Recent research has suggested that psilocybin mushrooms may have some benefits in the treatment of certain mental illness, although they are not prescribed for these types of conditions. According to TIME Magazine’s Health and Family section, the research shared at a meeting of the American College of Neruopychopharmacology indicates that the chemical composition in hallucinogenic mushrooms may benefit people who are suffering from terminal cancer – as a treatment for the anxiety associated with the condition – as well as for those who are trying to quit smoking cigarettes or who are being treated for alcoholism. The question remains: How dangerous are psilocybin mushrooms when abused recreationally? Two critical facts remain when it comes to psilocybin mushroom abuse. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, the use of this hallucinogen is not approved for the treatment of any condition and remains illegal throughout the United States. This drug is a Schedule I substance which means, essentially, that there is no recognized medical use for the drug and the use of the drug has a high potential for abuse. The other concern, for those who see recent research as an excuse to illegally obtain and abuse the drug to self-medicate for suspected or known mental illness or physical ailments, is the lack of information concerning the necessary components for using a drug to treat any condition. Individuals who “experiment” with psilocybin mushrooms may lack the expertise necessary to diagnose or treat their condition in a safe, effective manner.
Psilocybin Mushroom Abuse Can Be Fatal
The use and abuse of psilocybin mushrooms, in and of itself, is not considered life-threatening, however, there are inherent dangers in the abuse of the drug that can lead to death. Identifying psilocybin mushrooms can be tricky, for instance. The mushrooms themselves, in their fresh and natural state, look very much like other types of mushrooms that are highly toxic. In many cases, individuals who engage in psilocybin mushroom abuse receive the product in a dried or powdered state, having never seen the original plant. Therefore, even if an individual is an “expert” on the identification of the right kinds of mushrooms, they have no way of gauging the expertise of the original harvester. Consumption of the wrong kind of mushroom can be deadly. There is also the risk of confusing the “safe” mushroom containing psilocybin or psilocin with the other hallucinogenic mushroom, the Amanita muscaria. The abuse of this psychedelic mushroom can result severe organ damage. The other aspects to consider concerning the life-and-death aspects of psilocybin mushroom abuse are in regard to the effects of the drug itself. As a hallucinogen, the drug causes a sense of distortion of reality that can range from mild to extreme, depending upon the amounts of mushrooms and frequency of use.
A few of these effects include:
- Visions of color or light
- Feeling of separating from one’s body; detachment
- Hearing sounds that aren’t really there
- Increased heart rate
In some cases, it is possible that the experience may be more unpleasant than pleasant, and the individual engaging in psilocybin mushroom abuse may become so disoriented that they suffer from anxiety or panic. Because drug abuse can often lead to fraternizing with individuals one does not know or trust, it is easy to be taken advantage of or otherwise abused during a “bad trip.” The disoriented state can lead to activities and actions, such as driving under the influence, which can lead to injury or death, as reported in the Washington Post when a young girl jumped to her death from the roof of a building in the Netherlands in 2007.
Effects of Psilocybin Mushroom Abuse Can Be Long-Lasting
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a great many of the individuals who engage in drug abuse or who suffer from addiction may suffer from mental illness. These co-occurring disorders may have existed prior to the exposure to and abuse of drugs, or they may be a result of the drug use. It is also possible for drug abuse to worsen the mental illness. Information published by Brown University places psilocybin mushroom abuse in the final two categories, specifically for the mental illnesses schizophrenia, mania and depression.
The abuse of drugs, including psilocybin mushrooms, can mask the symptoms of chronic mental illness, which can then either delay proper and effective treatment or eliminate the diagnosis altogether.
This may cause the condition to worsen over time. In the case of conditions such as schizophrenia, this lack of treatment can be dangerous for the safety and welfare of the individual as well as family or friends closest to them.
Some complications of schizophrenia as related by the Mayo Clinic include:
- Violent behavior
- Being unable to maintain employment
Psilocybin Mushroom Abuse Does Not Lead to Addiction, so What’s the Problem?
Information provided by the Center for Substance Abuse Research makes the assertion that psilocybin mushrooms are not physically or psychologically addictive. Repeated use of the drug does result in tolerance, but if an individual withholds the abuse of the drug for a long-enough period of time, the euphoric effects will return. For some individuals who engage in this type of drug abuse, these types of statements lead them to believe that their drug abuse is somehow harmless.
Unfortunately, this thought process can be misleading. Addiction, or substance dependence as it is referred to by the American Psychiatric Association, is first and foremost a condition based upon behaviors. According to the Mayo Clinic, a few of the behaviors that can indicate addiction are:
- Placing a priority on the abuse of a drug to the detriment of social, familial or vocational responsibilities
- Spending an inordinate amount of time seeking the drug, abusing the drug and recovering from the effects of the drug
- Lack of interest in activities that used to seem important, such as hobbies one used to enjoy
- A compulsion to abuse the drug
- Spending an excessive amount of money one cannot afford on the drug
- Engaging in risky behavior while under the influence of the drug
- An inability to stop abusing the drug even if one wants to
Ultimately, the question of whether you need to seek treatment is a personal one in any circumstance, regardless of the type of drug abused. However, because drugs of abuse, including psilocybin mushrooms, alter one’s perceptions, it isn’t always easy to come to the decision to get help. If you believe that someone you love is suffering from psilocybin mushroom abuse or if you think you may be in need of help for a personal problem with this dangerous substance, please be sure to discuss the situation with a professional who can help. Our staff of Futures of Palm Beach is available to answer any questions you may have and can take the time needed to help you fully realize the impact of drug abuse and addiction on your life and the lives of those you love.