Psilocybin and psilocin (Magic mushrooms)
"Magic mushrooms" are mushrooms that contain hallucinogens - usually psilocybin and psilocin. Taking magic mushrooms may cause you to see, hear or feel things that are not there, or to experience anxiety, fear, nausea and muscle twitches accompanied by increased heart rate and blood pressure. In some cases, the consumption of magic mushrooms can lead to "bad trips" or "flashbacks".
The production, sale and possession of magic mushrooms is illegal in Canada.
There is increasing interest in the potential therapeutic uses of psilocybin. At this time, there are no approved therapeutic products containing psilocybin in Canada. Clinical trials are the most appropriate and effective way to advance research with unapproved drugs such as psilocybin while protecting the best interests of patients.
On this page
- About magic mushrooms
- Therapeutic uses
- Short-term effects of magic mushrooms
- Long-term effects of magic mushrooms
- Risks related to recreational use of magic mushrooms
- Substance use disorders and withdrawal
About magic mushrooms
Magic mushrooms have been used for thousands of years. There are over 200 species of magic mushrooms. Since many species look alike, it can be hard to tell the different species of mushrooms apart. It is possible for people to consume poisonous mushrooms, mistaking them for magic mushrooms.
The active ingredients in magic mushrooms are chemicals called psilocybin and psilocin. Both of these substances are controlled under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA), meaning activities such as sale, possession, production, etc. of these substances are illegal unless authorized through, for example, a clinical trial and a licence or an exemption, granted by Health Canada's Office of Controlled Substances. Psilocybin and psilocin are hallucinogens that produce effects similar to LSD. Individuals using magic mushrooms experience hallucinations and an altered state of consciousness. Effects appear within 15-45 minutes and usually last for four to six hours.
The strength of magic mushrooms can vary greatly. One mushroom may have different concentrations of the active ingredients compared to another and consequently the effects of the magic mushroom can depend on the dose and type of mushroom used.
Magic mushrooms may be sold illegally as either dried whole mushrooms or as a powder. People may choose to take the mushrooms in many ways, including:
- eaten raw or cooked
- ground up and used to make tea or mixed in a beverage
- swallowed as capsules
- sniffed up the nose (snorted), when in a powder
Magic mushrooms should never be injected intravenously.
Psilocybin and psilocin can also be sold illegally as a powder or in tablets or capsules and can be produced in illegal labs. The content of drugs produced illegally is not tested and may contain other dangerous substances.
At this time, there are no approved therapeutic products containing psilocybin in Canada or elsewhere. There is ongoing research looking at the potential of psilocybin to treat various mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and problematic substance use. Health Canada encourages Canadians seeking support for these disorders to talk with their health care provider about options available to them. Free virtual resources and services for mental health and substance use issues are also available 24/7 through Wellness Together Canada.
Clinical trials are the most appropriate and effective way to advance research with unapproved drugs such as psilocybin. Clinical trials ensure that the best interests of patients are protected and that a product is administered in accordance with national and international ethical, medical, and scientific standards. Clinical trials also provide important information on the safety of a drug and whether it may be an effective treatment option for patients.
Health Canada's Clinical Trials Database lists all clinical trials that have been authorized in Canada, including clinical trials involving psilocybin.
Research organizations, academic or health care professionals who may wish to conduct a clinical trial in Canada are encouraged to read the Guidance Document for Clinical Trial Sponsors: Clinical Trial Applications for more information on how to apply for a clinical trial authorization.
Short-term effects of magic mushrooms
Using magic mushrooms can lead to short-term mental and physical effects.
Magic mushrooms may cause heightened emotions and senses, and people may feel happy and creative. They may laugh or giggle a lot, and experience a sense of mental and emotional clarity.
Magic mushrooms can also cause hallucinations and affect people by:
- distorting their sense of reality (they see and hear things that are not there)
- mixing up their senses (they believe they can see music or hear colours)
- altering their sense of time
Some of the negative mental effects of taking psilocybin include:
- changes in mood
- anxiety and panic attacks
- confusion and disorientation
- fear or paranoia
Taking magic mushrooms can produce:
- numbness, particularly in the face
- increased heart rate and blood pressure
- dry mouth, sometimes leading to nausea and vomiting
- muscle weakness and twitching, or convulsions
- exaggerated reflexes
- sweating and high body temperature, often followed by chills and shivering
- loss of urinary control
Long-term effects of magic mushrooms
Currently, no studies have evaluated the long-term effects of repetitive use of magic mushrooms.
Risks related to recreational use of magic mushrooms
- What is commonly known as a "bad trip" may occur, particularly at high doses. These experiences may be frightening and may include paranoia, loss of boundaries and a distorted sense of self. Impaired judgement during these "bad trips" may lead to risk-taking behaviour, which may then lead to traumatic injuries or even death.
- In certain cases, users may experience frequent or overly intense psychedelic events that may induce abrupt "flashbacks", i.e. reliving the previous experience.
- Co-use of magic mushrooms with substances such as cannabis, amphetamines, alcohol, etc. elevates the risks of serious side effects and adverse events.
- For individuals predisposed to or with existing psychiatric conditions, there may be an elevated risk of side effects. This association is still being evaluated.
- For individuals with cardiac diseases, short-term effects such as increased blood pressure and heart rate could potentially be harmful.
Substance use disorders and withdrawal
There is little evidence that people can become physically or psychologically dependent on magic mushrooms.
However, it is possible to become tolerant to the drug's effects with regular use. This may occur over several days of continued use. In this state, even high amounts of the drug will no longer produce the desired effect.
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