“Shrooms” or “magic mushrooms” can produce euphoric feelings and possibly relieve mental health conditions. However, there are some risks to be aware of, and only a few U.S. cities where use is legal.
Archeological evidence suggests that humans have been using “shrooms,” also called magic mushrooms, for ceremonial and medicinal purposes for thousands of years.
In Central America, Aztec and Mazateca cultures believed these mushrooms had divine properties and used them during coronations and other important events until at least the 1500s.
Although their use was discouraged and criminalized by many church institutions and governments, especially after the colonization of the Americas, these mushrooms were still grown, cultivated, and used privately around the world. In the 1960s, mushroom use became associated with psychedelia and youth counterculture.
Today, people still use shrooms for a variety of purposes. Modern medical research is studying their potential use as a treatment for some mental and behavioral health conditions. As this research continues to show promise, there is advocacy for removing some of the longstanding legal restrictions on mushroom possession in the United States.
Shrooms are a type of mushroom that contain hallucinogenic drugs called psilocin or psilocybin. Shrooms are also known as magic mushrooms or simply as mushrooms. Taking shrooms causes hallucinations and can affect a person’s thoughts and emotions.
Shrooms can be consumed in a variety of ways including:
- eating dried mushrooms
- consuming powdered mushrooms by injection
- steeping mushrooms as tea
- cooking with dried or powdered mushroom
- adding powdered mushroom to juice and other beverages
- taking a capsule of powdered mushroom
How do you pronounce “Psilocybin”?
Psilocybin isn’t a word most people use every day. Even when psilocybin mushrooms are the topic of conversation, people typically just say shrooms or magic mushrooms. It’s likely many people have never heard the word psilocybin out loud. So, how is it pronounced?
Psilocybin is pronounced: sil-uh-sahy-bin
You’ll typically begin to feel the effects of mushrooms in about 30 minutes, and they’ll last for about 3 to 6 hours. Mushrooms can have different effects on different people. Your experience with mushrooms will be affected by factors such as:
- your age
- your weight
- the amount you use
- how much you’ve eaten that day
- your surroundings
- your expectations
- your experience with any previous drug use
- your personality
You might experience some or all of the following effects:
- changes to the way you perceive the world around you
- a feeling of unusual well-being or euphoria
- visual or auditory hallucinations
- feeling that you are having a magical, spiritual, or religious experience
- feeling that your body is very light or very heavy
It’s also possible to experience unpleasant physical effects. This can include:
- feeling dizzy and light-headed
- feeling nauseous
- shivering or having chills
- having an increased pulse
- having a numb tongue and mouth
- having high blood pressure
Are psilocybin mushrooms legal?
Psilocybin mushrooms are a Schedule I drug in the United States. This means it’s illegal to have, sell, or give away psilocybin mushrooms for any reason. There are significant legal penalties imposed on both the possession and selling of mushrooms.
However, there is advocacy to change this. In a few cities across the country, possession of psilocybin mushrooms has been decriminalized. In these cities, residents can’t be criminally charged for the possession of psilocybin mushrooms, as long as they do not go over a set amount. These cities are:
- Ann Arbor, Michigan
- Denver, Colorado
- Oakland, California
- Seattle, Washington
As more evidence about the possible potential health benefits of psilocybin mushrooms becomes available, other cities and states may develop similar legislation.
Research has shown that psilocybin could be beneficial as a treatment for psychiatric and behavioral conditions, including:
- obsessive-compulsive disorder
- cocaine addiction
- end-of-life psychological distress related to cancer or any other fatal condition
However, none of these uses have been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These potential health benefits have been seen in studies, but haven’t been replicated on a large scale. More data is needed to confirm that psilocybin mushrooms are a reliable treatment for these conditions.
Want to get involved?
Humans have been using these mushrooms for thousands of years, but there’s a lot we still don’t know. If you want to help researchers learn about psilocybin mushrooms and how they can affect our minds and bodies — you may be able to join a clinical study. Check out ClinicalTrials.gov to learn about what studies are currently looking for participants.
Make sure to always talk with your doctor before starting a clinical trial, especially if it would interfere with any of your ongoing treatments.
The biggest risk associated with psilocybin mushroom use is that psilocybin mushrooms look very similar to some types of poisonous mushrooms. It can be easy to mistake a poisonous mushroom for a psilocybin mushroom. Always make sure to use an established guide or grower that produces mushrooms of a quality that can be trusted.
If you consume an especially large or especially strong batch of mushrooms, you might experience unwanted effects. These could include:
Sometimes shrooms can produce fear, paranoia, and other unwanted effects. This is known as a “bad trip.” Effects of a bad trip include:
- intense hallucinations
- unpleasant hallucinations
- flashbacks to previous experiences of taking mushrooms
Can the risks be avoided or reduced?
The best way to reduce your risks of unpleasant effects and bad trips is to be careful about the use of magic mushrooms. Controlling the amount of mushrooms you consume and the environment you take them in can have a big impact on your overall experience.
You can reduce your risks of a bad trip by:
- making sure you know the mushrooms you’re taking are psilocybin
- making sure you understand how much you will be consuming
- not combing magic mushrooms with other drugs
- not consuming mushrooms on a day you are feeling stressed, sad, or fearful
- consuming mushrooms with safe and trusted people
- consuming mushrooms in a pleasant, calm, and comfortable environment
If you’re not 100% sure the mushrooms you have are psilocybin, don’t take them.
Several types of poisonous mushrooms closely resemble psilocybin mushrooms. Even professionals sometimes mistake these mushroom types. It can be very dangerous to attempt to identify psilocybin mushrooms on your own. Poisonous mushrooms can make you severely ill and can even be fatal.
If you already have psilocybin mushrooms and want to double-check them, it’s good to keep these identifying features in mind:
- Psilocybin mushrooms have long and thin stems.
- Psilocybin mushrooms have a wide cap that is typically dark brown around the edges and lighter in the center.
- The underside of a psilocybin mushroom cap is generally dark brown with gills.
- The edge of the cap can be wavy, flat, or pointed.
However, it’s not safe to consume a mushroom just because it has all of these visual characteristics. Poisonous mushrooms can share these exact traits. It’s typically not safe to make a decision simply based on looking at mushrooms, especially if you don’t have experience identifying them.
Many people choose to work with a guide or grow and cultivate their own mushrooms at home for safety. While this is much less dangerous, keep in mind that unless you live in one of four cities in the United States, possession of psilocybin mushrooms is currently illegal.
“Shrooms” or psilocybin mushrooms are mushrooms that contain the drug psilocybin. Psilocybin produces hallucinogenic and other mind-altering effects.
Some research indicates that psilocybin mushrooms could also be useful as a treatment for some mental and behavioral health conditions. However, more research is needed, and these treatments aren’t approved by the FDA.
Currently, in most of the U.S., psilocybin mushrooms are still illegal, both medically and recreationally.