarly, women who use mushrooms while breastfeeding can still have the hallucinogen in breast milk, and your baby will ingest it. This may have adverse effects for your child.

Cross-tolerance also occurs between different psychedelics. Therefore, if you have a tolerance to, say, LSD, you may also have a co-occurring tolerance to other drugs that cause the same effects - such as mescaline or magic mushrooms.

Signs And Symptoms Of Mushroom Abuse

Since magic mushrooms are a hallucinogen, they cause hallucinations. They can also change the way you perceive things. The following are some of the signs and symptoms of mushroom use, abuse, tolerance, dependency, and addiction:

1. Physical Symptoms
  • Changes in appetite
  • Continuing to use the psilocybin mushroom in spite of the physical and psychological detriments exacerbated or caused by such use
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased pulse rate
  • Increased tolerance
  • Needing greater amounts of the drug over time to experience the same desired effects
  • Shaking
  • Intense cravings to use psilocybin
  • Strong urges to take mushrooms
  • Taking psilocybin in dangerous situations, such as when you are driving
2. Psychological Symptoms
  • Changes in perception
  • Changes in reality, including tasting sounds, hearing tastes and seeing colors
  • Depressed thoughts
  • Flashbacks
  • Hallucinations
  • Increased euphoria
  • Paranoid thoughts
3. Behavioral Symptoms
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Compulsive mushroom use in spite of the adverse psychological and physical problems it causes
  • Continuing to use mushrooms despite the social and interpersonal problems caused by such use
  • Engaging in illegal or unusual behavior to acquire more mushrooms
  • Failing to meet your responsibilities at work, school, or home due to psilocybin use
  • Inability to cut down or quit drug use
  • Lying and stealing to get more of the drug
  • Neglecting occupational, social, and recreational activities you used to enjoy in favor of procuring and using psilocybin mushrooms
  • Spending an inordinate amount of time and energy trying to get and use mushrooms, or recovering from its effects
  • Spending more money to acquire the drug
  • Using other mushroom types to try and experience the same effects
  • Using psilocybin for longer periods or more often than you originally intended

Treatment For Mushroom Addiction

Although abusing psilocybin mushrooms occasionally might not seem like a problem, a bad trip can end up seriously affecting you for several years. On the other hand, if you use these drugs with other substances, such as marijuana or alcohol, you should start considering the various treatment options available for addiction.

In many cases, drug abuse leads to physical tolerance and addiction. These can have grave consequences over the long-term, and can only be resolved through treatment.

At most mushroom addiction treatment programs, the doctors will seek to treat your psychological dependence. The treatment might be different because magic mushrooms are not quite as addictive in the same way as other drugs. This is because your body may not develop dependence to the drug. You will only suffer addiction symptoms because of the psychological craving you have for magic mushrooms.

This craving is related to your tolerance. As your body becomes used to the presence of mushrooms, you will eventually need to take greater amounts of the drug to achieve the same effects.

With time, you will develop tolerance and need to take as many mushrooms are possible to start tripping. The only way to reverse this situation is to stop using the drug for several days, weeks, or months until your body gets rid of the substance.

If you are addicted to psilocybin mushrooms, however, you do not have to battle alone. There are different drug addiction treatment options available to people in your situation. More likely than not, the standard treatment protocol you undergo may be combined with specialized adjustments to meet your unique needs.

Consider the following psilocybin addiction treatment options:

1. Inpatient Treatment

Currently, there is no evidence showing that those who chronically use or abuse psilocybin mushrooms exhibit physical dependence. However, you can still develop problematic patterns of abuse.

If you compulsively abuse the drug, an inpatient addiction treatment program might prove useful. Treatment in a residential setting will help you distance yourself from the environmental and personal factors that may induce a relapse. Inpatient facilities will also allow you to focus entirely on your recovery from mushroom abuse.

2. Dual Diagnosis Care

While suffering from psilocybin mushroom addiction, you may also suffer from such co-occurring mental health disorders as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and depression. In this case, you would be said to suffer from a dual diagnosis.

It is essential that, if this happens to be the situations, you seek comprehensive treatment. The program you sign up for should address all of the issues you are experiencing at the same time. Only by so doing will you be able to avoid a relapse to mushroom addiction.

3. Psychotherapy

While in recovery, you may benefit from psychotherapy. This usually comes in the form of individual therapy, group therapy, or a combination of the two. Psychotherapy will allow you to fully explore those issues that eventually caused you to start abusing psilocybin.

Through therapy, you will also learn how to identify triggers and the warning signs of a relapse. The sessions may also teach you several skills you can use to cope with any trigger situation. Last but not least, counseling can help you to develop relapse prevention and stress management skills.

4. Social Support

Social support is a vital cog in the road to recovery from mushroom addiction. It usually comes in the form of 12-step group, alternative groups (like SMART Recovery), community mental health support groups, and family therapy.

5. Additional Services

The addiction treatment facility can also provide other necessary support on an as-needed basis. These include case management, relapse prevention groups, drug education, vocational rehabilitation, peer support, and psycho-education.

As mentioned above, treatment for mushroom addiction is different. Although they may not be physically addictive, mushrooms can still cause you to develop a habit of frequent and regular abuse.

Primarily, your treatment will focus on helping to keep you stress-free and calm. It might also seek to rehabilitate your psychological dependency until you no longer need to take mushrooms.

Since there is no antidote that doctors can use to stop you from tripping while on psychedelic mushrooms, you just need to wait until the effects wear off and your body gets rid of the drug.

Luckily, there are different types and varieties of rehabilitation and approaches to treatment. Where possible, find a treatment center that uses several methods to personalize unique programs for every patient based on their mushroom abuse and other related disorders.

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