What are Magic Mushrooms?

Updated: May 11, 2021

Magic mushrooms are hallucinogenic fungi that grow wild in the UK and across the world. They contain the psychedelic, psychoactive compound known as psilocybin or psilocin - this is what makes you trip. The main type used recreationally in the UK is the Liberty Cap. Fly Agaric is a less common, stronger type of mushroom containing different psychoactive compounds. Fly Agaric might seem most recognisable in appearance with its red cap and white spots however they can easily be mistaken for some of the most toxic mushrooms in the world.

Magic mushrooms have been used as far back as 9000 B.C. in North African indigenous cultures. It’s believed they were used medicinally and as a way to enter the spiritual world and communicate with the gods.

It wasn’t until the 1960s and 1970’s mushrooms being used for recreational pleasure became popular amongst a wider audience in the UK. During this time, magic mushrooms were seen as a natural alternative to LSD/Acid.

Some recent studies believe that there could be more to magic mushrooms than the psychedelic trip in supervised doses and that mushrooms could potentially help treat depression, anxiety, and PTSD; however, more research is needed on this.


(Wikimedia - Liberty Cap) Magic mushrooms are classified under The Misuse of Drugs Act as a Class A drug. This means possession could lead to seven years in jail, while supplying and dealing them could result in a life sentence.


Nicknames/street names

Shrooms, Mushies, Magics, Liberty Caps, Philosophers Stones & Agaric.


How are they used?

Magic mushrooms are consumed by eating or drinking them.


Eating

The most common type of mushroom, the Liberty Caps, are eaten either raw or dried out.

Those consuming the less common ‘Fly Agaric’ will avoid eating them raw as eating fly agaric raw can make you feel really sick. It is best to consume fly agaric when dried out to avoid feeling sick.

People might also consume magic mushrooms by adding them into food such as chocolate and making magic mushroom edibles.


Drinking

Those who don’t want to eat magic mushrooms might choose to make a drink out of the mushrooms. Making tea is a common way to do this.


(Flikr.com - Fly Agaric Mushroom)


Drying the mushrooms does not affect the strength of the mushroom when consuming it.

The effects and risks

There are many types of mushrooms in the UK, some magic, many poisonous, and they often closely resemble one another.

When taking magic mushrooms, you are taking the risk of mistakenly eating a poisonous mushroom. If you have, you’ll need to get medical help as soon as possible.


Like other drugs, strength and effects can vary with mushrooms. Different mushrooms will have different strengths. This means the effects on the user can vary. For example, the less common ‘Fly Agaric’ is known to have a stronger effect than the more common ‘Liberty Cap’. Therefore, it’s important to do your research to understand the appropriate dose better.

The effects of magic mushrooms can last for 4 – 6 hours but may last longer. You may experience some positive side effects during your trip, such as euphoria, relaxation, and creative thinking. Still, like other hallucinogenic drugs, you aren’t guaranteed the ‘good trip’ and could end up experiencing more negative side effects:

  • Confusion

  • Nausea

  • Anxiety

  • Focusing on negative thoughts

  • Paranoid

  • Panicky

  • Overwhelmed

It’s always best to take magic mushrooms in a safe place with people you trust to keep yourself safer. Remember: There is no safe way to take drugs. But, you can reduce the chances of something going wrong by following harm reduction advice.


The Comedown

A comedown is the after-effects of taking drugs which you may feel for several hours or even days. Comedowns will differ from person to person, with some people experiences being worse than others. Coming down may include symptoms like:


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  • Fatigue

  • Insomnia

  • Feeling low or depressed

  • Feeling burnt out

  • Experiencing flashbacks from your trip and potentially having difficulty separating reality from hallucinations.

Remember: Your comedown won’t last forever. It’s just the drugs leaving your system, so look after yourself and (if possible) hang out with people that make you feel good.


Harm Reduction

  • It is essential with hallucinogenic drugs like mushrooms to take them in a safe space with people you trust. This will help make you feel safer and make a bad trip less likely (but not guaranteed).

  • Don’t mix with other drugs. This could have an unpredictable effect.

  • Lots of mushrooms look similar. Do your research as not all mushrooms are edible, and mushrooms vary in strength.

  • Avoid taking if you’re experiencing any negativity or anxiety. These feelings will be heightened when tripping.

  • Avoid places that could trigger negative feelings.

  • It's a good idea to keep an example of the mushroom you’ve eaten so doctors can identify it just in case.


Overdose signs and symptoms

Like other hallucinogenic drugs, you are taking a gamble as to whether you experience a good trip or a bad trip. If you have taken too many mushrooms, you are at risk of having a bad trip and losing a sense of reality where you are more likely to behave dangerously or act impulsively. Every trip is unpredictable and could lead to accidents, suicidal thoughts or death.


If you are worried about someone, you can:

  • Call an ambulance (you won’t get in trouble for doing this, even if drugs are involved)

  • Keep an eye on the person and try and keep them calm and away from danger

  • Stay with the person until paramedics arrive

  • If you can, tell the paramedic as much information as possible (the drug taken, the dosage)

Useful links

Below are some useful websites with further information if you want to find out more about magic mushrooms:


Magic Mushrooms | Effects of Magic Mushrooms | FRANK (talktofrank.com)

Magic mushrooms – DrugWise

Magic Mushrooms 101 - Everything you need to know - Mushly.

Magic mushrooms (crew.scot)

Most Poisonous Mushrooms in the UK - Woodland Trust

Phases of a Magic Mushroom Trip | Zoomies Canada

Shrooms Effects | Physical and Psychological Side Effects (drugrehab.com)

Magic Mushrooms After Effects & Withdrawals (magicmushrooms101.com)

Psilocybin (Magic Mushrooms) | drugscience.org.uk

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