The U.S. classifies magic mushrooms' psychoactive agent, psilocybin, as a Schedule I substance. That means the government considers the compound to have the highest risk for abuse without any therapeutic potential. But are psilocybin mushrooms as dangerous as the classification implies?
In reality, psychedelics like psilocybin mushrooms have very low addictive potential and toxicity compared to opioids, alcohol, and tobacco. However, like any drug, psilocybin can cause adverse effects when you take too much. So, the questions remain– how much shrooms is too much? And, can you overdose (O.D.) on mushrooms?
Here we’ll review common mushroom topics, including what’s a shroom high like, how often it’s safe to take shrooms, and if it’s possible to have a shroom overdose.
But First, Let’s Review: What Are Magic Mushrooms?
Magic mushrooms are naturally occurring fungi that look like your garden variety. The difference is magic mushrooms contain the psychedelic compound psilocybin, which your body breaks down into the bioactive version, “psilocin,” during digestion. And unlike shiitake mushrooms, psilocybin types cause hallucinations, sensory stimulation, mood changes, and perceptual enhancement that can send you on a journey to greater self-discovery.
More than 10,000 types of mushrooms grow in the wild, but fewer than 200 are “magic.” Psilocybin mushrooms are generally small and usually brown or tan. To experience the psychedelic effects, you can eat magic shrooms, fresh or dried, steeped in tea, or blended in foods like honey and chocolate.
What do shrooms do to you?
Magic mushroom effects usually start 30 minutes after consuming them in fresh or dried, unprocessed form. However, shrooms can kick in faster (within 10 minutes) if you steep them in tea or create a lemon tek extraction.
Taking mushrooms can make you feel giggly, euphoric, and in awe of people and nature. During the experience, colors, sounds, objects, thoughts, and even time can seem different. The effects last approximately four to six hours.
Can You O.D. on Shrooms?
When you think “overdose,” you probably envision a life-threatening consequence of taking too much of a substance. That’s because drug overdoses can be deadly. So, it’s completely normal to wonder if you can die from taking too much shrooms.
Fortunately, there are no confirmed reports of death by magic mushrooms, even in large heroic doses. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take too much; it only means a mushroom overdose isn’t likely fatal.
Psilocybin mushrooms come in many different strains and potencies, so it’s easy to take too much if you’re unsure how to dose correctly. In addition, if you accidentally consume more psilocybin than your body and mind can handle, you can experience uncomfortable physical and mental distress, defined as a “bad trip.”
Are Shrooms Dangerous?
Wondering if shrooms are bad for you? Generally, magic mushrooms are safe. Modern research suggests their toxicity is very low. However, the effects you feel–either beneficial or challenging–depend on several factors, including
- Your size, weight, and health
- How often you take mushrooms
- The psilocybin dosage
- The mushroom strain’s overall strength
- Other drugs that are in your system
- Your environment
- Your mood
One of the most significant risks is accidentally eating the wrong kind of mushroom. Toxic mushrooms in the wild outnumber hallucinogenic varieties by as much as 10 to 1. The most dangerous species include Gyromitra, Amanita, and Cortinarius. According to the CDC, Amanita phalloides—called the death cap—grow in the same places as psilocybin mushrooms and cause the most deaths from foraged mushrooms worldwide. Symptoms of fungi poisoning can include:
- Excessive sweating
- Muscle pain and spasms
- Abdominal pain
- Slow heart rate
- Mucus in the lungs
- Low blood sugar
- Kidney failure
Eating rotten or expired mushrooms can also result in adverse side effects, usually gastrointestinal, where you’ll feel sick for a couple of days. Reports note that accidental death and attempted suicide can also occur in sporadic cases due to psychotic episodes.
Is There a Lethal Dose of Magic Mushrooms?
Even in high quantities, magic mushrooms have not directly caused a single reported death. For example, a survey found that out of more than 12,000 people who took psilocybin, only 0.2% reported emergency medical treatment. That amount is five times lower than MDMA (ecstasy), LSD, and cocaine.
A typical dose of psilocybin ranges from 1 to 5 grams for unprocessed mushrooms. However, a mushroom’s potency depends on:
- Species and origin
- Growing conditions
- Harvest period
- Whether a person eats them fresh or dried
For example, psilocybin in fresh mushrooms is about ten times more potent than in dried forms.
Are Shrooms Addictive?
Psilocybin is not chemically addictive, and regularly taking mushrooms doesn’t appear to result in physical dependence. However, mushrooms and other psychedelics can cause physical tolerance. That means you may need to take higher doses to get the same effects, even if you occasionally consume the fungi.
Mushrooms don’t cause typical withdrawal symptoms. In fact, typically, you’ll feel an uplifting afterglow for a few days or weeks. However, some people experience mild adverse effects like headaches or exhaustion. Additionally, if you had a particularly challenging trip, you could also feel sad or anxious.
“Bad trips” are defined broadly as unpleasant magic mushroom experiences. They can include frightening or intense visuals, anxiety, paranoia, panic, and fear. Bad trips are more common with:
- First-time users taking more than two grams
- People who are already anxious or depressed
- People with mental health conditions
- People who take mushrooms in unfamiliar or chaotic environments
To minimize the risks, make sure to only take mushrooms with someone you trust and in a place where you feel comfortable. Typically, you should avoid magic mushrooms if you feel depressed unless you take them with an experienced guide or psychedelic therapist. Under supported conditions, you can turn a “bad trip” into a valuable therapeutic experience.
How Much Shrooms Is Too Much?
It’s hard to say how much shrooms is “too much” for you because the experience hinges on several variables. However, one gram of psilocybin is considered a relatively mild dose. Five grams is regarded as a high-intensity macro dose. Beyond five grams is uncharted territory for most people and is more likely to cause an uncomfortable journey. Additionally, mixing shrooms with alcohol or other mind-altering substances can increase your chances of a bad trip.
The Myth of Never Coming Back from a Psychedelic Trip
You may have heard the warning that people never return to normal after a bad psilocybin mushroom trip. The truth is not so simple. Most people have extraordinary positive and transformative experiences. However, rarely, other people experience a condition called hallucinogen-persisting perception disorder. The disorder can include flashbacks or changes in sensory perceptions that last for years. Again, this condition is rare and more common with LSD usage than with magic mushrooms.
Most people who experience “bad mushroom trips” don’t have lasting effects. In fact, a U.S. survey found no link between psychedelics and psychosis or other mental health issues.
Symptoms of a Shroom Overdose
Common symptoms of a mushroom overdose, aka a “bad trip,” include:
- Intense panic attacks
- Extreme paranoia
- Delusional thinking
- An extended “trip” experience
- Muscle weakness
These symptoms usually last for six to eight hours. However, if your symptoms persist longer or feel unusually intense, seek treatment immediately to ensure you didn’t consume a poisonous strain.
How Often Is It Safe to Take Shrooms?
Less is more when taking mushrooms because psilocybin tolerance builds quickly. So, if you take shrooms a few days apart, you may need to increase the dose to feel the effects. A Shroomery chart shows that you should wait at least a week or two between trips. Attempting consecutive daily trips would require you to take three times your last dose to experience similar results. This exponential increase could cause you to take more than you can handle.
The Come Down: Can You Overdose on Mushrooms?
Yes, it is possible to overdose on mushrooms, as with any other drug. However, a mushroom overdose, while unpleasant, will not cause death. Mushrooms and other psychedelics have low toxicity and few negative impacts. Overdose symptoms can last several days but usually fade away in six to eight hours. Your most significant health risk from taking mushrooms is consuming a poisonous variety, so be sure to trust your source.
However, should the journey become too mentally or emotionally intense, you have resources to help get you through the darkest moments. For example, the Fireside Project’s Psychedelic Peer Support Line is open every day for you to speak to trained and compassionate volunteers.