Psilocybin is a hallucinogenic chemical in certain mushrooms known as magic mushrooms. Eating mushrooms that contain psilocybin can have a variety of effects, ranging from euphoria to hallucinations.
Some people use psilocybin as a recreational drug. It can provide feelings of euphoria and sensory distortion that are common to hallucinogenic drugs, such as LSD.
Psilocybin is a Schedule I substance, meaning that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) believes it has a high potential for abuse and serves no legitimate medical purpose.
This article explains how psilocybin works, including the potential effects and risks.
Fast facts on psilocybin
- Psilocybin can have both positive and negative physical and psychological effects.
- Psilocybin is not naturally addictive.
- The drug can trigger psychotic episodes.
- Individuals with a family history of psychosis face an increased risk of an adverse psychiatric reaction to psilocybin.
Psilocybin is a hallucinogen that people can ingest through certain types of mushrooms.
How it works
Psilocybin works by
Psilocybin does not always cause active visual or auditory hallucinations. Instead, it distorts how some people who use the drug perceive objects and people already in their environment.
The quantity of the drug a person consumes, their past experiences, and their expectations of how the experience will take shape can all impact the effects of psilocybin.
According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), the hallucinogenic effects of psilocybin usually occur within 30 minutes after a person ingests it and last 4–6 hours.
In some individuals, changes in sensory perception and thought patterns can last for several days.
The potency of a magic mushroom depends on:
- growing conditions
- harvest period
- whether a person eats them fresh or dried
The EMCDDA suggests the amount of psilocybin in dried mushrooms is about 10 times higher than that of their fresh counterparts.
Mushrooms containing psilocybin are small and usually brown or tan. In the wild, people may mistake mushrooms containing psilocybin for any number of other mushrooms that are poisonous.
People usually consume psilocybin as a brewed tea or prepare it with a food item to mask its bitter taste. Manufacturers also crush dried mushrooms into a powder and prepare them in capsule form.
Some people who consume these mushrooms cover them with chocolate.
Extent of use
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 7.4 million Americans ages 12 and older used hallucinogens, including psilocybin, in 2021. Of this number, adults ages 18–25 were the most frequent users.
Psilocybin has been used in various cultures and locations across the world, potentially as far back as 8,000 years ago, according to a
In modern times, psilocybin use may be recreational at dance clubs or by people seeking a transcendent spiritual experience.
In medical settings, psilocybin may show promise in helping to treat or manage the following conditions:
However, the review authors highlight that research is ongoing.
Street names for magic mushrooms
People may also refer to magic mushrooms as:
- simple Simon
- little smoke
- sacred mushrooms
- purple passion
- mushroom soup
The effects of psilocybin are generally similar to those of LSD. They include altered perception of time and space and intense changes in mood and feeling.
Other possible effects of psilocybin include:
- spiritual awakening
- derealization, or the feeling that surroundings are not real
- depersonalization, or a dream-like sense of being disengaged from surroundings
- distorted thinking
- visual alteration and distortion, such as seeing halos of light and vivid colors
- dilated pupils
- drowsiness and yawning
- impaired concentration
- muscle weakness
- lack of coordination
- unusual body sensations
- nausea and vomiting
- frightening hallucinations
What impacts effects?
The effects of psilocybin vary between people,
If the user has a mental health condition or feels anxious about using the hallucinogen, they face a higher risk of having a bad experience.
Psychological distress is a potential adverse event after recreational use of psilocybin. This distress can take the form of extreme anxiety or short-term psychosis.
Psilocybin as a treatment for depression
Researchers have investigated whether psychological specialists can use psilocybin and similar hallucinogens to treat depression.
One study examined the ability of psilocybin to reduce depression symptoms without dulling emotions. Results indicated that psilocybin may be successful in treating depression with psychological support.
Psilocybin and other psychedelic drugs
However, more research is necessary for experts to understand exactly how this mechanism works and if there is a way to achieve it without hallucinogenic side effects.
Some people who take psilocybin may experience persistent, distressing alterations to how they see the world. These may take the form of a visual flashback, a traumatic recall of an intensely upsetting experience.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, people can continue to experience flashbacks anywhere from weeks to years after using the hallucinogen. This is a condition called hallucinogen-persisting perception disorder and is rare.
Finally, though the risk is small, some psilocybin users risk accidental poisoning from eating a poisonous mushroom by mistake.
Symptoms of mushroom poisoning may include muscle spasms, confusion, and delirium. A person should visit an emergency room immediately if these symptoms occur.
Because hallucinogenic and other poisonous mushrooms are common in most living environments, people should regularly remove all mushrooms from areas where children are routinely present to prevent accidental consumption.
Current research suggests psilocybin is not addictive, and no physical symptoms occur after stopping use. However, further research is necessary.
After several days of psilocybin use, individuals
Regular use may also cause an individual to become tolerant to the effects of psilocybin, and cross-tolerance occurs with other drugs, including LSD and mescaline.
People who use these drugs should wait at least several days between doses to experience the full effect.
How likely is it that I will have a bad trip taking magic mushrooms?Anonymous
A “bad trip” can include feelings of despair, confusion, paranoia, anxiety, and panic. These feelings can persist for hours to days.
To avoid this, first, you will not have a bad trip or any trip at all if you choose not to ingest the mushrooms. If the mushrooms have a higher, stronger dose than expected, this can increase your chances of having a negative experience.
For someone going through a personal crisis or using mushrooms in an unsafe, unsupportive environment, the chances of a “bad trip” increase.
There are no guarantees with mushrooms since they are an unprocessed plant product, and bad trips can and do happen. If someone has ingested mushrooms and is experiencing panic, anxiety, or is in any danger of harming themselves or others, seek medical assistance immediately.Debra Rose Wilson, Ph.D., MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHTAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.
Psilocybin is a chemical that occurs in certain mushroom varieties. Consumption can lead to symptoms such as euphoria, hallucinations, and sensory distortion.
Although current research suggests psilocybin is not addictive, some people may have bad experiences, including feelings of anxiety, paranoia, and short-term psychosis.
Factors such as mental health, setting, quantity, and expectations may affect the experience someone has after using psilocybin.