Psilocybin and psilocin (Magic mushrooms)

Psilocybin and psilocin (

"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 are 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.

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If you are struggling with your mental health or substance use, Wellness Together Canada offers free and confidential mental health and substance use supports, including counselling.

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. These substances, like all drugs, are also subject to the Food and Drugs Act (FDA). 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.

Therapeutic uses

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.

Get more information about research with psilocybin.

Short-term effects of magic mushrooms

Using magic mushrooms can lead to short-term mental and physical effects.

Mental 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
  • light-headedness
  • anxiety and panic attacks
  • confusion and disorientation
  • fear or paranoia

Physical effects

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.
  • Using 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.

Individual subsection 56 (1) exemptions

Subsection 56(1) of the CDSA is a discretionary power that allows the Minister of Health to exempt persons, controlled substances or precursors from the application of any provisions of the CDSA or its regulations for a scientific or medical purpose, or for a purpose that is otherwise in the public interest.

While clinical trials are the most appropriate and effective way to advance research with unapproved drugs such as psilocybin, Health Canada has issued some subsection 56(1) exemptions under the CDSA to individuals to possess and use mushrooms containing psilocybin.

Many factors are considered when reviewing and making a decision on a request for a subsection 56(1) exemption to use psilocybin in relation to a medical condition.  These factors may include but are not limited to:

  • The availability of clinical trials or other regulatory pathways, such as the Special Access Program, to request access to the substance
  • The medical condition for which the psilocybin is requested to be used
  • The existing scientific evidence to support the use of psilocybin for the treatment of the condition
  • Whether other conventional therapies have been considered
  • Whether the use of the substances is supported by a health care practitioner
  • Public health and public safety objectives of the CDSA
  • Other federal, provincial, and/or municipal laws or regulations that may apply to the proposed activity
  • Risks, including risk of diversion

Each request for an exemption under subsection 56(1) is carefully considered, taking into account the purposes of the CDSA and all relevant information.

Information for researchers and health care professionals

Research with Psilocybin

Clinical trials are the most appropriate and effective way to advance research with unapproved drugs such as psilocybin. Clinical trials protect patients by providing a framework so that a potential treatment is administered in accordance with national and international ethical, medical and scientific standards. Clinical trials can also help build the evidence related to the safety and efficacy of treatment options for patients.

Health Canada's Clinical Trials Database lists all clinical trials in patients 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.

More information about clinical research with psilocybin can be found in the Notice to Stakeholders - Clarification of Requirements under the Food and Drug Regulations and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act When Conducting Clinical Research with Psilocybin, which provides details on requirements, information on enforcement and compliance and links to related resources.

Companies or organizations that are interested in conducting activities with controlled substances such as psilocybin or magic mushrooms must also have a licence or exemption from Health Canada.

Health Canada's Special Access Program

Health Canada's Special Access Program (SAP) permits health care practitioners to request access to drugs that have shown promise in clinical trials, or been approved in other countries, but that have not yet been approved for sale in Canada.

Practitioners can, on behalf of patients with serious or life-threatening conditions, and for the purpose of emergency treatment, request access to psilocybin through the Special Access Program in instances where other therapies have failed, are unsuitable, or are not available in Canada.

There is no guarantee that a request for psilocybin, or any other unapproved drug, will be authorized through the SAP. All requests are assessed on a case-by-case basis taking into consideration the level of evidence regarding the safety and efficacy for the proposed use, the patient's condition and clinical status, as well as any other information that may be needed to determine whether to issue the SAP letter of authorization.

Practitioners considering the SAP as a potential option can consult the SAP Guidance Document for Industry and Practitioners for more information on how to make an application.

Should a request for psilocybin be authorized through the SAP, the manufacturer will be issued a Letter of Authorization, which permits them to legally sell the specified quantity of the drug to the requesting practitioner. If the manufacturer of the restricted drug is located in Canada, they must be a licensed dealer under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and the restricted drug must be listed on their licence. If the drug is coming from outside of Canada, the restricted drug must be imported by a licensed dealer who has the restricted drug listed on their licence and has obtained an import permit from Health Canada.

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