Effects of Psilocybin Use: Short-Term, Long-Term, Side Effects, and Treatment
Is Psilocybin Harmful?
Psilocybin is a naturally occurring fungal alkaloid—a chemical compound that is found in more than 100 species of mushrooms (also known as magic mushrooms or shrooms).1 When ingested, psilocybin is metabolized into a substance known as psilocin, the primary psychoactive component of hallucinogenic mushrooms. It produces mind-altering effects similar to those of drugs such as mescaline and LSD.1-4 Psilocybin is classified as a hallucinogenic or psychedelic drug.3,4
While the effects of magic mushrooms may not be directly life-threatening, most classic hallucinogens like psilocybin can produce profoundly unpleasant experiences when they are taken at high doses.2 Though significant psilocybin toxicity is unlikely, there are some risks associated with mushrooms, which may include:1,2,5
- Impaired judgment and feelings of detachment while under the influence of psilocybin.
- The development of anxiety or panic attacks as a result of psilocybin-related experiences.
- The experience of having “a bad trip” or an unpleasant reaction to hallucinogenic effects.
- The potential for poisoning and death as a result of consuming the wrong type of mushroom.
- Flashbacks, which are reoccurrences of psilocybin experiences long after use. Persistent, recurring, and significantly impairing flashbacks may signal the presence of a condition known as Hallucinogen-Persisting Perceptual Disorder (HPDD). These experiences can be quite distressing and interfere with daily functioning.
Persistent psychosis may occur in psilocybin users.2 This condition may manifest with a number of mental health symptoms, such as paranoia, volatile mood, disorganized thought patterns, and visual disturbances.2,5
Short-Term Effects of Magic Mushrooms
The effects of taking psilocybin can vary and often depend on the person and the context in which the drug is used. The effects may include the following:1,2,5
- Intense emotions and sensory experiences.
- Spiritual experiences.
- Psychological regression to earlier experiences/states.
- Hallucinations (most often visual but can occur in any sensory domain).
- Synesthesia, which is the experience of mixed perceptions, such as seeing sound or hearing colors.
- Changes to a person’s perception of time.
- Impaired judgment and potential for harm or death due to accidents.
- Psychosis, including paranoia and disordered thinking.
- Acute mood changes (anxiety/panic or depression).
- Increased risk of having a “bad trip,” which may be emotionally disturbing.
- Muscle weakness/twitches.
- Coordination problems.
- Excessive sweating.
- Dilated pupils.
- Increased blood pressure, irregular breathing, irregular heartbeat.
Long-Term Effects of Magic Mushrooms
Though the following have been reported to develop even after a single use of psilocybin, the risks of experiencing these adverse effects may be increased with long-term use:1,2
- Drug-induced psychosis, a condition in which a person’s thoughts become disorganized and they may experience paranoia and a breakdown in communication with others. The user may have dramatic mood swings and experience visual disturbances. Such a psychosis may persist beyond the acute period.
- Hallucinogen-Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD), in which the person has flashbacks where they experience recurrences of some of the sensory distortions they experienced while under the influence. These flashbacks may occur for years after stopping use of the drug.
Drug Dependence and Problematic Use
One research review concluded that the risk of developing a physical or psychological dependence on psilocybin is relatively low, although problematic use can develop.7
Magic Mushroom Addiction Treatment
The DSM-5 and NIDA do not recognize a withdrawal syndrome associated with psilocybin use, although it is likely that individuals may develop significant tolerance to the hallucinogen with repeated use.2,8 Thus, despite some sources on the internet listing withdrawal symptoms for hallucinogenic drugs, the symptoms of a withdrawal syndrome for psychedelic drugs are not officially recognized.
Individuals can learn to utilize healthy coping skills and rectify negative thought patterns, beliefs, and behaviors associated with problematic psilocybin use. Individuals who have severe issues with stress may require a combination of medication and psychotherapy to assist them in managing their stress without drug use.8
American Addiction Centers (AAC) is a leading treatment provider and has trusted rehab programs across the country. To learn about treatment options with us, please contact a caring AAC support specialist free at .
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