Psilocybin 101: Effects, Benefits, and Tips for Consumption
by Chane Leigh
Psychedelics can be life-transformative tools that harbor the potential to enhance mental well-being and bolster the quality of life. Still, experts warn consumers about a mushroom species that could cause “temporary insanity”: Amanita muscaria. The warning comes after one person slipped into a coma due to the accidental consumption of Amanita muscaria. Aged 44, the patient was admitted to the emergency department for altered consciousness, malaise, and nausea, despite having no previous medical history.
The species, also referred to as “fly agaric,” is legal across every U.S. state except Louisiana. However, most field guides note that the mushroom is poisonous, with toxicity usually resulting in ‘pantherina–muscaria’ syndrome. The Chillum Mushroom and Hemp Dispensary in Florida recently announced that it sold edible snacks enriched with A. Muscaria, as well as mushroom-derived gummies, capsules, and joints.
Florida State Representative, Michael Grieco, believes that Chillum Mushroom and Hemp Dispensary is “misleading the public” by advertising “magic” mushrooms. Grieco is an avid supporter of psilocybin legalization in Florida for treating PTSD and depression in controlled, clinical environments.
According to the Drug Policy Alliance, there is minimal risk of fatal overdose with psilocybin mushrooms, but this doesn’t mean that consumers shouldn’t be cautious. The same cannot be said for Amanita muscaria. Psilocybin-free, the mushroom is laced with muscimol, which stimulates similar receptors to alcohol.
In most cases, muscimol exerts a calming effect. In comparison with alcohol, muscimol produces a heavier sleep-inducing effect. While some consumers may tumble into a state of nausea after ingesting Amanita muscaria, others may enjoy the experience.
The mushroom is dissimilar to typical psychedelic substances, such as psilocybin, LSD, DMT, and mescaline. Lethargy is a significant side effect of A. Muscaria, which is also renowned for causing illusions and disassociation. The mushroom is usually consumed in dried form or brewed into tea. Typically, the effects kick in within 10 minutes of consuming 1-4 mushrooms. Duration depends on the dose, but the mushroom’s effects are known to linger for 4-8 hours.
Each person’s unique biochemistry can affect the mushroom’s overall effects. According to Australian mycologist Caine Barlow, low doses of 0.03 to 0.17 ounces can be “quite pleasant,” whereas high doses can become “difficult to manage” for most people.
During positive experiences, consumers may feel euphoric and have a “sense of being in a dream-like space.” On the other end of the spectrum, the mushroom could trigger a bout of unwanted side effects, such as lack of coordination, vomiting, detachment from reality, size distortion, flying sensations, and repetitive thought patterns and behavior, better known as “looping.”
Based on the outcome of a case study featured in the European Journal of Case Reports in Internal Medicine, Amanita muscaria is “considered to be one of the most remarkable and beautiful mushrooms.” The shroom grows with a red or orange cap dotted with tiny white plaques.
Because of its extraordinary appearance, the chances of accidental and severe intoxication are low. However, the mushroom’s distinctive white plaques may wash off after heavy rainfall. As a result, Amanita muscaria can be easily mistaken for an edible mushroom called Amanita caesarea.
Ancient cultures residing in the Russian Far East are believed to have used Amanita muscaria as medicine. Regardless, leading mycologist Paul Stamets said during an interview in 2019 that the mushroom was “one of the most dangerous mushrooms,” and it caused “temporary insanity.”
“I definitely advise not doing this,” he said about the species of the Amanitaceae family, which releases its main effects via the central nervous system.
It’s important to note that the clinical manifestations of fly agaric poisoning are unpredictable, whereas the likelihood of death depends on the ingested dosage and symptomatic/supportive therapy management. While some users report depression after consuming A. Muscaria, others claim to feel stimulated.
Long story short, if you don’t want to find yourself scrambling through forests on all fours at midnight or walking 10 miles through the city with no recollection of the experience the following day (and that’s just on a good trip), it’s probably best to avoid a couple of caps of this mushroom.
On the other hand, low dosages may provide some therapeutic relief. Research has shown that muscimol possesses stress- and anxiety-busting properties. Nonetheless, fly agaric is a certified hallucinogen and should be consumed cautiously.
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