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What are "Magic Mushrooms"?

"Magic mushrooms", or psychedelic mushrooms, are mushrooms that contain the hallucinogenic compounds called psilocin and psilocybin. There are over 100 species of these mushrooms that are classified in the genus group Psilocybe.

These mushrooms are used on a recreational basis because they can cause the following effects:

  • Euphoria.
  • An altered sense of time.
  • Spiritual experiences.
  • Altered thinking process.
  • Synesthesia, which occurs when the user experiences a combination of the senses. An example of this would be perceiving sound in flashes of colour. 

Side effects and permanent negative effects can occur in persons using these mushrooms. They are as follows:

  • Persistent headaches lasting for up to 24 hours as the drug wears off.
  • Paranoia and intense fear.
  • Psychotic symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations which can cause the person to become a danger to themselves and/or others.
  • Coordination is negatively affected.
  • Dizziness, confusion.
  • Mild to extreme anxiety.
  • Serious interaction with alcohol.
  • Possible loss of consciousness due to lowered blood pressure.
  • It may exacerbate present mental illnesses or predispose the user to new mental health issues such as schizophrenia.
  • Intermittent panic attacks.
  • Suicidal thoughts.

Legal issues

The compounds psilocin and psilocybin are listed as Schedule 1 drugs according to the United Nations 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances. Although the fresh product itself still remains legal in very few countries, the dried mushrooms are considered illegal and their cultivation and use has been banned. 

The medical research of this compound was conducted in the 1960's and an extract of psilocybin was even commercialized, but due to the illicit use of these mushrooms by the public, psychedelic mushrooms were then criminalized. 

Medicinal use?

There is anecdotal evidence that the psychedelic compounds of "Magic Mushrooms" helps to alleviate the severe symptoms of cluster headaches. There is a call, by those for the advanced research in the field of ethnobotany, for investigations to be done on the possible use of synthetic and mushroom-derived psilocybin for the treatment of various mental health issues.

These would include:

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
  • OCD-related depression.
  • Generalized anxiety disorders.
  • Major depression.

It was found that, when used properly, psilocybin acted as an antidepressant according to functional MRI scans that were done on the test subjects. It was also found that this compound had success in treating alcoholism and other addictions such as nicotine dependence.

It is quite clear that there are some benefits to the psychedelic compounds found in these mushrooms, but it's important to take note that psilocybin will need to be presented in such a way that the benefits from managing the medical indications outweigh the risks associated with it.

This means that the active ingredients would need to be extracted from the mushroom and then packaged in fixed-dose tablets/pills, etc. according to what the therapeutic dosages would be to manage the mentioned conditions.

The research is still relatively new and the researchers themselves are only cautiously optimistic. It isn't a therapy that will be available overnight and people would be urged to rather not try and use these mushrooms to "self-medicate" themselves.

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