Psychedelic Mushrooms (Psilocybin) Abuse And Addiction
Psilocybin is a hallucinogenic substance that naturally occurs in some mushrooms. Chronic abuse of psychedelic mushrooms can result in a tolerance to hallucinogens.
What Are Psychedelic Mushrooms?
There are more than 75 known species of mushrooms native to the tropical and subtropical areas of South America, Mexico, Southeast Asia, Europe, and the U.S. These mushrooms contain the hallucinogenic components, psilocybin and psilocyn.
Psilocybin and psilocyn are closely related hallucinogenic compounds. Typically, mushrooms contain between two and four percent psilocybin compound and trace amounts of psilocyn. Psychedelic mushrooms may vary in potency.
In the mid-1950s, Albert Hofmann, the man credited with discovering LSD, determined that the primary active ingredient in hallucinogenic mushrooms is psilocybin, and the psilocyn compound is only a minor component.
However, once psilocybin is absorbed by the body, it becomes unstable and naturally converts into psilocyn. Psilocyn is 1.4 times more potent than psilocybin, and is thought to be the source of both physical and psychological effects produced by psychedelic mushrooms.
By 1968, psychedelic mushrooms were made illegal in the U.S. because of the excessive amounts being abused by the general public. In its pure form, psilocybin is a white, crystalline powder. It is possible to make synthetic psilocybin, however this process is difficult and expensive, so it is rarely done.
There is some research that suggests psychedelic mushrooms may have potential therapeutic use, as mood enhancers for people struggling with depression. More research is needed to investigate this medical use of psilocybin.
Although both psilocybin and psilocyn compounds are classified as Schedule I controlled substances by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the mushrooms themselves are not scheduled. Given the addictive properties within the mushrooms, including psilocyn and psilocybin, they can be considered addictive, dangerous substances.
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How Are Psychedelic Mushrooms Abused?
Individuals taking hallucinogenic mushrooms usually consume them orally. It is also common to brew the mushrooms into a tea to drink. The likelihood of polydrug use increases in people who use hallucinogens like psilocybin mushrooms, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
Are Psychedelic Mushrooms Addictive?
There are currently no reports that psilocybin mushrooms are psychologically or physically addictive, and occasional use does not lead to dependence, according to the Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR).
However, individuals who consume psychedelic mushrooms may experience a period of psychological withdrawal, and have a hard time telling the difference between reality and fiction for several days after consuming the mushrooms.
The potential for psychedelic mushrooms to produce long-term, negative effects is not fully known and requires further research.
CESAR also reports that regular use of psilocybin mushrooms will result in a tolerance to their effects. It is possible for cross-tolerance to other drugs like LSD and mescaline to occur because those drugs attach to and interact with similar receptors in the central nervous system (CNS).
Without a period of abstinence from psilocybin mushrooms, eventually the tolerance level can become so high that the mushrooms lose their effectiveness entirely. Additional research is needed to determine the addictiveness of psychedelic mushrooms.
Effects Of Psilocybin Abuse
Psilocybin affects the central nervous system by disrupting the normal interaction between nerve cells and serotonin neurotransmitters. Serotonin is a hormone that naturally occurs in the brain and influences mood.
Although synthetic psilocybin is more difficult to make and store, its effects are more predictable than the naturally-occurring psilocybin compounds.
The effects produced by psilocybin and psilocyn will be expressed differently depending on several different factors. These factors include:
- the age, type, and amount of mushroom used
- the environment the mushroom is used in
- the expectations of the person taking the mushrooms
- whether the person taking the mushrooms has done so before
- the general personality of the person taking the mushrooms
It can take between 20 minutes to two hours to feel the mushroom’s effects, which can last between three to six hours. Psychedelic mushrooms can produce both physical and psychological side effects.
Physical effects of psychedelic mushrooms may include:
- nausea and vomiting
- muscle relaxation, weakness, and twitches
- yawning, drowsiness, and lack of coordination
- dilated pupils, tearing, dry mouth, and flushed skin
- increased heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature
- sweating followed by chills and shivers
- numbness in the tongue, lips, and mouth
- feeling physically heavy or feelings of floating
Psychological effects of psychedelic mushrooms may include:
- Heightened sensory experiences and perceptual distortions (brighter colors, sharper visuals definition, increased hearing ability, and more distinguished tasting ability).
- Auditory, tactile, and visual hallucinations.
- The melding of senses (synesthesia), i.e. seeing music or hearing colors.
- Trouble focusing, maintaining attention, concentration, or thinking.
- Impaired judgment and preoccupation with trivial thoughts, experiences, or objects.
- Sense of detachment from body and surroundings and loss of boundaries between the two.
- Altered perception of space and time.
- Tension, anxiety, and restlessness.
- Inability to tell the difference between reality and fantasy.
- Frightening hallucinations, confusion, disorientation, paranoia, agitation, depression, panic, and terror.
Dangers Of Psychedelic Mushroom (Psilocybin) Abuse
When someone is under the influence of psilocybin, their judgement becomes impaired. This can lead to dangerous situations such as car accidents or unintentional injuries. It is also possible for some people to have a very negative reaction to psychedelic mushrooms.
These unpleasant experiences are commonly called “bad trips” and can have a lasting effect. About 4.2 percent of individuals using hallucinogens like psychedelic mushrooms can develop hallucinogen persisting perception disorder. People with this condition often have flashbacks or feel like they are still under the influence of mushrooms even after not taking them for an extended time period.
There is also increased potential for people who take psychedelic mushrooms to accidentally ingest misidentified poisonous mushrooms, believing that they are psychedelic mushrooms. Chronically using psilocybin mushrooms does result in a tolerance forming, meaning more frequent and larger doses will be necessary to achieve the same effects a smaller dose once had.
The DEA reports that deaths exclusively due to acute overdose of psychedelic mushrooms are extremely rare, and generally happen due to the behavioral side effects of the substance and not the chemical reaction of the substance in the body.
Although statistics regarding psychedelic mushrooms are not typically reported, there are general statistics for hallucinogen use, which include psychedelic mushrooms. The following statistics were reported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA):
- About 1.2 million people (12 and older) reported currently using hallucinogenic drugs in 2014.
- In 2014, over 500,000 adults (18 to 25 years old) abused hallucinogens, like psilocybin.
- Young people (12 to 18 years old) with co-occurring major depressive disorders were more likely to use hallucinogens compared to young people without a major depressive disorder.
Treatment For Psilocybin Abuse
In order to prevent people from experimenting with hallucinogenic mushrooms, education programs about their potential risks should be promoted. Someone struggling with psilocybin abuse may be experiencing a decreased quality of life.
Treatment for hallucinogen abuse may involve behavioral therapy, counseling, and relapse prevention skill-building.
If you would like to learn more about psilocybin mushroom abuse, contact us today.