Psilocybin is a hallucinogenic substance people ingest from certain types of mushrooms that grow in regions of Europe, South America, Mexico, and the United States.
People who have taken psilocybin in uncontrolled settings might engage in reckless behavior, such as driving while intoxicated.
Some people may experience persistent, distressing alterations to the way they see the world. These effects are often visual and can last anywhere from weeks to years after using the hallucinogen.
Physicians now diagnose this condition as hallucinogen persisting perception disorder, also known as a flashback. A flashback is a traumatic recall of an intensely upsetting experience. The recollection of this upsetting experience during hallucinogen use would be a bad trip, or a hallucination that takes a disturbing turn.
Some individuals experience more unpleasant effects than hallucinations, such as fear, agitation, confusion, delirium, psychosis, and syndromes that resemble schizophrenia, requiring a trip to the emergency room.
In most cases, a doctor will treat these effects with medication, such as benzodiazepines. These effects often resolve in 6 to 8 hours as the effects of the drug wear off.
Finally, though the risk is small, some psilocybin users risk accidental poisoning from eating a poisonous mushroom by mistake – Symptoms of mushroom poisoning may include muscle spasms, confusion, and delirium. Visit an emergency room immediately if these symptoms occur.
Because hallucinogenic and other poisonous mushrooms are common to most living environments, a person should regularly remove all mushrooms from areas where children are routinely present to prevent accidental consumption.
Most accidental mushroom ingestion results in minor gastrointestinal illness, with only the most severe instances requiring medical attention.
Psilocybin as a treatment for depression
Discussions are ongoing about whether psychological specialists can use psilocybin and similar hallucinogens as a treatment for depression.
Two studies have looked at psilocybin as a treatment. One study examined the ability of psilocybin to reduce depression symptoms without dulling emotions, and the other assessed the relationshipTrusted Source between any positive therapeutic outcomes and the nature of psilocybin-induced hallucinations.
While some researchers are looking into some therapeutic uses for psilocybin, they still, at present, regard psilocybin as unsafe and illegal.
The effects of psilocybin are generally similar to those of LSD. They include an altered perception of time and space and intense changes in mood and feeling.
Possible effects of psilocybin include:
- quickly changing emotions
- derealization, or the feeling that surroundings are not real
- depersonalization, or a dream-like sense of being disengaged from surroundings
- distorted thinking
- visual alteration and distortion, such as halos of light and vivid colors
- dilated pupils
- impaired concentration
- muscle weakness
- lack of coordination
- unusual body sensations
- ‘spiritual’ awakening
- frightening hallucinations