Part of the reason we started The Level is because it can be really hard to get straight up answers to questions about drugs.
We think that researched, trustworthy info is key way that people who use drugs can make informed decisions and stay safer.
So we’re starting a new series of articles where we answer the most common questions New Zealanders are asking Google about drugs.
This week: shrooms!
“How to tell if a mushroom is magic?”
If you’re foraging for mushrooms, it’s important to do your research and know what you’re picking as the most common harm experienced from magic mushrooms is from accidentally taking other poisonous varieties that look similar.
There are also communities online such as shroomery.org and Facebook groups where people help each other to identify mushrooms.
The main two species of magic mushrooms found in New Zealand are Psilocybe subaeruginosa (colloquially called gold tops or subs, along with a wavy capped form sometimes called Psilocybe cyanescens) and Psilocybe weraroa (sometimes known as Weraroa novae-zealandiae, and colloquially called blue meanies).
There’s also few species that grow in pot plants, Psilocybe aucklandiae, Psilocybe tasmaniana and Psilocybe angulospora, along with a few other regional species/variants that are less common. These are also colloquially known as gold tops.
“Can you overdose from shrooms? Are shrooms safe? Have people died from shrooms?”
You can feel sick from taking a high dose of psilocybin mushrooms, but in general they have low toxicity. Deaths from shrooms are extremely rare.
However, if you take a poisonous mushroom by accident, you could become very ill and in extreme cases, die. Be aware of the signs of mushroom poisoning and call 111 immediately if you or someone you’re with are experiencing any of these symptoms:
- Producing excessive saliva
- Have severe stomach aches
- Have extreme weakness in your body
- Have an irregular heartbeat
- Have difficulty breathing
- Experience severe vomiting
- Have severe or bloody diarrhoea
- Have a seizure
- Lose consciousness
- Are unresponsive
You won’t get in trouble for seeking medical help.
It’s also not uncommon to experience a bad trip from taking a high dose of magic mushrooms. There are lots of factors that can influence whether you have a bad trip, like how you are feeling mentally, who you are with and where you are.
If you’re having a bad trip you may not be in physical danger, but you could be experiencing a lot of mental distress. You can help to avoid this by making sure you're in a good mindset and environment before the trip.
If you or someone you’re with is having a bad trip, try:
- Focus on breathing – try taking slow, deep breaths.
- If you’re able, call and talk to somebody you trust and ask them to help keep you calm.
- Avoid taking more psilocybin mushrooms, caffeine, alcohol or other drugs, as these can make you feel worse.
- Move to somewhere quiet – try to sit or lie down and do something relaxing.
- Drink water to stay hydrated.
“Things to know before doing shrooms”
Once you’ve done your research to make sure you’re not taking a poisonous lookalike, here are our top tips:
- Make sure you are in a good mindset and a place you feel comfortable before you take shrooms.
- Try to have a sober person that can help you if you have a bad trip.
- Wait an hour for the effects to kick in before deciding to take more.
The experience you have has a lot to do with your state of mind, the kind of environment you’re in and who you are with.
If you’re feeling anxious or depressed, it could be worth waiting until you’re feeling better before taking shrooms.
It’s also important to be in a relaxing environment and around people you trust and feel comfortable with. Psychedelic drugs can make you become introspective, and this can be an emotionally intense experience that can have lasting changes on the way you think and see yourself, others and the world.
“Can magic mushrooms change your personality?”
This is a complex question. Everyone has different experiences with magic mushrooms. But here’s a couple of quotes from people who have used magic mushrooms:
“I don’t think it changed who I am or my personality. But it did make me more open and force me to look introspectively at myself. So, in a way I guess it helped me to be a more ‘chill’ version of myself that didn’t stress so much.
“Did mushrooms change my personality? No. Did it change my perspective? Yes.
If you’re taking shrooms heavily and often, you may notice some mental health effects, like feelings of depression, anxiety and hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (where a person experiences flashbacks or effects similar to being on drugs, even when sober).
Drugs affect everyone differently so it’s important to take notice of how the shrooms are affecting you and take a break if you’re starting to feel negative effects.
“Why do shrooms make you trip? What do magic mushrooms do to your brain?”
Magic mushrooms contain psilocybin, which is converted in your body to psilocin. This is the chemical that gives shrooms their psychoactive effects. Psilocin acts on the serotonin receptors in your brain.
There’s still a lot we don’t understand about how psilocybin causes people to trip, but you can check out this research article for a more in depth exploration of this.
“What do magic mushrooms feel like?”
Different people will experience trips differently, depending on their mindset, setting, the kind of mushrooms they take and how much they have.
Mushrooms are difficult to dose because each shroom can contain a very different amount of psilocybin. Drying, grinding, and mixing mushrooms into a powder can help to make dosing more consistent. As with any drug, starting low and going slow can be a good way of figuring out what dose is right for you.
We spoke to some people anonymously to highlight these different experiences:
“Everything looked a little brighter. I was in the forest and the plants were the most luscious green I’d ever seen. They were also kind of shifting and morphing in front of me. I remember looking at the sky and seeing it all covered in psychedelic patterns – like a kaleidoscope. Which then turned into a bunch of eyes looking at me. It was awesome.”
“I had mushies at home alone. The dealer told me to not eat more than 3. They were dried and massive, so I think had a lot of psilocybin in them. My pride made me eat 4, and I was way too high. Felt full body nausea. Whenever I closed my eyes, it was like a rainbow rushing through my brain. I lay on my bed and the walls kept bending inwards and then back to normal. The heater kept disappearing and reappearing. It was just a pretty strange experience. Not terrible, but not fun either.”
“I’m way more into a low dose of mushrooms than tripping balls. For me, a low dose is a good way to connect with a close group of friends, notice more beauty in nature, reflect on the world, and just generally feel happy.”
“I went really introspective. I ended up bringing a notebook for my trip, which was a good idea. I scribbled, drew pictures, just whatever I could to get my thoughts down. I remember thinking in the moment that I had finally seen the truth for how to make myself become content in my own skin. When the trip was over and I looked back at my writing, most of it was incomprehensible. I had no idea what I was trying to say. It was a nice reset though and I think there were some key things I took away from my trip.”
“How long do magic mushrooms take to kick in and how long does a shroom high last?”
The high from magic mushrooms can take up to an hour to kick in and lasts between 4 – 6 hours depending on how much is taken, your body size, how much you’ve eaten, and whether you’ve had any other drugs. The aftereffects can last for up to 24 hours once the high is over.
“What class are magic mushrooms?”
In New Zealand, magic mushrooms are illegal to possess. Shrooms are categorised as Class A under the Misuse of Drugs Act. That means if you’re found in possession of mushrooms you can be sentenced to a maximum of 6 months imprisonment and/or $1,000 fine.
Supply, manufacture, importing or exporting can result in a maximum of life imprisonment.
It’s important to point out that our current drug class system does not reflect the actual harm caused by these drugs.
“What do shrooms taste like?”
The answer to this question is quite subjective, but we spoke to someone with a lot of experience using mushrooms, who said:
“Shrooms have a pretty earthy taste. Actually, more like dirt. They aren’t very nice, especially if you have them on their own.”
Another person we spoke to summed it up succinctly:
“How much is a magic mushrooms tea dose?”
No matter how you’re taking shrooms, it’s hard to dose magic mushrooms because different mushrooms could contain different levels of psilocybin. Some could be a lot stronger than others.
It’s best to start with a low dose and wait for at least an hour to see how you feel. You can always take more but can’t go back in time and take less.
You can also dry, grind and mix your shrooms to get a more reliable dose across an entire batch.
“Do magic mushrooms show up on drug tests?”
Shrooms can be tested for in hair, urine and blood. However, shrooms aren’t often tested for in routine drug testing as they can only be detected for a short period of time and tests can be costly and unreliable.
Psilocybin mushrooms are metabolised very quickly by the body, meaning that they are hard to test for. This may also mean that small or microdoses of these drugs are even harder to pick up with drug tests. It’s also important to remember that every person’s body is different and will process drugs differently.
It is thought that psilocybin mushrooms can be detected for about 24 hours in urine, only a few hours in blood and up to 90 days in hair. Some research says that you may need quite a large hair sample to get a reliable reading.
“Can you sleep while on shrooms?”
Most people report that they aren’t able to sleep while tripping on shrooms or any other hallucinogen. We spoke to someone who had this exact experience:
“One time I took mushrooms when I was camping. I didn’t have the experience I wanted so I went to my tent to go to bed. I couldn’t sleep but I did relax and have visuals inside my tent for a while. It was better to have that experience inside my tent instead of outside where the trees were coming for me.”
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