What are the risks of magic mushrooms?
Psilocybin mushrooms have been used by many cultures for various reasons throughout history. Here’s what you need to know about magic mushrooms in NZ.
Magic mushrooms refers to mushrooms that contain the psychedelic psychoactive compound psilocybin. They are also known as shrooms, mushies, psilocin, psilocybin, cubensis, liberty caps, golden tops, or blue meanies.
They are usually eaten, mixed with food, or brewed like tea for drinking.
Psilocybin is a hallucinogen, meaning it can cause someone to see, hear, and feel sensations that aren’t actually real. The effects however vary between types of mushrooms, and can also be impacted by environmental factors.
Throughout history, its use has been associated with spiritual experiences, and it often formed part of religious rituals in many South American cultures as a means to communicate with the gods.
While magic mushrooms grow wild here in New Zealand, it is a Class A drug. That means possession carries a maximum penalty of 6 months in prison, and/or a $1,000 fine.
The possible effects include:
- Feelings of euphoria
- Hallucinations (visual or auditory)
- Distorted sense of time, place, and reality
- Increased heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature
- Muscle weakness
- Nausea, vomiting, and abdominal discomfort
- Sense of panic
The effects can be influenced by a number of things, including how much is taken, environmental facts, and someone’s age, weight, and their emotional and mental state.
Is it dangerous?
It’s often thought that magic mushrooms are “safer” or produce a “milder” experience than other hallucinogens like LSD, but it’s important to remember the only safe drug use is not to use drugs at all.
Magic mushrooms are just as unpredictable as other drugs. The amount of psilocybin a mushroom contains can vary a lot, so it’s hard to anticipate the intensity of the effects or how long it will last. In rare cases, use can lead to seizures or heart problems.
Another big risk is that magic mushrooms look very similar to other poisonous mushrooms, and making that mistake can lead to severe illness, organ damage, and even death.
The National Poisons Centre has some helpful resources for dealing with mushrooms. If someone has eaten an unknown mushroom, immediately call them on 0800 POISON / 0800 764 766 for specific advice on what to do. Don’t wait for symptoms to start!
Another thing to be aware of is "wood lovers paralysis" where muscle weakness or a complete loss of co-ordination and motor function occurs a few hours after taking magic mushrooms. Very little is known about this condition, but a particular species of mushrooms that grows on wood is thought to be responsible for it.
While no drug use is safe, there are some steps that can help reduce the risks:
- Lower dosages usually pose less risk
- Avoid repeated dosing.
- Avoid mixing drugs as the combined effects can be unpredictable and increase risk.
- Try to stay in a safe and calm environment.
- As with all drugs, it’s better to have people around that you trust and have knowledge of first aid.
If you think someone is suffering a medical event, call 111 immediately and ask for an ambulance.
If you’re worried about your own drinking or drug taking, you can reach out to the Alcohol Drug Helpline on 0800 787 797, or text 8681. You'll be able to speak with a trained counsellor who can provide you with helpful information, insight and support. They’re available 24/7, all calls are free and confidential. You can also chat to the Alcohol Drug Helpline team online through the website.