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“Magic” Mushrooms: Menacing or Medicinal?

November 17, 2022

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You may have heard about recent studies on the medicinal benefits of hallucinogenic mushrooms (sometimes referred to as ”shrooms”) for certain mental health issues. But do the negative side effects outweigh the potential benefits?

Psilocybin is the chemical compound responsible for the psychedelic effects of certain mushrooms. According to Medical News Today, it has recently been proven as an effective treatment for cases of cluster headaches, depression and certain types of anxiety. Oregon became the first state to legalize the compound for therapeutic use in 2020.

At the same time, recreational use of the drug can have some nasty side effects. These can include intense feelings of paranoia, anxiety, and panic as well as physical side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and dizziness. “Bad trips” are fairly common and can be worsened by the user’s mental health.

Although psilocybin is not physically addictive, long-term side effects can still be detrimental. Some users experience “flashbacks” (officially known as Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder) in which hallucinations and other effects of the drug can last for weeks, or even months after the original dose is taken.

In teens, potential side effects of hallucinogenic mushrooms are much more extreme. Teens are more likely to develop or worsen mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks and even schizophrenia after using mushrooms. There is also a higher chance of experiencing a “psychological overdose,” which can include symptoms such as psychosis and extreme paranoia.

One thing experts are unsure of is how big of a problem psilocybin use actually is. Studies on the use of the chemical are sparse, and even more so for teens. According to a 2014 study by the American Addiction Center, approximately 136,000 (or 0.5%) people between the ages of 12-17 reported currently using hallucinogens, but the study was focused on hallucinogens as a whole and not psilocybin specifically. A 2017 survey published by Statista showed that 6.6% of American high school students had used some type of hallucinogen at least once in their lives.

So are the potential benefits worth the potential side effects? For adults, that answer may be yes, as the therapeutic and medical benefits have been studied more extensively. But for teens, the risks of developing major psychological damage from hallucinogenic mushroom use are much higher, and the potential damage more extreme, plus the impact of magic mushrooms on developing brains can be irreversible. In addition, there are other types of mushrooms which could be mistaken for psychedelic mushrooms, but could actually kill you. So “shrooms” are one trend which it may be best for teens to skip. For more information on the effects and risks of psilocybin visit https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/308850#what-is-psilocybin or https://deserthopetreatment.com/hallucinogens/psychedelic-mushroom-addiction/long-term-side-effects/

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