The most obvious outcome of eating magic mushrooms is a memorable and mind-expanding trip. However, like anything with that kind of power, a few side effects are inevitable. With some planning and preparation, most of these undesirable outcomes can be managed or eliminated entirely. In some regards, a side effect for some might be desirable for others—uncontrollable giggles is the best example.
What to expect from magic mushrooms
Psilocybin shares a chemical structure that is very similar to the neurotransmitter serotonin. After eating magic mushrooms, the influx of serotonin-like molecules tricks the brain into exciting the pathways related to happiness, well-being, cognition, and learning. The result is a “psychedelic trip” and distortions of perception, time and space.
Writers have been trying to describe the nature of a trip for centuries, with varying degrees of success. The great, late Ram Dass—a father of the ‘60s psychedelic renaissance—tries to explain with a metaphor:
“…picture a guy on the floor, looking at some spilled Coca-Cola…It show(s) the people under drugs became so trivial, and their minds became so caught in nothing…It show(s) this person was seeing that in everything there is everything. That in the spilled drop of Coca-Cola is the entire universe.”
Common physical side effects of magic mushrooms
Setting aside the mystical—and deeply personal—experience of the trip itself, there are some physical effects than can easily be explained. Most are fleeting and temporary, rarely lasting more than an hour or two.
Magic mushrooms contain more than just psilocybin. In fact, the active compound usually comprises only 2% of the weight of dried shrooms. While the science is still underway to identify other compounds, something in the mix has the potential to provoke nausea. For those who are sensitive, preparing a mushroom tea is often the best way to reduce this side effect.
While tiredness or sluggishness are rare—mushrooms are generally energizing—some people may be afflicted by frequent yawning at some point during a trip. The side effect is rarely more than annoying, but those around you might misinterpret the sign as boredom. Simply being aware of the possibility is enough to ensure no one feels hurt through misinterpretation.
Giggles and laughter
Given the energizing nature of magic mushrooms and the massive influx of serotonin into your brain, happiness and laughter are inevitable. This is rarely considered a side effect, but may cause trouble if discretion is required.
Distortions of time and space are defining aspects of a psychedelic trip. Preparing a safe setting, avoiding stairs, and ‘babyproofing’ your space are simple measures that you can take to reduce risk.
The only semi-permanent, physical effect on the brain is the creation of tolerance to serotonergic compounds after a psilocybin trip. If a similar dose is taken within 10 to 14 days of the first trip, a significantly reduced experience is to be expected. Further, under certain conditions—like those taking anti-depressants—there might be other factors that give you an underwhelming experience.
Education and preparation aren’t required before taking magic mushrooms. However, they are suggested to make the most of the experience and to limit any potential for discomfort or risk.