What to Know About Magic Mushroom Use
Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Magic mushrooms are wild or cultivated mushrooms that contain psilocybin, a naturally-occurring psychoactive and hallucinogenic compound. Psilocybin is considered one of the most well-known psychedelics, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administrations.
Psilocybin is classified as a Schedule I drug, meaning that has a high potential for misuse and has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
Although certain cultures have known to use the hallucinogenic properties of some mushrooms for centuries, psilocybin was first isolated in 1958 by Dr. Albert Hofmann, who also discovered lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD).
Magic mushrooms are often prepared by drying and are eaten by being mixed into food or drinks, although some people eat freshly picked magic mushrooms.
Also Known As: Magic mushrooms are also known as shrooms, mushies, blue meanies, golden tops, liberty caps, philosopher’s stones, liberties, amani, and agaric.
Drug Class: Psilocybin is classified as a hallucinogen.
Common Side Effects: Magic mushrooms are known to cause nausea, yawning, feeling relaxed or drowsy, introspective experience, nervousness, paranoia, panic, hallucinations, and psychosis.
How to Recognize Shrooms
Mushrooms containing psilocybin look liked dried ordinary mushrooms with long, slender stems that are whitish-gray and dark brown caps with light brown or white in the center. Dried mushrooms are rusty brown with isolated areas of off-white.
Magic mushrooms can be eaten, mixed with food, or brewed like tea for drinking. They can also be mixed with cannabis or tobacco and smoked. Liquid psilocybin is also available, which is the naturally occurring psychedelic drug found in liberty caps. The liquid is clear brown and comes in a small vial.
What Do Magic Mushrooms Do?
Magic mushrooms are hallucinogenic drugs, meaning they can cause you to see, hear, and feel sensations that seem real but are not. The effects of magic mushrooms, however, are highly variable and believed to be influenced by environmental factors.
Shrooms have a long history of being associated with spiritual experiences and self-discovery. Many believe that naturally occurring drugs like magic mushrooms, weed, and mescaline are sacred herbs that enable people to attain superior spiritual states. Others take magic mushrooms to experience a sense of euphoria, connection, and a distorted sense of time.
The psilocybin found in shrooms is converted to psilocin in the body and is believed to influence serotonin levels in the brain, leading to altered and unusual perceptions. The effects take 20 to 40 minutes to begin and can last up to 6 hours—the same amount of time it takes for psilocin to be metabolized and excreted.
A number of factors influence the effects of magic mushrooms, including dosage, age, weight, personality, emotional state, environment, and history of mental illness.
What the Experts Say
While magic mushrooms are often sought out for a peaceful high, shrooms have been reported to induce anxiety, frightening hallucinations, paranoia, and confusion in some. In fact, most hospital admissions related to the use of magic mushrooms are connected to what is known colloquially as a “bad trip.”
Off-Label or Recently Approved Uses
Magic mushrooms have been used for thousands of years for both spiritual and medicinal uses among indigenous people of America and Europe.
In 2018, researchers from John Hopkins University recommended reclassification of the drug from Schedule I to Schedule IV in order to allow for medical use. Studies suggest that psilocybin can be used to treat cancer-related psychiatric distress, depression, anxiety, nicotine addiction, and substance use disorders.
In 2019, Denver became the first city to decriminalize mushrooms. Oakland became the second city less than a month later. This does not mean that shrooms are legal but that the city is not permitted to “spend resources to impose criminal penalties” on people in possession of the drug.
Common Side Effects
All hallucinogens carry the risk of triggering mental and emotional problems and causing accidents while under the influence. Among adolescents, magic mushrooms are frequently taken in combination with alcohol and other drugs, increasing the psychological and physical risks.
The amount of psilocybin and psilocin contained in any given magic mushroom is unknown, and mushrooms vary greatly in the amounts of psychoactive contents. This means it’s very hard to tell the length, intensity, and type of “trip” someone will experience.
Consuming shrooms can result in a mild trip causing the user to feel relaxed or drowsy to a frightening experience, marked by hallucinations, delusions, and panic. In the worst-case scenario, magic mushrooms have even been known to cause convulsions.
Side effects of magic mushrooms can include both physical and mental effects.
- Dilated pupils
- Increased heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature
- Lack of coordination
- Muscle weakness
- Distorted sense of time, place, and reality
- Hallucinations (visual or auditory)
- Having introspective (spiritual) experiences
- Panic reactions
More research is needed on the long-term, lasting side effects of magic mushrooms but it has been reported that users can experience long-term changes in personality, as well as flashbacks long after taking mushrooms.
Since magic mushrooms look similar to poisonous mushrooms, poisoning is yet another potential risk of taking these drugs. Mushroom poisoning can cause severe illness, organ damage, and even death.
It’s also common for magic mushroom products to be contaminated. A study of 886 samples alleged to be psilocybin mushrooms analyzed by Pharm Chem Street Drug Laboratory showed that only 252 (28%) were actually hallucinogenic, while 275 (31%) were regular store-bought mushrooms laced with LSD or phencyclidine (PCP), and 328 (37%) contained no drug at all.
Help for Mushroom Poisoning
If you suspect that you or someone you care about ate a poisonous mushroom, call poison control right away at 800-222-122. Don’t wait for symptoms to occur. They are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
Signs of Use
If your loved one is using shrooms, they may be nauseous or appear nervous or paranoid. In the case of drug use, it’s always important to pay attention to any changes in sleeping and eating patterns as well as shifts in mood and personality and social activities.
Myths & Common Questions
There are many myths about magic mushrooms. Some people believe, for example, that magic mushrooms are “safer” and produce a “milder” trip than other hallucinogenics.
In fact, in addition to their potential to poison anyone who takes them, magic mushrooms are just as unpredictable in their effects as other drugs. Some people have reported much more intense and frightening hallucinations on magic mushrooms than on LSD.
Many people also confuse fly agaric mushrooms with psilocybin-containing mushrooms—but they are not the same. Fly agaric mushrooms contain the psychoactive chemicals ibotenic acid and muscimol, which are known to cause twitching, drooling, sweating, dizziness, vomiting, and delirium.
Tolerance, Dependence, and Withdrawal
Like most drugs, the more you use magic mushrooms, the more tolerance you develop. Tolerance also develops quickly with regular use. This means that you need more of the drug to achieve the same effect.
Developing a tolerance can be especially risky with shrooms because consuming a large amount can result in overdose symptoms, which while not fatal, can include agitation, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle weakness, panic or paranoia, psychosis, and seizures.
How Long Does Psilocybin Stay in Your System?
The short-term effects of magic mushrooms typically wear off in 6 to 12 hours. But users can experience long-term changes in personality and flashbacks long after taking the drugs.
The average half-life of psilocybin ranges from an hour to two, and it generally takes five to six half-lives for a substance to be eliminated from your system.
The typical urine drug screening for employment does not test for psilocybin, but there are specific tests that can be ordered to test for the powerful hallucinogen. Like many other drugs, magic mushrooms can be found in hair follicles for up to 90 days.
Psilocybin is not addictive and does not lead to compulsive use. This is partly because the drug can cause an intense “trip.” Plus, people can build a tolerance to psilocybin fairly quickly, making it hard to have any effect after several days of repeated use.
While users rarely report physical symptoms of withdrawal when they stop using the drug, some experience psychological effects, which may include depression.
How to Get Help
If you suspect your teen is experimenting or regularly using magic mushrooms, consider having a firm yet loving conversation with them about the risks of psychedelics, especially when combined with alcohol or other drugs. At this time, it’s also important to emphasize that you are there to help and support them.
If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.
For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.
Even though magic mushrooms grow in the wild, they're not a harmless or legal high. Learn more about the side effects, myths, and risks of psilocybin.
Think Twice Before Smoking Magic Mushrooms
Sure, you can smoke shrooms, but whether or not you get the psychedelic effects you would from eating them is another story.
Dried shrooms can be crushed into a powder and smoked by rolling them up on their own or by mixing them with tobacco or cannabis. Some people also put purified psilocybin crystals into pipes. But neither of these options are a great idea.
Healthline does not endorse the use of any illegal substances, and we recognize abstaining from them is always the safest approach. However, we believe in providing accessible and accurate information to reduce the harm that can occur when using.
It’s hard to say for sure what happens when you smoke shrooms. There’s not really any research on the subject, so the only reports out there are from people who’ve blazed up and shared their experience on forums like Reddit.
A handful of shroom smokers say it produces a mild high, but nothing close to a trip like you’d get from popping a handful of caps or drinking a tea preparation.
Most others, however, report it being a total waste of time with no effects at all, apart from some nausea.
The absence of any psychological effects could come down to temperature. Psilocybin breaks down at high temperatures, so lighting up shrooms basically kills the main ingredient responsible for the trippy effects.
There are several risks to consider when it comes to smoking shrooms. Then, there are the general risks associated with taking shrooms.
General smoking risks
For one, any type of smoke is bad for your health. All smoke contains harmful toxins and particulates that can damage lung tissue and blood vessels, and increase the risk for lung cancer.
If you smoke shrooms mixed with tobacco, you tack on all the risks associated with that, too.
Smoking shrooms also carries extra risk for your lungs by way of mold spores. Inhaling certain types of mold increases your risk of lung inflammation and infections.
If you have a mold allergy, preexisting lung condition, or a weakened immune system, inhaling certain mold species can have serious health consequences.
If you do happen to experience any of the psychoactive effects of psilocybin after smoking, keep in mind that bad trips are a possibility when you do shrooms.
A bad trip can include disturbing or downright frightening hallucinations, panic, and trouble distinguishing between fantasy and reality.
Physical side effects
Shrooms can cause some unpleasant physical effects, too, including:
- increased heart rate and blood pressure
- nausea and vomiting
- increased body temperature
- abdominal cramps and diarrhea
- muscle weakness
- uncoordinated movement
Psychological side effects
When taken in higher doses, shrooms and other hallucinogens alter your perception of reality, which may lead you to do things you wouldn’t normally do.
While you’re unlikely to have much of a trip from smoking shrooms, it’s still a possibility to be prepared for.
Mushrooms are mostly ingested orally, either dry or fresh. Some people eat them as-is, while others add them to other foods. They’re also often steeped in boiling water or tea.
Some people get fancy with their fungi and dip them in chocolate or add them to soups, smoothies, or milkshakes.
Though not as common, some people grind dried shrooms into powder and snort it. But based on first-hand reports online, this isn’t recommended.
There’s no such thing as completely safe substance use (or smoking, for that matter), but there are some things you can do to reduce certain risks.
If you’re going to take shrooms, consider these tips:
- Choose a different method. Seriously, smoking’s generally not the way to go, especially when it comes to shrooms. You probably won’t feel anything. Plus, you could end up inhaling harmful spores.
- Mind your dose. You should start with the lowest dose possible before gradually working your way up. Hallucinogens can be unpredictable, and higher doses increase the chances of a bad trip and adverse effects.
- If you do smoke them, don’t hold your inhale. Inhaling deep and holding the inhale exposes your lungs to toxins for longer periods. If you’re going to smoke shrooms, exhale right away.
- Have a trip-sitter. You should have at least one sober and trustworthy person who can step up if you trip out and need help.
- Pick the right time. Your mood plays a role in your experience when it comes to psychedelics. No matter how you do shrooms, make sure you do them only when you’re in a positive head space.
- Pick the right place. Somewhere safe and familiar is the way to go. It’ll help you relax and keep you safe should you hallucinate or get anxious.
- Stay hydrated. Shrooms can raise your body temp and dry out your mouth. Drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated before, during, and after your trip. It may also help with the comedown.
- Eat something. Shrooms tend to cause some gastrointestinal discomfort, especially when you eat them. You can reduce your chances of this happening by eating something first.
- Don’t mix. Mixing substances is generally a bad idea because it makes the effects even more unpredictable. This goes for alcohol, too.
When to get help
Above all, make sure you know how to spot trouble. Call 911 right away if you or someone else experiences the following after doing shrooms:
- trouble breathing
- irregular heartbeat
You can smoke shrooms — but if you’re looking to trip, then you’re probably better off getting your shroom on another way.
There’s no scientific evidence that smoking shrooms produces the psychoactive effects associated with psilocybin, but we do know that inhaling any type of smoke is harmful.
Keep in mind that, while hallucinogens typically aren’t considered to be as addictive as other substances, using them regularly can lead to problems in your day-to-day life.
If you’re concerned about your substance use and want to get help, you have options:
- Talk to your primary health care provider (FYI, patient confidentiality laws prevent them from sharing this info with law enforcement).
- Call SAMHSA’s national helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357), or search their online treatment locator.
- Find a support group through the Support Group Project.
Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow, or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddleboard.
Magic mushrooms are often eaten or crushed into a powder — but can you smoke shrooms? Smoking shrooms may not give you the psychedelic effects you desire. Any type of smoke is also bad for your health.