There is increasing interest in the potential therapeutic uses of magic mushrooms and of psilocybin, one of the active ingredients in magic mushrooms. While clinical trials with psilocybin have shown promising results, at this time, there are no approved therapeutic products containing psilocybin in Canada or elsewhere. Clinical trials are the most appropriate and effective way to advance research with unapproved drugs such as psilocybin while protecting the health and safety of patients.
About magic mushrooms
Magic mushrooms have been used for thousands of years. There are over 200 species of magic mushrooms. Since many species look alike, it can be hard to tell the different species of mushrooms apart. It is possible for people to consume poisonous mushrooms, mistaking them for magic mushrooms.
The active ingredients in magic mushrooms are chemicals called psilocybin and psilocin. As psychoactive substances, psilocybin and psilocin are controlled internationally under the United Nations Drug Control Conventions and, in Canada, under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA). Under the CDSA, activities with magic mushrooms, psilocybin and psilocin, such as sale, possession, and production, are illegal unless authorized by Health Canada (for example, through the issuance of a licence or exemption, or under the regulations). Like all drugs, magic mushrooms, psilocybin and psilocin are also subject to the Food and Drugs Act (FDA). Psilocybin and psilocin are hallucinogens that produce effects similar to LSD. Individuals using magic mushrooms experience hallucinations and an altered state of consciousness. Effects appear within 15-45 minutes and usually last for four to six hours.
When consumed, the effects of magic mushrooms can vary from person to person. In addition, the strength of magic mushrooms can vary greatly. One mushroom may have different concentrations of the active ingredients compared to another and, consequently, the effects of the magic mushroom can depend on the dose and type of mushroom used.
Magic mushrooms sold illegally may be in the form of dried whole mushrooms or a powder. People may choose to take the mushrooms in many ways, including:
- eaten raw or cooked;
- ground up and used to make tea or mixed in a beverage;
- swallowed as capsules;
- sniffed up the nose (snorted), when in a powder.
Magic mushrooms should never be injected intravenously. There have been case reports in the literature of serious harms associated with intravenous injection of mushrooms, including septic shock and multi-system organ failure.
Psilocybin and psilocin are also produced and sold illegally as a powder or in tablets or capsules. Drugs produced illegally are not tested and may contain other dangerous substances.
Short-term effects of magic mushrooms
Using magic mushrooms can lead to short-term mental and physical effects.
Magic mushrooms may cause heightened emotions and senses and people may feel happy and creative. They may laugh or giggle a lot and experience a sense of mental and emotional clarity.
Magic mushrooms can also cause hallucinations and affect people by:
- distorting their sense of reality (they see and hear things that are not there)
- mixing up their senses (they believe they can see music or hear colours)
- altering their sense of time
Some of the negative mental effects of taking magic mushrooms include:
- changes in mood
- anxiety and panic attacks
- confusion and disorientation
- fear or paranoia
Taking magic mushrooms can produce:
- numbness, particularly in the face
- increased heart rate and blood pressure
- dry mouth, sometimes leading to nausea and vomiting
- muscle weakness and twitching, or convulsions
- exaggerated reflexes
- sweating and high body temperature, often followed by chills and shivering
- loss of urinary control
Long-term effects of magic mushrooms
Currently, no studies have evaluated the long-term effects of repetitive use of magic mushrooms.
Risks related to use of magic mushrooms
- What is commonly known as a “bad trip” may occur, particularly at high doses. These experiences may be frightening and may include paranoia, loss of boundaries and a distorted sense of self. Impaired judgement during these “bad trips” may lead to risk-taking behaviour, which may then lead to traumatic injuries or even death.
- In certain cases, users may experience frequent or overly intense psychedelic events that may induce abrupt “flashbacks”, i.e., reliving the previous experience.
- Using magic mushrooms with substances such as cannabis, amphetamines, alcohol, etc., elevates the risks of serious side effects and adverse events.
- For individuals predisposed to or with existing psychiatric conditions, there may be an elevated risk of side effects. This association is still being evaluated.
- For individuals with cardiac diseases, short-term effects such as increased blood pressure and heart rate could potentially be harmful.
Substance use disorders and withdrawal
There is little evidence that people can become physically or psychologically dependent on magic mushrooms.
However, it is possible to become tolerant to the drug’s effects with regular use. This may occur over several days of continued use. In this state, even high amounts of the drug will no longer produce the desired effect.
Potential therapeutic uses of psilocybin
At this time, there are no approved therapeutic products containing psilocybin in Canada or elsewhere. This means that the safety, efficacy and quality of products containing psilocybin have not been assessed by Health Canada, and they have not undergone the rigorous scientific review process required to be authorized for sale in Canada or elsewhere. There is ongoing research looking at the potential of psilocybin to treat various mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and problematic substance use. While some initial clinical trials have shown promising results, the evidence is currently limited. Clinical trials are the most appropriate and effective way to advance research with unapproved drugs such as psilocybin while protecting the health and safety of patients.
Health Canada encourages Canadians seeking support for these disorders to talk with their health care provider about options available to them. Free virtual resources and services for mental health and substance use issues are also available 24/7 through Wellness Together Canada.