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Medicine for the Outdoors
Medicine for the Outdoors

Dr. Paul Auerbach is the world's leading outdoor health expert. His blog offers tips on outdoor safety and advice on how to handle wilderness emergencies.

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There Are No Old, Bold Mushroom Hunters


There has been recent interest in psychedelic mushrooms because of experiments performed at Johns Hopkins University in which volunteers ate psilocybin from the mushroom Psilocybe cubensis (a Psilocybe mushroom is pictured here). It can't be overemphasized that while some persons report experiencing a pleasant escape from reality after eating hallucinogenic mushrooms, many others become fearful, frightened, paranoid, or terrorized. Other mushrooms, such as Amanita muscaria, have similar dual effects. In some persons, they can evoke what is perceived as spiritual awakening, while in many others, they invoke nightmares, impaired judgment, and unpleasant hallucinations. Because we don't know exactly how they affect the brain - one theory links certain mushrooms to serotonin receptors - we cannot predict with any degree of certainty who will react positively and who will react negatively.

There are many toxic mushrooms that are mistaken for harmless edible species. Some of these cause extreme gastrointestinal distress (abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea), while others may also induce catastrophic liver failure. Unless you are very experienced and well prepared to pick wild mushrooms, you are best advised to leave them alone.

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photo from the textbook Wilderness Medicine
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About the Author

Dr. Paul S. Auerbach is the world’s leading authority on wilderness medicine.

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