Using any kind of drug comes with some inherent risks, but there’s no denying some drugs are safer than others. According to this year’s Global Drug Survey, munching on magic mushrooms is one of the safest ways to trip.
The survey, led by Dr. Adam Winstock, Dr. Monica Barratt, Dr. Jason Ferris, and Dr. Larissa Maier, found that out of more than 12,000 people from 50 different countries who said they took magic mushrooms last year, only 0.2% of them reported seeking medical treatment. Other heavier recreational drugs, like MDMA, LSD, and cocaine had medical treatment rates at least five times as much as that.
Magic mushrooms, or “shrooms,” are a variety of psilocybin fungi that contain psychedelic compounds like psilocybin, psilocin, and baeocystin. Eating them induces mind-altering effects like hallucinations, more vivid visuals, reality distortion, and the altering of time perception. Winstock, an addiction psychiatrist who helped found the Global Drug Survey, says magic mushrooms are one of the safest drugs in the world, and that death from toxicity is “almost unheard of.”
Still, curious minds hoping to taste colours and better understand the universe should still approach magic mushrooms with caution. The biggest risk with magic mushrooms is actually people picking and eating the wrong types of mushrooms, as many varieties of fungi are extremely toxic and offer no hallucinogenic effects. Besides, even if you do have the right type of mushroom, there have been reported cases of lasting panic attacks, anxiety disorders, and Winstock notes that taking magic mushrooms with alcohol and other drugs can cause unforeseen harm as well. Lastly, using the drug can cause erratic behaviour that leads to accidental injury, which is why regular users usually stay in familiar settings and do plenty of prep work to make sure everyone is safe and sound.
There are a few caveats here, however. It’s worth pointing out that this survey, although the largest of its kind, is self-reported and should be taken with a grain of salt. It’s possible people who admitted to taking magic mushrooms decided to not report their medical treatment. Also, the researchers point out that users of hallucinogenics are usually extra careful when they go about their business, so there may be something about being in the presence of trusted company, being in a familiar place, and having a watchful sitter that makes hospital visits more unlikely.
That being said, magic mushrooms appear to be relatively safe so far when you compare them to other, more dangerous drugs, and this isn’t the first time the science community has suggested it. There might be something magic about these mushrooms after all.