Psilocybin: Fact or fiction

Last modified: Saturday, 20. June 2009 - 3:04 pm

If it is natural then it is safe — true or false?
A growing number of young people 18-25 years old are seeking a “natural” hallucinogenic experience by eating Psilocybe mushrooms. Some believe that if the whole plant is eaten, the naturally occurring psilocybin will produce a “safe” experience.
Is the psilocybin in the mushrooms “natural?”
Maybe or maybe not. Studies done in California, where over 300 street samples of “psilocybin mushrooms” were bought and analyzed revealed that 85% of the mushrooms were not Psilocybe (the species that produces psilocybin). Instead, the majority were grocery store mushrooms injected with LSD, PCP, or both. It should be noted that LSD is 100 times as potent as psilocybin and has much more intense, long-lasting, and serious effects. LSD and PCP are both manmade.
What if the user is able to get real “shrooms,” “mushies,” or “sillies” as they are often called? Just what is this “naturally” occurring hallucinogen?
Psilocybin is a neurotoxin that targets the central nervous system and serotonin receptors in the brain when it is ingested. It is believed that the mushroom produces this bitter toxin as an insecticide to protect itself from predators.
As abuse of these mushrooms increases worldwide, more data is available on the serious side effects. In a 2000 Swiss Toxicological Information Center (STIC) study, researchers examined 161 acute Psilocybe mushroom exposures in which people intentionally ate “magic mushrooms.” The median age of the person seeking medical attention was 20 years (range 14-56). According to the researchers, “Reasons for hospitalization were marked hallucinations, hyperexcitability, panic attacks, coma, and convulsions.” As “good trips” turn “bad” and euphoria turns to fear and panic, there is no antidote or antitoxin that can make it go away. Thirty-one percent of the people in this study experienced panic attacks severe enough to seek medical attention.
Yes, psilocybin is just as “natural” as strychnine (used as rat poison and found naturally in the seed of the nux vomica tree) and cyanide (used as an insecticide and found naturally in the fruit seeds) — but just because it is “natural” doesn’t mean it is safe.

 

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