What are magic mushrooms and psilocybin?
What is psilocybin?
Effects
Risks
Abuse potential
Psilocybin is a hallucinogenic chemical in certain mushrooms known as magic mushrooms. Eating mushrooms that contain psilocybin can have a variety of effects, ranging from euphoria to hallucinations.

Individuals use psilocybin as a recreational drug. It can provide feelings of euphoria and sensory distortion that are common to hallucinogenic drugs, such as LSD.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research published a landmark study Trusted Source on the safety and positive effects of psilocybin in 2006. Researchers have also investigated whether it may be used to treat various medical conditions.

In October 2020, Oregon became the first state to legalize psilocybin. This allows for a 2-year period to consider regulatory and prescribing requirements.

Psilocybin is a Schedule I substance, meaning that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) believes it has a high potential for abuse and serves no legitimate medical purpose.

Although medical bodies do not consider psilocybin addictive, users may experience disturbing hallucinations, anxiety, and panic after taking the drug.

Fast facts on psilocybin
Psilocybin can have both positive and negative physical and psychological effects.
Psilocybin is not naturally addictive.
The drug can trigger psychotic episodes.
Individuals with a family history of psychosis face an increased risk of an adverse psychiatric reaction to psilocybin.
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What is psilocybin?
Psilocybin is a natural hallucinogen. Getty Images
Psilocybin is a hallucinogen that people can ingest through certain types of mushrooms.

How it works
Psilocybin works by activating serotonin receptors, most often in the prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain affects mood, cognition, and perception. Hallucinogens also work in other regions of the brain that regulate arousal and panic responses.

Psilocybin does not always cause active visual or auditory hallucinations. Instead, it distorts how some people that use the drug perceive objects and people already in their environment.

The quantity of the drug a person consumes, their past experiences, and their expectations of how the experience will take shape can all impact the effects of psilocybin.

The hallucinogenic effects of psilocybin usually occur within 30 minutes after a person ingests it and last 4–6 hours. In some individuals, changes in sensory perception and thought patterns can last for several days.

The potency of a magic mushroom depends on:

species
origin
growing conditions
harvest period
whether a person eats them fresh or dried
The amount of psilocybin in dried mushrooms is about 10 times higher than that found in their fresh counterparts.

Consumption
Mushrooms containing psilocybin are small and usually brown or tan. In the wild, people often mistake mushrooms containing psilocybin for any number of other mushrooms that are poisonous.

People usually consume psilocybin as a brewed tea or prepare it with a food item to mask its bitter taste. Manufacturers also crush dried mushrooms into a powder and prepare them in capsule form. Some people who consume these mushrooms cover them with chocolate.

Extent of use
The 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health suggested that 8.5% of people in the U.S. had used psilocybin at some point in their life.

The ritual use of psilocybin for mystical or spiritual purposes dates back Trusted Source to pre-Columbian Mesoamerican societies and continues to this day. Psilocybin is often used recreationally at dance clubs or by people seeking a transcendent spiritual experience.

In medical settings, doctors have tested psilocybin for treating cluster headaches, depression, end stage cancer anxiety, and other forms of anxiety.

Some scientists have questioned its effectiveness and safety as a therapeutic measure.

Street names for magic mushrooms
People may also refer to magic mushrooms as:

shrooms
boomers
zoomers
mushies
simple Simon
little smoke
sacred mushrooms
purple passion
mushroom soup
cubes

Effects
The effects of psilocybin are generally similar to those of LSD. They include altered perception of time and space and intense changes in mood and feeling.

Other possible effects of psilocybin include:

euphoria
peacefulness
spiritual awakening
the feeling that surroundings are not real
depersonalization, or a dream-like sense of being disengaged from surroundings
distorted thinking
visual alteration and distortion, such as seeing halos of light and vivid colors
dilated pupils
dizziness
drowsiness and yawning
impaired concentration
muscle weakness
lack of coordination
unusual body sensations
nausea and vomiting
paranoia
confusion
frightening hallucinations
The effects of psilocybin vary between people, based on the user’s mental state, personality, and immediate environment.

If the user has a mental health condition or feels anxious about using the hallucinogen, they face a higher risk of having a bad experience.

Psychological distress is the adverse event most often reported after recreational use of psilocybin. This distress can take the form of extreme anxiety or short-term psychosis.

Psilocybin as a treatment for depression
Researchers have investigated whether psychological specialists can use psilocybin and similar hallucinogens as a treatment for depression.

One study examined the ability of psilocybin to reduce depression symptoms without dulling emotions. Results indicated that psilocybin may be successful in treating depression with psychological support.

The other study assessed the relationship Trusted Source between psilocybin-induced hallucinations and positive therapeutic outcomes.