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Can You Die from Taking Too Many Psychedelic Shrooms?

mental health

Psychedelic shrooms, also known as “magic mushrooms” or just “shrooms,” refer to mushrooms that contain a chemical called psilocybin. When ingested, the drug produces hallucinations, changes in mood and perception, euphoria, and altered thinking processes.1,2

You can overdose on mushrooms, but you are not likely to die. Still, an overdose or bad trip can be a difficult experience. Users should also make sure that they are ingesting a psilocybin mushroom and not a poisonous mushroom—which can be fatal.

Shrooms Overdose Symptoms

Taking too many mushrooms or using a strong batch can lead to overdose, which can cause uncomfortable physical and mental symptoms—some of which can be severe.

Typical signs of psychedelic mushroom overdose include:2

Psilocybin mushrooms have low toxicity, and death from an overdose is very rare. One survey in 2016 found that out of more than 12,000 users who took psilocybin, only 0.2% reported emergency medical treatment. That rate is 5 times lower than MDMA (Ecstasy), LSD, and cocaine.3,4

An overdose typically lasts about 6-8 hours, though some of the effects can take several days to fade.5

Users can also have “bad trips,” which are unpleasant experiences on the drug. Possible effects are frightening or intense hallucinations, anxiety, paranoia, panic, and fear.2 Bad trips may be more likely with first-time users, especially if they take large doses or are already anxious about the drug or depressed. Unfamiliar or chaotic environments can also lead to bad trips.6

An overdose typically lasts about 6-8 hours, though some of the effects can take several days to fade.

In general, psilocybin’s effects are unpredictable and can be greatly affected by the mindset of the user and the setting in which they take the drug.4

To minimize the risks of the drug, users should make sure they take it with someone they trust, ingest it in a place where they feel comfortable, avoid the drug if they are upset or depressed, and hold off on taking more if they do not feel the effects right away.7

A common dose of psilocybin is about 1.5 to 2 grams for dry mushrooms. But again, the experience is unpredictable and depends on the person.4


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Other Health Concerns

One of the biggest risks of magic mushrooms is eating the wrong kind of mushroom. Toxic mushroom species are said to outnumber those that contain psilocybin by 10 to 1. Some of the poisonous mushrooms may resemble psilocybin mushrooms and may produce similar hallucinogenic effects.6,7

The symptoms of mushroom poisoning vary by species but can include:8

  • Abdominal pain.
  • Muscle pain.
  • Mucus in the lungs.
  • Slow heart rate.
  • Excessive sweating.
  • Muscle spasms.
  • Low blood sugar.
  • Kidney failure.

bigstock-Overdose-Asian-Male-Drug-Addic-119387954

Mushrooms that cause symptoms within 2 hours are often less dangerous than mushrooms that cause symptoms after 6 hours. The most dangerous species tend to be Amanita, Gyromitra, and Cortinarius.8

Another risk is taking a drug that is not psilocybin. Reports have found that drugs that are sold as mushrooms turn out to be store-bought mushrooms laced with LSD, PCP, or other substances. An 11-year study looked at 886 samples that were supposedly psilocybin. Only 28% of the samples were magic mushrooms. Thirty-five percent were other drugs, mostly LSD or PCP, and 37% did not contain any psilocybin.9

Though uncommon, the use of psilocybin and other hallucinogens is linked to psychosis that persists after stopping use of the drug. Symptoms include visual distortions, disorganized thinking, paranoia, and mood changes.10

In rare cases, regular hallucinogen users may experience symptoms of hallucinogen persisting perception disorder, a condition in which an individual continues to have sensory disturbances after the drug has worn off. Symptoms include trails of moving objects, intensified colors, halos around objects, and afterimages. The condition can last for weeks, months, or years, but only about 4% of users develop it.11

Are Shrooms Addictive?

Psychedelic mushrooms are not considered to be physically or psychologically addictive.12

However, mushrooms and other hallucinogens have a significant ability to cause tolerance, meaning that even occasional users may find that higher doses are necessary to get the same effect. This can increase the risk of negative effects and overdose given the unpredictably of the drug.12

Although the drug is not known to cause any withdrawal symptoms, users may still have a “come down” phase after using the drug that may include headaches, exhaustion, depression, and anxiety.2

Why Do People Use Shrooms?

In the past, hallucinogens were used for religious rituals to put people into a state of alternate reality, achieve visions, or make contact with spirits or a higher power. Most people today use them in social or recreational settings for fun, to relax, or to achieve a higher state of thinking or being.13

Psilocybin is found in mushrooms that are native to the tropical and subtropical areas of South America, Mexico, and the United States. Mushrooms containing these hallucinogens are consumed raw or dried or brewed into a tea.10

Many people who use shrooms abuse other drugs and alcohol. If you or someone you know needs help for a drug or alcohol problem, investigate recovery options in your area. There are a variety of choices that can suit people with different needs and financial circumstances.


Sources
  1. Drug Enforcement Administration. Drugs of Abuse: 2017 Edition: A DEA Resource Guide.
  2. Alcohol and Drug Foundation. Psilocybin.
  3. Solon, O. Study finds mushrooms are the safest recreational drug. The Guardian.
  4. Drug Policy Alliance. (2017). Psilocybin Mushrooms Fact Sheet.
  5. Rolston-Cregler, L. (2017). Hallucinogenic Mushroom Toxicity Treatment & ManagementMedscape.
  6. Safety First. (2004). Facts about Drugs: Psilocybin (“Magic Mushrooms”).
  7. UC Santa Cruz. Psilocybin (Mushrooms).
  8. O’Malley, G. and O’Malley, R. (2018). Mushroom Poisoning. Merck Manual.
  9. European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. Hallucinogenic mushrooms drug profile.
  10. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). DrugFacts: Hallucinogens.
  11. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th ed. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
  12. Brown University. Psilocybin (Mushrooms).
  13. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2015). Why Do People Take Hallucinogenic or Dissociative Drugs?