Shrooms – What are They? What are Their Side Effects?

Last Updated: September 1, 2020

What are Shrooms?

Psilocybe cubensis, more commonly known as magic mushrooms, are a fungus that grows in a variety of forms. Also known as shrooms, the fungus has been used for over nine thousand years. Currently, the drug is mostly used recreationally.
People often refer to them as “magic” mushrooms due to their “magical” effects on one’s brain. However, the scientific name for shrooms is far less flattering; Baldhead.
Shrooms grow in different parts of Europe, Africa, and America. They are most famous for their psychedelic properties. Notably, this is because of their two potent substances, psilocybin and psilocin. These substances are what give the mushrooms their psychedelic properties.

What are Psilocybin and Psilocin?

Psilocybin and psilocin are the two most important chemicals found in shrooms. They trigger the so-called “shroom trip”. When one eats magic mushrooms, the Psilocybin in them breaks down into the active ingredient called psilocin. Psilocin acts as a blocking agent, and in this case, it prevents the reuptake of the neurotransmitter called serotonin.
As a result, it means that psilocin can bind and stimulate the receptors in the brain. This creates one of the most well-known effects of magic mushrooms, hallucinations.

What does it mean that Shrooms are psychedelic?

A psychedelic experience is defined as a temporary altered state of consciousness brought on by psychedelic drugs. Such a state is considered elevated or higher than an ordinary experience. The term “psychedelic” derives from two Greek words, ‘psyche’ meaning mind or soul, and ‘Delos’ meaning to reveal. This term was coined in the 1950s because psychedelic drugs are thought to reveal parts of the mind usually hidden.

The Various Factors

The effects of shrooms usually last for around 6 hours. During that time, the user’s mindset is altered into a dream-like state.
Shrooms can have a positive or negative effect on a person’s mood. Timothy Leary from Harvard University conducted a study in the 1960s investigating the role of “the setting” on the effects of shrooms. His findings revealed that many things affected the experience while on shrooms, including the number of people one is surrounded by. He also found that shrooms heighten the suggestibility, making the user more susceptible to interpersonal contact and visual stimuli. All of these factors play a part in the kind of experience someone has on shrooms.
Once shrooms are digested they can invoke a wide range of feelings. Those feelings may be pleasant ones such as euphoria, joy, and awe, or negative ones, such as depression, lethargy or disorientation.


With low doses closed eye hallucinations are common, such as seeing geometric shapes and colors. Hallucinations may include synesthesia, which is when users can see or taste a specific color.
At higher doses, open-eye hallucinations may occur, and though often very detailed they are not commonly confused with reality. At higher doses, people may also revert back to childlike emotional processing and thinking. They may experience a heightened sense of introspection and may see memories from their past with which they hold great emotional value.

Long-Term Effects

There was a study conducted in 2011 by Roland R. Griffiths that suggests that a single, high dose of the drug found in shrooms (psilocybin) can cause long-term personality changes in its users. There was an increase in the personality dimension of openness, which was still measurable a year after the experiment. It was suggested that the mystical experiences users have while under the influence may be the underlying cause of lasting change. Studies have shown that psilocybin reliably triggers mystical-type experiences. There are religions still to this day, such as the Native American Church, that incorporates the use of hallucinogen drugs such as psilocybin into their practices. In this religious context, it is used as a way of communicating with the realm of spirits or included in ceremonies.

What is the history of Shrooms use?

Shrooms are believed to have been in use for the past 7,000 years. Most commonly shrooms were previously used in a religious context, often as part of a ceremony or a right of passage.

Mesoamerican Culture

There is evidence of the use of shrooms in the ancient Mayan and Aztec cultures of Mesoamerica, specifically in Mexico and Guatemala. Once the Spanish conquered the land in the 15th and 16th century they sent out a decree banning the use of shrooms, claiming that their use was primitive and uncivilized. The ban was not successful though, and the Mayans and Aztec continued on using shrooms for 400 years in secret.

Western Culture

Albert Hoffman, a Swiss chemist, was the first to isolate psilocybin in a laboratory setting in 1957, and a year later was the first time it was produced synthetically.
He may have been the first to isolate it but the first mention of shrooms in Western culture came to us thanks to 4 children in 1799, who were accidentally fed a species of hallucinogenic mushrooms. That is the first documented case of psilocybin in the West.

1960’s Counterculture

In 1957 Time Magazine published a photo essay titled “Seeking the Magic Mushroom” by Gordon Wasson. His obsession with hallucinogenic mushrooms had driven him to travel to Oaxaca, Mexico where he met with members of a Mazatec Indian tribe. There he was introduced to mystic shamanism. He documented his experiences in the Time Magazine article which encouraged two Harvard researchers, Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert, to follow in his footsteps and travel to Mexico themselves. After having their own experiences with psychedelic mushrooms in Oaxaca, they returned and started the Harvard Psilocybin Project. Harvard University did not like that very much and they were both quickly fired. Jobless in 1962 they decided to start a psychedelic movement. That is how shrooms became a staple of the 1960s counterculture.
The substance was widely unregulated until 1971 when it was listed in the UN’s Convention on Psychotropic Substances and classified as a schedule I drug in the United States. This made it illegal in America as well as a majority of countries, with a few exceptions.
Currently, the DEA and other organizations have loosened the rules allowing psilocybin to be used in a variety of controlled research trials, producing new evidence as to how it could be used as a therapeutic tool

Do “Magic” Mushrooms Have Medicinal Value?

shroomsIt was as early as 1960 that various experiments were conducted on the positive effects of shrooms. Scientists also studied their potential medicinal value. Unfortunately, researchers were never able to reveal their medicinal properties. Despite this, shrooms were still regularly utilized in neuroscience to treat various mental diseases. Some professionals claim that psilocin can have beneficial effects on a person’s mental health. They claim that magic mushrooms can be used to treat depression, anxiety, and even addiction. However, this is only when people use the fungi in a controlled setting, otherwise, the environment could cause adverse effects instead.
Shrooms have also been commonly used in getaway holidays, to help the user become one with themselves and fully relax. These holidays are usually done as campouts in nature whilst under supervision. The drug users do this in order to get the full effect of the fungi. During these trips, the users may even go out finding psychedelic mushrooms for themselves, encouraging positive achievement to get them in the right mood for the trip.

What are the Signs Of Shroom Addiction?

Magic mushrooms are not physically addictive, however, it is possible to get high on shrooms and become addicted to the psychological changes.
The mental signs of a shroom addiction are:

  • Seeking out more shrooms – Looking for the same euphoria again and again
  • Lack of coherent thought – The user’s brain will gradually begin to feel the effects of regular hallucination and struggle to think logically
  • Delusions and hallucinations – These may continue after a high with an addict, as they will be so used to the drug that it becomes their reality.
  • Mood swings – Also due to shrooms creating a chemical imbalance in the brain.
  • Lack of perception – Delusions may eventually make it a challenge to differentiate reality from hallucination and make perception difficult.

What are the Effects of Shrooms?

Shrooms can have three types of effects: positive, neutral and negative. The most common effects of shrooms are different types of hallucinations. They can vary between visual, auditory, or mystical. Mostly, people choose to use shrooms as a recreational drug. As a result, it takes them to a different dimension. Some users have reported experiencing the most profound spiritual journey while consuming shrooms. Meanwhile, others expressed feelings of dissatisfaction. Unfortunately, this is due to their horrid hallucinations.

Recreational Effects

Some of the shrooms’ recreational effects include:

  • Mood enhancing, euphoric state
  • Laughing and giggling, general feelings of happiness
  • Intense flow of creativity, which can occur in different forms
  • Enhanced insightfulness ideas and strong sense of creative energy
  • A strong feeling of wonder and awe
  • Uplifting sensation, spiritual awakening
  • Decreased depression

Remember that recreational effects won’t overweight the dangerous consequences.

Neutral Effects

One can view the following effects of shrooms as neutral. Of course, this is due to the fact that they don’t carry any extensively negative or positive properties. The neutral effects may include:

  • Becoming fully aware of emotions and sensations
  • Dilation of pupils
  • Ability to retrieve memories
  • Energetic experience (such as buzzing, humming) in one’s body
  • Slightly increased or decreased heart rate
  • “Stretchiness” physical sensation of limbs

Negative Effects

Even though Shrooms are purportedly far less harmful than other recreational substances. They include LSD, Marijuana and even alcohol. On the other hand, they can trigger undesirable effects in the body. Some of these include:

  • Headaches
  • Intense fear, followed by paranoia
  • Nausea mostly happens when one eats raw or dried mushrooms
  • Anxiety, due to a higher dose
  • Dizziness and confusion
  • Shrooms can exacerbate mental illness or trigger latent mental disorders
  • Disruption of attention
  • Dangerous repercussions when mixed with alcohol
  • Problems with blood pressure

Do not hesitate to turn to mushroom addiction treatment centres if several negative effects of this drug.

Can One Overdoses On Shrooms?

Shrooms may alter a user’s thinking and affect the brain for a staggering 14 months after one consumption. This is one of the longest effects of all recreational drugs.

A 2011 study, found that people who took one dose of psilocybin showed more interest in new experiences.

Interestingly enough, the study went on for about 14 months.
The explanation for this might lie in psilocybin’s effects on emotions. According to the majority of people, mushroom trips are extremely profound. They flood the user with various emotions such as joy, euphoria, and connectedness. So, how long do shrooms stay in the system?
It is reported that the illuminating and transcendent experiences linger on for a considerable amount of time. Some may experience it for 3 or 4 hours. Meanwhile, it affected others for even 8 hours after just one consumption of a medium dose. The amount of time shrooms stay in the system, however, is unclear, as it depends on a number of factors. They include age, health, and diet.
Despite these long-lasting effects, it is almost impossible to die from the effects of shrooms themselves. The illicit substance may trigger nasty reactions, but it is not deadly. This doesn’t mean shrooms shouldn’t be used without caution. An overdose is still possible and can cause uncomfortable effects, such as unwanted hallucinations, severe mood swings and sweating. To overdose on shrooms, it can take just half a gram for a first time user.
When going through shroom withdrawal the effects are largely psychological. There may be some sweating for the user however, most effects will be things like uncomfortable flashbacks, insomnia, and severe anxiety.

Popularity of Shrooms/ Current Usage

There are over 30 million psychedelic users in the United States alone. Of those drugs, psilocybin mushrooms are the most popular psychedelic used by people under 34. It is particularly popular amongst college students. A 2012 study of addiction treatment resources and shrooms in the US found that nearly 30% of the 400 students it surveyed had tried shrooms at least once. It is interesting to compare usage looking at whether or not the substance is legal at the time of the study.
In the year 2004/2005, right before shrooms were made completely illegal in the UK, almost 340,000 people aged 16–59 admitted to having used magic mushrooms. Now surveys in 12 EU countries have discovered that only 1-8% of people aged 15-24 admit to the use of shrooms which shows that the signs of shroom use are actually down.

As stated earlier, psilocybin is illegal in most countries. But despite that, some places have found loopholes in the law to allow certain forms of the substance to be purchased. For example in Holland, it is perfectly legal to purchase “magic truffles” which contain psilocybin. Other countries that have found ways to allow psilocybin to be consumed in some form are Brazil, the British Virgin Islands, Jamaica and the Netherlands. Whether it is an unspoken rule, the authorities turn a blind eye or the law does not extend to religious ceremonies (such as ayahuasca), these countries allow certain forms of the substance.

What are the Shroom interactions?

Mushrooms tend to have little interaction with most drugs in a negative manner. However, there is one clear exception to that rule. Amphetamines react badly with shrooms. They enhance the effects of the substance and often make bad trips more common by increasing anxiety and paranoia. They also tend to make the comedown far worse.
But can one smoke shrooms with tobacco or cannabis and have no adverse effects? 1960’s Counterculture When used with shrooms, tobacco has no influence on the high. Whereas cannabis does. Marijuana dulls the initial experience, heightening the high in the middle and enhances comedowns. This catches many users off guard.

How can One treat the Shroom abuse?

If one has a shrooms addiction then there are a number of ways how one can get treatment. These include inpatient care and dual diagnosis care. Getting help in these rehabilitation centers will help to minimize withdrawal symptoms and get the care around the clock. In these cases, any psychological effects from the drug will also be combated with the use of psychotherapy.

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Published on: March 13th, 2017

Updated on: September 1st, 2020

About Author

Peter J. Grinspoon, MD

Dr. Peter Grinspoon is an experienced physician with long-term clinical practice experience. As a former analgesic addict, Dr. Grinspoon knows precisely how important it is to provide patients with effective treatment and support. Medical writing for him is the way to communicate with people and inform them about their health.


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  • Elias Mbui
    How do you prepare the shroom before you eat, ie fresh or dried?