Psychedelic mushrooms are fungi that have psychedelic properties when ingested and are colloquially referred to as magic mushrooms or just shrooms.
Psychedelic mushrooms can be roughly divided into two groups: the psilocybin/psilocin-containing mushrooms found mainly in the genus Psilocybe (although there are also psilocybin containing species belonging to the genera Conocybe, Copelandia, Gymnopilus, Inocybe and Panaeolus) and the muscimol-containing mushroom Amanita muscaria. Both groups belong to the Agaricaceae family of fungi.
Another psychoactive fungus is Claviceps purpurea, commonly known as ergot. It contains alkaloids used as the precursors to LSD. Whereas the psilocybin/psilocin-containing mushrooms and the muscimol-containing mushroom are literally mushrooms (basidiocarps) belonging to the Division Basidiomycota, the ergot fungus belongs to the Division Ascomycota and does not form mushrooms; instead, the psychoactive alkaloids accumulate in a sclerotium.
The active principles in the psilocybin mushrooms are the psychoactive tryptamines psilocybin and psilocin, substances similar in chemical structure to serotonin, dimethyltryptamine (DMT), and LSD. Several Psilocybe species also contain the alkaloids baeocystin and norbaeocystin, which are also suspected to be psychoactive. The fly-agaric (Amanita muscaria) contains the active principle muscimol, which is both chemically and symptomatically unrelated to psilocybin and psilocin.
Various cultures throughout the ages have used psychedelic fungi for shamanistic and other purposes. Mesoamerican mushroom stones of the pre-classic Mayans representing deified mushrooms date back to approximately 500 BC, while rock paintings in the Sahara of mushroom effigies date back to 7000 BC. Some scholars believe that Soma, the drink mentioned in Vedic literature, was derived from psychedelic mushrooms (R. Gordon Wasson suggests that this was amanita muscaria), while Albert Hofmann and Carl Ruck contend that the Eleusinian Mysteries made use of the psychedelic fungus ergot (not strictly a mushroom) in the Kykeon. Amanita muscaria is known to have been used in Siberian shamanism.
Psilocybin mushrooms were a revered tradition in native Central American cultures at the time of the European invasion and have been in continuous use up to the present. Named teonanácatl (flesh of the gods) in Nahuatl, they may have been employed for healing, divination and for intercession with spirits. Since the beginning of the Latin American colonial era, their use has been hidden due to persecution by the Christian church, which branded all native religious practices and especially those employing entheogenic sacraments as pagan.
That Nordic Vikings may have used fly-agaric to produce their berserker rages was first suggested by the Swedish professor Samual Ödman in 1784. Ödman based his theory on reports about the use of fly-agaric among Siberian shamans. The notion has become widespread since the 19th century, but no contemporary sources mention this use or anything similar in their description of berserkers. Today, it is generally considered an urban legend or at best speculation that cannot be proven.
According to the BBC, the first documented use of psychedelic mushrooms was in the Medical and Physical Journal: in 1799, a man who had been picking mushrooms for breakfast in Londons Green Park included them in his harvest, accidentally sending his entire family on a trip. The doctor who treated them later described how the youngest child was attacked with fits of immoderate laughter, nor could the threats of his father or mother refrain him.
In 1957, amateur mycologist R. Gordon Wasson published an article for Life magazine describing his experiences with psilocybin mushrooms while a guest in the rituals of the Mazatec shaman Maria Sabina in a mountain village in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. His account triggered a wave of experimentation with these mushrooms which resulted in their eventual classification in the United States as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act.
The introduction of westerners into the previously secret rites was later rued by Maria Sabina, who declared that From the moment the foreigners arrived, the holy children [a Mazatec euphemism for the mushrooms, which are otherwise not named directly] lost their purity. They lost their force, they ruined them. Henceforth they will no longer work. There is no remedy for it.
Psychedelic mushrooms can elicit a wide range of bodily and mental effects including:
As with many psychoactive substances, the effects of any mushrooms consumed are subjective, unpredictable and strongly dependent upon set and setting. Generally speaking, the experience of psilocybin containing mushrooms lasts four to six hours or more, is inwardly oriented and there can be strong visual and auditory components. Visions and revelations may be experienced and the effect can range from exhilarating to terrifying. There can be also a total absence of effects, even when under the influence of large doses.
Non-western native practice suggests that the effects are also affected by the users preparation. The Mazatecs purify themselves before a velada (or vision quest), abstaining from meat, eggs, alcohol and sex for four days prior to a velada. The veladas are always done in the dark, in a protected and sealed space which no one may enter or leave until all have regained their composure. Modern psychonauts often speak of packing for the trip, by which is meant a loading of information into the brain prior to departure, for example, by reading a philosophical writing or watching natural history or science documentaries in the days immediately prior to a planned experience. Regular or experienced users find that there are ways of adjusting their environment to enhance their trip.
In addition, there have been calls for the medical investigation of psilocybin containing mushrooms in regards to the treatment of chronic cluster headaches following numerous anecdotal reports of benefits.
Dosage of psychedelic mushrooms depends on the total psilocybin and psilocin content of the mushrooms, which varies significantly between species and can also vary significantly within the same species, but is typically around 0.5-2% of the dried weight of the mushroom. A light dose of P. cubensis is usually cited to be about 1g dried material, corresponding to approximately 10mg of psilocybin/psilocin. A common or average dose is approximately 1-3g, corresponding to 10-30mg psilocybin/psilocin and a heavy dose is about 3-5g dried material or 30-50mg of psilocybin/psilocin. Mushrooms are approximately 90% water and accordingly dosages for fresh mushrooms will be about 10 times higher, i.e. 15-50g fresh material.
The fly-agaric is not a controlled substance in most countries. Access to ergot and ergoline alkaloids is usually restricted since these substances are precursors to LSD. In most countries, possession of psilocybin mushrooms is not illegal, as they grow in the wild. In the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, and most other EU countries, fresh mushrooms can be obtained in smart shops which specialise in ethnobotanicals. Dried mushrooms, however, are considered a preparation and thus remain illegal in all countries, even the Netherlands. Nonetheless, there is an active international trade both in mushrooms and in spores, which can be grown in sterile medium (see Drug policy of the Netherlands).
However, in many countries, psilocybin-containing mushrooms are illegal.
Before 2002, psilocybin mushrooms were widely available in Japan, often sold in smart shops similar to those of the United Kingdom. As of June 2002, psilocybin mushrooms have been outlawed.
In New Zealand, psilocybin mushrooms are class A drugs, ie they are in the highest class of illicit compounds along with heroin and LSD. They do not have to be prepared in any way for possession to be illegal.
Republic of Ireland
Until 31 January, 2006, unprepared psilocybin mushrooms were legal in the Republic of Ireland. On that date they were made illegal by a ministerial order. This decision was partly based on the death of one man who mixed an unknown amount of psychedelic mushrooms with alcohol and fell from a balcony. However, the sale of spores is still legal and grow kits are still available in some shops.
As of 18 July 2005, both dried and prepared (e.g. made into a tea) psilocybin mushrooms were made illegal in the United Kingdom. Prior to this date, fresh mushrooms were widely available (even in city centre shops), but Clause 21 of the Drugs Bill 2005 made fresh psychedelic mushrooms, (fungi containing psilocin), a Class A drug. However, mushrooms spores are not illegal due to the fact they do not carry psilocin until they are cultivated. This has lead many to grow their own mushrooms using spore-syringes and mushroom growing kits such as myco-farm. Psychedelic mushrooms are usually sold on the black market dried, but are sometimes incorporated into chocolate or baked into brownies, cakes or muffins.
United States of America
In the United States, possession of psilocybin-containing mushrooms is illegal because they contain the Schedule I drugs psilocin and psilocybin. Spores, however, are only explicitly illegal in California, Idaho, and Georgia. This may be because spores do not contain the psychoactive chemicals psilocin or psilocybin. In all states, except possibly New Mexico, growing psilocybin-containing mushrooms from spores is considered manufacture of a controlled substance.
In the state of Florida, fresh or unprepared psilocybin mushrooms that grow wild are legal to possess; however, those caught would be hard-pressed not to be hassled by authorities for possession.
In New Mexico, growing mushrooms from spores may be legal. On June 15, 2005, the New Mexico appeals court ruled that growing psilocybin mushrooms for personal use is not manufacture of a controlled substance.
Cultivation of Psilocybe mushrooms (esp. Psilocybe cubensis) is extremely easy, due in part to the legal status of spores and mycelium (varies by country and state). One can purchase kits through the mail or Internet that include everything one needs for personal growing. These grow kits are often used by amateur growers, with varying rates of success and yields; contamination of the supplies is a common problem.
Most of the supplies needed for mushroom cultivation (mason jars, potting supplements, rye, brown rice flour) can be easily obtained from stores or the internet. Amateurs who actually take the time to research mushroom cultivation would not need to start off with a grow kit and can easily make their own grow space.
Because mushrooms can be grown indoors (namely Psilocybe cubensis and Panaeolus Cyanescens), they are generally grown within the same national borders as they are sold.
While mushrooms may be moved by organized crime, more often they are moved by informal affiliations of acquaintances and fellow users, and do not often travel long distances.
There have not been any high profile cases of mushroom traffickers being caught or prosecuted. In fact some state courts, such as in New Mexico, have ruled that growing mushrooms does not constitute manufacturing as defined by the drug trade statutes.
Mushrooms are generally distributed among acquaintances or by street dealers. They are sold in plastic bags containing either whole dried fungi or crushed/powdered fungi, and are generally sold by weight. The potency of mushrooms can vary greatly depending on the growing conditions, and users run the risk of ingesting a poisonous, mis-identified species, or being cheated by substitutions or cutting of the mushrooms with other, non-psychedelic varieties, or by non-psychedelic varieties laced with other psychedelics, most often LSD.
Caution: There exist many highly toxic mushrooms which can be easily confused with similar-looking edible species. Do not rely on Wikipedia alone when identifying mushrooms for consumption.
Many Psilocybe mushrooms are often called little brown mushroom or LBM, and are difficult for the inexperienced to distinguish from other LBMs.
The most common way to identify a Psilocybe var. mushroom is from the blue bruising color of injured tissue (usually from the whitish stem) when exposed to air. Psilocybe mushrooms are one of very few varieties of mushrooms that bruise blue when the stem is cut or split open. The bluing reaction, while not fully understood, appears to correspond to the psilocin in the mushroom degrading.
Psilocybe cubensis is a commonly and frequently cultivated Psilocybe mushroom.
Amanita muscaria can be easily confused by the layperson with amanita pantherina as well other toxic amanitas. Amanitas are the cause for 95% of fatal mushrooms poisonings. For this reason, caution should be used when attempting to identify an amanita muscaria for ingestion.
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