The Healing Powers of Magic Mushrooms


People taking mushrooms in 2016 needed medical treatment less than for MDMA, LSD and cocaine, while one of the riskiest drugs was synthetic cannabis. Mushrooms are the safest of all the drugs people take recreationally, according to this year’s Global Drug Survey. Of the more than 12,000 people who reported taking psilocybin hallucinogenic mushrooms in 2016, just 0.2% of them said they needed emergency medical treatment – a rate at least five times lower than that for MDMA, LSD and cocaine.

“Magic mushrooms are one of the safest drugs in the world,” said Adam Winstock, a consultant addiction psychiatrist and founder of the Global Drug Survey, pointing out that the bigger risk was people picking and eating the wrong mushrooms.


“Death from toxicity is almost unheard of with poisoning with more dangerous fungi being a much greater risk in terms of serious harms.”



Global Drug Survey 2017, with almost 120,000 participants in 50 countries, is the world’s biggest annual drug survey, with questions that cover the types of substances people take, patterns of use and whether they experienced any negative effects. Overall, 28,000 people said they had taken magic mushrooms at some point in their lives, with 81.7% seeking a “moderate psychedelic experience” and the “enhancement of environment and social interactions”

In some cases people can experience panic attacks and flashbacks, he added, so his advice for people thinking about taking them is to plan “your trip carefully with trusted company in a safe place and always know what mushrooms you are using”. Even bad trips can have positive outcomes, according to a separate piece of research carried out by Roland Griffiths and Robert Jesse at John Hopkins Medicine. In their 2016 paper they surveyed almost 2,000 individuals about their single most psychologically difficult or challenging experience with magic mushrooms. Of that group, 2.7% received medical help and 7.6% sought treatment for enduring psychological symptoms. Nevertheless 84% of those surveyed said they benefitted from the experience. “In a way, it’s not really so surprising,” said Griffiths in a Q&A about the paper. “When we look back on challenging life events we wouldn’t choose, like a bout with a major disease, a harrowing experience while rock-climbing, or a painful divorce, sometimes we feel later that the difficult experience made us notably stronger or wiser. We might even come to value what happened.”



Outside of recreational use, magic mushrooms have been shown in clinical trials to treat severe depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Of the almost 10,000 LSD consumers who took part in GDS 2017, around 1% of them – 95 individuals – reported seeking emergency medical treatment, five times more than those who took magic mushrooms.





There is no known lethal dose for LSD or pure psilocybin. Both Winstock and Burge said that the findings indicate a need for drug policy reform, with a focus on shifting psychedelics off the schedule one list of the most dangerous controlled substances. “Drug laws need to balance the positives and problems they can create in society and well crafted laws should nudge people to find the right balance for themselves,” said Winstock. “People don’t tend to abuse psychedelics, they don’t get dependent, they don’t rot every organ from head to toe, and many would cite their impact upon their life as profound and positive. But you need to know how to use them.” 

Article originally appeared on the Guardian



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