Fungi have flourished on Earth for quite a while, possibly more than 2 billion years. They’ve evolved some impressive tricks during that time, including many that are either fascinating or frightening to humans — and sometimes a bit of both.
And then there are magic mushrooms, also known as “shrooms.” These fungi are famed for their psychedelic effects on people who ingest them, an ancient practice dating back to prehistoric “mushroom cults” and shamans who may have inspired Santa Claus. Yet even after centuries of experience, we are only now demystifying many of the magical — and medicinal — powers these mushrooms possess.
Psychedelic fungi fall into two general categories, each characterized by a distinct mix of mind-altering ingredients that make their mushrooms “magic.”
The largest, most common group produces hallucinogens called psilocybin and psilocin and features more than 180 species from every continent except Antarctica. These diverse fungi hail from roughly a dozen genera, but are often lumped together as “psilocybin mushrooms.” Most belong to the genus Psilocybe, including well-known species like P. cubensis (“gold top”) and P. semilanceata (“liberty cap”).
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Californians might vote on whether to decriminalize the use of hallucinogenic mushrooms as early as 2018, under a newly proposed ballot measure.
The measure — which was filed on Friday (Aug. 25) with the state Attorney General’s office — would exempt people ages 21 and over from criminal penalties for using, possessing, selling, transporting or cultivating psilocybin, a hallucinogenic compound found in certain mushroom species.
The measure is not currently on the ballot — supporters need to get at least 365,880 signatures to qualify for the 2018 ballot, according to the Sacramento Bee, a newspaper in Northern California.
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Researchers recently published the results of a large survey they conducted with magic mushroom consumers, one in which they specifically looked for details about bad trips and their lasting effects.
The survey was recently published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, where it details the survey results of nearly 2,000 magic mushroom consumers. The researchers, who are with Johns Hopkins, specifically asked for individuals who experienced difficult or bad trips after consuming these mushrooms.
More than half of these ‘beneficial’ bad trip experiencers went on to say the difficult experience ultimately ranks among the top ten most valuable experiences they’ve ever had. Of those surveyed, 66% were from the U.S., 78% were men, 89% were white, and 51% were college educated.
There’s a note of caution among it all, though — of those surveyed, more than 7% said they had to seek treatment for ‘enduring psychological symptoms,’ three cases resulted in ‘enduring psychotic symptoms,’ and three cases resulted in an attempted suicide.