According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 17 million people in the U.S. and 300 million people worldwide have experienced major depression.
In a small study of adults with major depression, Medicine researchers report that two doses of the psychedelic substance psilocybin, given with supportive psychotherapy, produced rapid and large reductions in depressive symptoms, with most participants showing improvement and half of study participants achieving remission through the four-week follow-up.
The psychedelic drug psilocybin – found in “psychedelic mushrooms” performed just as well as a widely used antidepressant in easing the symptoms of major depression, and outperformed the common prescription medication on a range of secondary measures, results of a small-scale phase II study show.
In a 6-week trial that included 59 patients with moderate-to-severe depression, there was no significant difference between the impact of high-dose psilocybin and that of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) escitalopram, sold under the brand name Lexapro.
Patients in the group that received psilocybin did show a much more rapid improvement in the main measure of depression than those taking escitalopram, but this gap narrowed over the span of the trial until it was no longer statistically significant.
“It’s very clear that psilocybin therapy has a faster antidepressant onset than escitalopram. And psilocybin was consistently superior on the ancillary outcomes, but it wasn’t different on the primary,” the study’s lead author Robin Carhart-Harris, PhD, head of the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London, told reporters during a news briefing.
Effects of Psychedelic mushrooms
There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries some risk. It’s important to be careful when taking any type of drug.
Psychedelic mushrooms can affect everyone differently, based on:
- size, weight and health
- whether the person is used to taking it
- whether other drugs are taken around the same time
- the amount taken
- the strength of the mushroom (varies depending on the type of mushroom)
The effects of psychedelic mushrooms usually begin in 30 minutes when eaten, or within 5–10 minutes when taken as a soup or tea and can last approximately four to six hours.2
During this time, the person may experience:
- euphoria and wellbeing
- change in consciousness, mood, thought and perception (commonly called a trip)
- dilation of pupils
- perceptual changes, such as visual and auditory hallucinations.
- stomach discomfort and nausea
- fast or irregular heartbeat
- increased body temperature
- breathing quickly
- facial flushes, sweating and chills
The use of psychedelic mushrooms rarely results in any life-threatening symptoms. If a large amount or a strong batch of mushrooms is consumed, the person may experience:
- muscle weakness
- panic or paranoia
Sometimes a person may experience the negative effects of psychedelic mushrooms and have what is called a bad trip involving the following:
- unpleasant or intense hallucinations
- panic or fear1,3
After taking psychedelic mushrooms, delayed headaches can happen which usually do not last longer than a day. A person who has consumed mushrooms may experience feelings of:
Some people who regularly use psychedelic mushrooms may experience flashbacks involving a previous psychedelic mushroom experience. They are usually visual distortions that involve perceptual or emotional changes. Flashbacks can occur weeks, months or even years after the drug was last taken. This can be disturbing, especially if a frightening experience or hallucination is recalled. Flashbacks can be brought on by using other drugs, stress, tiredness or exercise and usually last a minute or two.
Using mushrooms with other drugs
The effects of taking psychedelic mushrooms with other drugs − including over-the-counter or prescribed medications − can be unpredictable and dangerous, and could cause:
Psychedelic mushrooms + ice, speed or ecstasy: Can increase the chances of a bad trip and can also lead to panic.4
Psychedelic mushrooms + some psychiatric medications: Mushrooms should not be taken by people on psychiatric medications as a relapse or worsening of the condition could occur.
‘Polydrug use’ is a term for the use of more than one drug or type of drug at the same time or one after another. Polydrug use can involve both illicit drugs and legal substances, such as alcohol and medications. Find out more about polydrug use.
Tolerance and dependence
Tolerance develops rapidly with continued use, resulting in the drug having little to no effect over time. Discontinuing use for a week or so will return people to their normal tolerance level.2
Health and safety
The main risk of taking psychedelic mushrooms is that some look very similar to certain types of poisonous mushrooms. So, it’s important to know what you’re taking – if in doubt, do not take them.2
If you believe you or someone else may have eaten a poisonous mushroom, do not wait for symptoms to occur. Contact the Victorian Poisons Information Centre (Tel 13 11 26).
If the person has collapsed, stopped breathing, is having a fit or is suffering an anaphylactic reaction, immediately ring triple zero (000) for an ambulance. Ambulance officers don’t need to involve the police.
For more information on poisonous fungi, including their identification and symptoms please visit the Better Health Channel.
Taking mushrooms regularly does not appear to result in physical dependence, and therefore it’s unlikely a person will experience difficulty in stopping use.3 There are not many known withdrawal effects, however someone withdrawing from psychedelic mushrooms may experience some psychological effects or fatigue.