Other Names:‘Shrooms’, ‘mushies’, ‘liberty caps’, ‘fly-agaric’.
Magic mushrooms can be eaten raw or cooked, heated with water to make a tea or soup, or added to an omelette or another dish just like non-hallucinogenic mushrooms. Some species (like the Amanita Muscaria, or fly agaric) have to be cooked first to avoid poisoning.
It can take up to an hour for the mushrooms to take effect. If you have a small amount of the hallucinogenic substances contained in the fungus, you may feel relaxed and a little ‘stoned‘, a feeling similar to that obtained using cannabis. Higher doses can induce trips similar to LSD. How you feel and who you’re with will influence your experience dramatically. A mushroom trip can last for 6-12 hours, with some disorientation the following day.
Compared to the psychological effects these are minor – increased heart rate and blood pressure, and dilated pupils. Sometimes you may experience a mild stomach upset.
If you are going to pick mushrooms, preferably take someone with you who knows what the mushrooms look like, and where they grow – for example liberty caps grow in open, well manured grassland; if you find something that looks similar but is growing in a forest it’s the wrong mushroom. If you can’t take an experienced mushroom harvester, take a good mushroom guide such as Collins’ guide to mushrooms and toadstools.
Mushroom poisoning can be caused by picking the right species in the wrong condition – it is not safe to eat mushrooms that have been infested by worms or maggots. Older mushrooms should be avoided, as should wet or dirty ones (these tend to go off quickly). If you are going to store the mushrooms at all, remember that they deteriorate and rot quickly if they are damp, closely packed or left in an airtight container.
Mushrooms vary widely in the amount of psilocybin they contain – use a small number at first, and increase the dose if necessary. The symptoms of mushroom poisoning can manifest in 20 minutes, or may take up to 40 hours for more slow-acting poisons. Many different poisons can occur in mushrooms; the most common symptoms are vomiting, diarrhoea, cramp, watering eyes, increased saliva flow, jaundice and breathing difficulties. If you are with someone who is ill and has been eating mushrooms, take them to a hospital or doctor immediately – call for an ambulance if you’re stoned, don’t try to drive. If possible, take some of the mushrooms with you so that any poisons can be quickly identified.
Mushroom tripping isn’t something you should do alone, the psychological effects of tripping can lead some people into states of fear and anxiety attacks (‘bad trips‘). Being with friends can help you to move through these experiences more quickly and safely. Like any other hallucinogen, mushrooms should not be eaten if you’re feeling depressed, anxious or under stress. They won’t make your worries go away- generally, hallucinogens tend to amplify how you’re feeling at the time. Choose the right environment – somewhere relaxed and safe. Busy roads, rivers, festivals or crowded streets may cause you problems. You should never try to drive if you’ve eaten magic mushrooms. Mushroom trips can last for 8 hours or more.