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What to Know About Shrooms Before Your City Decriminalizes Them

Psilocybin mushrooms are among the safest of all drugs — if you do them right

Though there are still parts of the country where not even medicinal marijuana use is legal, some particularly progressive cities are already way beyond weed. For cities like Denver, where recreational marijuana has been available since 2012, psilocybin mushrooms are the next frontier. Though magic mushrooms haven’t necessarily been hard to access while illegal, decriminalization in Denver, Oakland, Santa Cruz and Chicago potentially points to further availability over the next several years. 

So, what do you need to know to navigate a world where psilocybin-use is increasingly chill?

For starters, nobody has ever died from psilocybin mushrooms. Moreover, they send the fewest number of people to the emergency room each year compared to any other drug, and these visits are usually just the result of paranoia and “bad trip” anxiety. Basically, there’s little evidence that properly consuming psilocybin mushrooms has any negative physiological effects upon healthy people. 

The only real area for danger, beyond the psychological, is accidentally taking the wrong mushroom. Though some cities have decriminalized psilocybin, it isn’t yet available in regulated settings like marijuana dispensaries. But depending on where you procure your mushrooms, the risks of taking the wrong mushroom are pretty low, too. Growing psilocybin mushrooms is almost stupidly easy, and though illegal, psilocybin mushroom spores are widely available on various corners of the internet. Though there are a handful of psilocybin varieties, the most commonly consumed varieties are Psilocybe cubensis and Psilocybe semilanceata. When ready to ingest, both look like small, white to brown-capped mushrooms with long, thin stems. There are several guides online to properly identifying them, and people often take to drug forums on Reddit and Erowid for crowd-sourced assistance.

Dick Culbert, Wikimedia Commons

Obviously, it’s not foolproof. Psilocybin mushrooms do grow wild in several parts of the U.S., right alongside poisonous varieties. So rather than collecting them in nature, it might still be a better idea to procure them from someone with a more extensive knowledge of mushrooms — if for no other reason than to make sure they get you high.  After all, a study of a sampling of magic mushrooms purchased from the street found that around a third of them were totally ineffective or were actually regular mushrooms with LSD added to them. The good news is that none of the mushrooms surveyed were poisonous. It’s very unlikely that someone will sell you a poisonous mushroom, but you should still do your own research and calculate that risk for yourself. 

One of the only real risks of authentic mushrooms is that it might negatively impact your mental health. Psilocybin can exacerbate existing psychological conditions in some people, or at least cause them to have a bad time while tripping. Experts always recommend that anyone who takes mushrooms prepare their “set and setting” by going into the trip in a comfortable environment and with positive intentions, as well as having a sober individual nearby to offer assistance if needed. Microdosing may also help you ascertain whether taking a full dose is right for you in the future. 

Though psilocybin can cause anxiety and distress in some, it’s often used to help psychological conditions, as well. In clinical trials, it’s been found to be effective in treating anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder. Canada recently legalized psilocybin for terminal patients nearing the end of their life. Overall, psilocybin is thought to be therapeutic for those who use it safely, though it may be dangerous if you have specific health conditions or take medications like SSRIs. 

Psilocybin mushrooms are, altogether, a pretty low-risk drug. If you’re healthy, do your research and get yourself a good friend to hang out with you while you trip, you can feel relatively assured that you’re not gonna die. After all, nobody else has.