10 potential risks of taking ‘magic’ mushrooms

Magic mushrooms are categorized as hallucinogenics.

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Magic mushrooms are categorized as hallucinogenics.
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Photofusion / Contributor/GettyImages

  • Magic mushrooms are hallucinogenic fungi containing a compound called psilocybin that can trigger hallucinations, a sense of euphoria, and changes in your perception of space and time.
  • Because magic mushrooms are illegal and not monitored, there’s a risk you could ingest a fake mushroom or the wrong kind.
  • It’s possible to have a “bad trip” or experience hallucinogen-induced persisting perception disorder, or HPPD.
  • Because studies done on magic mushrooms are done in controlled environments, it’s hard to know all the risks of recreationally using the drug.

Magic mushrooms, also known as shrooms, are hallucinogenic fungi that have long been used by some cultures as a spiritual aid and have grown in popularity as a recreational drug.

Magic mushrooms contain a compound called psilocybin that, when ingested, becomes psilocin. This chemical activates serotonin receptors in your brain, triggering vivid hallucinations, a sense of euphoria, and changes in your perception of space and time.

Because they can be found growing in the wild, magic mushrooms are sometimes thought of as a safe alternative to harder drugs. There are, however, still potential risks associated with tripping on these psychedelic fungi.

Further, it’s important to note that the limited studies done on magic mushrooms, or psychedelics in general, are done in a controlled environment with a controlled dosage and those using the drugs recreationally likely will have different outcomes.

INSIDER consulted with two drug and addiction experts to learn more about the risks of taking magic mushrooms recreationally.


You might have a “bad trip” or get physically sick.

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You may experience psychological distress.
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Flickr/Frerk Meyer

The most commonly reported negative side effect of taking magic mushrooms is having a bad trip. This might involve unpleasant physical symptoms such as nausea, chills, vomiting, or headaches. The user might also experience negative psychological effects such as paranoia, anxiety, or even extreme terror.

“Psychological distress is the most common adverse effect reported after use of psilocybin. This can range from a ‘bad trip’ to disturbing hallucinations that can last for days,” Dr. Lawrence Weinstein, chief medical officer of American Addiction Centers, told INSIDER.

Under normal circumstances, the mind-altering effects of psilocybin-containing mushrooms usually last from six to eight hours depending on dosage, preparation method, and personal metabolism. The first three to four hours of this period are usually the most intense. However, the effects can seem to last much longer to the user because of psilocybin’s ability to alter time perception, according to Dr. Weinstein.

The way you feel while under the effects of magic mushrooms can be affected by a number of things, including the dose, your environment, who you are with, and what your mood or mental state was like before taking mushrooms. Being in a fearful or gloomy state of mind before taking psilocybin mushrooms may intensify any negative feelings you already have, leading to a bad trip.


If you have anxiety or bipolar disorder, magic mushrooms might make you experience worsened anxiety at the time of tripping.

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Keep in mind the status of your mental health.
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Shutterstock

Anyone dealing with psychological problems or mood disorders should think twice before taking magic mushrooms. Because of the way psilocybin works on the brain, taking mushrooms might have negative consequences for someone whose mental health is already compromised.

“The interaction of psilocin with serotonin receptors in the prefrontal cortex can alter brain chemistry and can make conditions such as panic disorder, bipolar disorder or anxiety worse,” said Dr. Weinstein.

Even people without preexisting mental health problems might experience increased panic attacks after taking magic mushrooms.

“When the mushrooms interact with your system, you are subjecting your body to the possibility of severe anxiety or panic attacks, including dizziness and lightheadedness,” Dr. Cali Estes, Ph.D., addiction specialist and founder of The Addictions Academy, told INSIDER.

Some research, however, claims magic mushrooms given under the supervision of a professional can help with anxiety, though more research is likely needed.


Some drugs sold as magic mushrooms are actually fake.

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It’s hard to know if what you’re getting is real as the drug is illegal in most places. For example, in the early 2000’s, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry announced it will ban selling and possessing so-called ”magic mushrooms,” which have been used as a ”legal drug” in Japan, especially popular among young people.
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Yamaguchi Haruyoshi / Contributor/GettyImages

Because magic mushrooms are illegal in most countries and not regulated like other pharmaceuticals, there is no way to tell what you’re getting when you buy a batch of mushrooms.

“Some drugs sold as ‘magic mushrooms’ have turned out to be store-bought mushrooms laced with another hallucinogen such as PCP or LSD, or a different drug entirely,” warned Dr. Weinstein.

This means that purchasing magic mushrooms carries the risk of ingesting a range of other drugs, some of which may carry the very real risk of a fatal overdose or bad reaction. If you’re worried about the authenticity of a psilocybin mushroom, it’s better to not risk ingesting it.


Taking the wrong kind of mushroom is a serious risk.

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It’s hard to know what mushroom you’re getting.
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Sean Gallup/ Getty Images

When it comes to taking magic mushrooms, one of the worst-case scenarios is accidentally ingesting a poisonous mushroom instead of one containing psilocybin.

Dr. Weinstein warned that users who try to harvest their own mushrooms in the wild are especially at risk of accidental poisoning from toxic species since it can be easy to mistake a harmful fungus for a hallucinogenic mushroom.

The symptoms of mushroom poisoning – including muscle weakness, confusion, gastrointestinal issues, and delirium – can sometimes be mistaken for those of a bad trip, so it’s important to seek medical attention immediately if ingestion of a toxic mushroom is suspected.


Yes, it is possible to overdose on magic mushrooms.

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Overdoses do not, however, directly lead to death.
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Shutterstock

There’s a common misconception that taking magic mushrooms carries no risk of overdose. However, that’s actually not the case.

Overdosing on mushrooms is entirely possible, but it is rare. Some signs of mushroom overdose include panic attacks, paranoia, psychosis, vomiting, agitation, and seizures,” said Dr. Weinstein.

“Effects of taking ‘too many mushrooms’ lasts between six and eight hours, but some of the effects can take days to subside,” added Dr. Weinstein.

If you do accidentally ingest more psilocybin than intended and start to exhibit negative side effects, seeking medical attention is always the best call.


Taking magic mushrooms might permanently change your brain.

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Studies have been done on the effects of psychedelics on your brain.
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Daniel Berehulak / Staff/GettyImages

It might be possible that taking psychedelic substances such as magic mushrooms can induce psychosis, though recent studies done in controlled environments say the drugs and the development of psychosis aren’t associated.

“The use of psychedelic drugs can trigger psychosis brought on by psilocybin, which is very similar to schizophrenia. Individuals with a family history of schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders are at risk of experiencing a psychotic episode,” said Dr. Weinstein.

A person is more at risk of experiencing this serious side effect if they have taken a large amount of psilocybin or mushrooms.

“Depending on the amount and frequency of mushroom intake, you can cause permanent brain damage as a result of magic mushrooms,” cautioned Dr. Estes.

Studies have confirmed that taking magic mushrooms can permanently alter your brain, though this isn’t necessarily said to always be negative.


You might experience hallucinations or flashbacks years after taking mushrooms.

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HPPD causes an individual to have flashbacks of their experiences.
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Natalia Lebedinskaia / Shutterstock

Another rare but serious potential side effect of tanking psychedelic mushrooms is the possibility of developing something called hallucinogen-induced persisting perception disorder, or HPPD.

“This disorder causes an individual to have flashbacks of their experiences under the influence of a hallucinogen days, months or years after their last use, even if they no longer take the drug. This disorder can lead the individual to suffer severe distress and experience frightening hallucinations,” warned Dr. Weinstein.

Risk factors for developing this disorder include having other mental health issues or regularly using a hallucinogen over a long period of time. Unfortunately, there is no formal treatment for this disorder.


Psychedelic mushrooms can impair your judgment potentially putting you in danger.

Users of magic mushrooms typically welcome the hallucinations and sense of altered reality that the fungi can bring. However, this altered perception of the world can potentially lead individuals to take unusual risks or unknowingly placing themselves in dangerous situations.

Mushrooms can increase your risk of injury by impairing your judgment, as well as causing confusion, drowsiness, and loss of motor coordination.

No research, however, has been done on the correlation of recreational mushroom use and risky behaviors.


Though psilocybin isn’t chemically addictive, taking mushrooms frequently can have negative consequences.

There isn’t anything in magic mushrooms that can lead to a chemical addition, as can happen with drugs like nicotine or heroin. Despite this fact, mushrooms do have the potential to disrupt your life if using them frequently causes you to neglect or ignore other hobbies and responsibilities.

“The signs of addiction are someone who is spending more time obsessing or thinking about them, missing work to get high, or overusing or misusing mushrooms on a daily basis,” said Dr. Estes.

However, Dr. Weinstein pointed out that there has been no research-based evidence that mushrooms, or other psychedelic drugs, are considered to be addictive physically or psychologically.


Using magic mushrooms might make you less sensitive to other drugs.

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Use of magic mushrooms produces tolerance to other drugs in their class, including LSD.
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Wikimedia Commons

If you take magic mushrooms regularly, you might become less sensitive to other mind-alternating recreational substances.

“Individuals may develop a cross-tolerance from continued use of mushrooms, meaning they will have a high tolerance to similar substances such as LSD or marijuana,” said Dr. Weinstein.

As it can be difficult to know the strength of unregulated substances like marijuana or LSD, developing a cross-tolerance can put you at risk of accidentally taking too much of another psychoactive drug in an effort to its full effect.

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