Are Magic Mushrooms Dangerous?


On the Winter Solstice – a very special moment in the year from an energy standpoint – I and three others took part in a magic mushroom Ceremony. All of a sudden, in a completely unexpected manner, I understood that which is the greatest risk one faces when taking a strong psychedelic substance. I already had everything necessary at my disposal to realise it, but until that moment I hadn’t made the connection – and when it was finally revealed to me, I had no choice but to understand. Once the experience had ended, my first thought was that I ought to share this information with anyone who was interested in understanding magic mushrooms. Writing about it also aids the process of integration, of course – a subject which my book explores in great depth.

The structure of reality

In answer to the question of whether mushrooms are dangerous, I cannot give a simple yes or no, because both are correct. Why is that? Well, it depends on who’s posing the question and which “layer” of reality the question is referring to (“layers” being the different levels which compose our realities). To clarify, let me give you an example: two people are talking with one another. In that moment their reality is composed of many coexisting and interacting layers – i.e. physical, emotional and mental; the type of rapport between them (whether they be parents, friends, colleagues, lovers, etc.); the exchange of ideas; and unconscious dynamics (such as projections, systemic social relations, suggestions, hierarchies of weakness and strength, etc).

All the possible distinguishable layers are too numerous to list here. Every one of them is connected to every other and helps us understand how each can represent something as simple as a chat between two people in an entirely unique way.

The subject

The answer to the question of whether mushrooms are dangerous can be different for each level. But more importantly, the correct answer for one person can be completely wrong for another, and so the yes and the no are both correct responses – or both entirely incorrect. Every case requires individual evaluation; generalisation is not an option. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that a mushroom is dangerous in any case just because it is psychoactive or that what I’m writing is simply mental gymnastics. Really, this reasoning can be applied to any substance we introduce to our bodies. I repeat: the humble peanut is, until proven otherwise, more dangerous than magic mushrooms, having caused many more deaths.

The real danger for everyone

But there is a big risk linked to magic mushroom use to which the answer is always yes. It is specific and well-defined and applies to absolutely everyone. The motives for exercising caution and care when working with mushrooms are many, but this is the most pertinent by far. Read the following very carefully, because misunderstanding or overlooking this particular danger is easily done, and it takes place much more frequently than you might imagine. When it happens to you, you’ll understand the importance of having people you trust around you (preferably people who are competent and prepared to work with mushrooms). During their first experience, for example, everyone should have a sitter. If problems arise, you will appreciate their presence infinitely.

What’s real anyway?

The fact of the matter is this: you are under the influence of psychedelics, but you’re certain that the effects have not yet kicked in or, alternatively, are not sure whether they have run their course. In that moment, you’re under the impression that you are lucid and “normal”, but that is not the case: the effect of magic mushrooms is there but simply not being perceived. Sounds strange, I know, but that’s how it is.

It doesn’t sound like much, yes, but the potential consequences of this misunderstanding can be dangerous. The person in question makes decisions and acts with conviction under conditions that are totally removed from those appropriate to shared reality (i.e. the conditions of ordinary states of consciousness). In particular, be cognizant of the fact our sense of reality is always completely subjective, even in quotidian life and unaltered states of consciousness – but psilocybin highlights this to the user, perfectly overlapping the perception of reality and amplifying small specific aspects of it. To you, what you’re perceiving might be “ordinary” reality, but be careful not to assume.

This difficult situation a person can find themselves in is hard to sum up in words, and it can be difficult for the people around them too. Allow me to clarify a little by giving you a few examples of situations I’ve witnessed myself or have been made aware of.

A few examples

You’re already under the influence, but you think it’s finished or believe you’ve reached a state of lucidity. And so you decide to drive home, ignoring the advice of the people around because what they’re telling you conflicts with what you believe.

You have taken a heroic dose (5 grams) but after an hour you feel that nothing’s happened. You then decide to up the quantity, consuming more grams still. At that point, the effect rises to vertigo-inducing heights – as does your fear. You are convinced that you’ve gone too far and start to feel sick. Then the moment comes when you think you’re going to die, certain that your time is up.

Or you take, perhaps, a normal dose. The effect comes on, then comes down. The effect of mushrooms is often characterised as waves, always in a state of undulation. At times, it seems to be passing, then before long it becomes even more intense than before. But in the moment in which it drops you think you’re finished – paranoid thoughts begin to spark in your mind and you get the feeling that the others are conspiring against you because they’ve been possessed by demons or shadow creatures. And this appears as plain fact to you because, after all, you’ve seen it.

Similarly to the movement of the effect as it comes in waves, at a certain point one becomes unquestionably depressed. You see that life has no meaning, that nothing has a purpose, that everything you do is useless in the context of the vastness of the universe. You sink into a severe crisis in which – convinced that you’re seeing everything with clarity – death seems the only escape. In that moment this great pain becomes so intense that having found a way out, it manifests itself in a crack in the wall of the house right before your eyes!

Lastly, in the midst of an intense experience it seems normal to get naked and try to scale the garden fence and run to meet the sun. Except that on the other side all you’ll find is farmland and farmers working the fields…

Psychosis?

I reckon that if presented with these cases, a therapist would discern the extremes of a psychotic episode. Not being a doctor myself, I cannot be sure, but I’d hazard a guess at that being the probable medical opinion.

Psychedelic means “mind manifesting”, so it makes sense that normal and well integrated people, both in the context of society and interpersonal relationships, can discover something profound under the effects of psychoactive substances or in particular emotional states. While the difference between neurosis and psychosis is a question for medical professionals, we can say with some certainty here that the neurotic can know they have a problem and remain in contact with our shared reality and the psychotic, conversely, loses contact with shared reality and is convinced they are completely fine. Everyone else might have problems, they think, and can often be considered allies, although paranoia is an element of psychosis. Neurosis is a psychological problem; psychosis almost always has some kind of organic origin (disrupted neurotransmitters for example).

The indispensability of Set & Setting

If you’ve already read my article on Set & Setting (which you can find HERE) you’ll be acquainted with the extraordinary importance of avoiding psychological or psychiatric problems if one wants to consume magic mushrooms. However, I want to make a specific point here to clarify. Not all psychological issues are dangerous in the same way in conjunction with mushrooms, but a few of them can pose a somewhat intense, or in some cases grave, danger. This is the case for those suffering from psychological conditions both manifest and latent, the latter being decidedly more insidious if it hasn’t been detected. You don’t know, let’s say, that you’re suffering from something and therefore you don’t know that psychedelics aren’t right for you. Assuming leads you to find yourself in a situation that’s ugly not only for you but for the people around you.

What should you do?

In the event of a situation like this, what should you do? I am not a doctor, but in a moment like this the most correct formal solution would be to take a tranquilizer, which would technically resolve your problem. However… The person in question, considering themselves completely sane, wouldn’t necessarily agree! A medical solution in this case could become necessary if there are grounds to worry over the person’s physical safety. In the absence of a medic, you should call for help – a lousy situation seeing as the substance in question is not legal – but safeguarding the health and safety of the person in crisis, and others around them, must be your first priority.

Prevention is the cure

The real solution to the problem is in its prevention – be that in the form of avoiding consuming a substance altogether, or, if you’re not sure whether you’d be at risk, taking a minor dose. This is why I recommend to absolutely everyone, both in this blog and in my book, to start with small doses. The issue of one’s individual tolerance for the substance aside, any eventual psychotic reactions (paranoia or disconnection from reality) will be shorter in duration and less intense, avoiding more severe problems which would arise upon consuming a major dose.

Pay attention to neuroses

Remember that psychotic reactions don’t manifest solely in pathologic subjects, or subjects who suffer from a disorder they are unaware of. If it does happen, and no one in the vicinity is in danger, the only thing to do is to wait for the effect to pass, reassuring the person and reminding them that they are under the effect of a psychedelic. Often, in fact, the subject doesn’t even remember having taken something.

Why does a psychotic reaction occur even in subjects not suffering from psychological disorders? The key word here is “psychedelic”. That is to say that the mushroom reveals a deeply hidden problem in the psyche. The phrase “let sleeping dogs lie” might come to mind, but this evokes another, but a more appropriate saying would be “burying one’s head in the sand”.

The last psychedelic voyage

My book talks about how an intense mushroom experience might resemble  the moment of death, in which we take a final deep plunge into ourselves. Our five senses withdraw from the phenomenal world, and so our awareness follows suit and is submerged within.

What will happen is simple: an unhindered experience of the self. Working with mushrooms is an important step to take if you want to experience this. Indeed, in my opinion, it can be a way to prepare for that inevitable moment. Having problems in the pathways of our psyche will not help when the time to die arrives.

The Tibetan Book of the Dead (or The Bardo Thodol) describes how the departed find themselves confronted with monsters, which are simply projections of that which lives inside them. So one could say that death itself is a kind of psychedelic experience too – the last which we will face in this life. If it’s your first time facing the monsters, it’ll be less easy than if you had done it before. Or maybe, at least…

(Don’t forget to click HERE to read some WARNINGS)

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DM Tripson

DM Tripson published his first short stories at the age of 15, sure that he would soon become a writer, but after a few decades spent doing something else he had given up. One day he discovered magic mushrooms, an extraordinary encounter of the kind that changes your life, in fact it is only with their help that he was able to write three books and dozens of posts on this blog!

10 thoughts on “Are Magic Mushrooms Dangerous?

  1. just coming down from a 14 gram dose looking to share experiences with anybody else to compare . this is my second extreme dose second time was definitely easier but still watching your entire world what we conceive as reality being taken apart and dragged from one plane to another

    1. Welcome! High doses of mushrooms are truly another world, very different from that of the more common doses under five grams. How are you now?

    2. Hello, Charlie

      How are You doing now and how has your worldview changed?

      Are You able to exist in the reality that you had before?

  2. I just spent two consecutive nights on doses
    That were unprecedented for me 4 and 7 respectively. I was in a safe space with a lot of support. On the first night, I was laughing uncontrollably and remained engaged with my friends. For the duration. On the second night I went to bed and sat in the darkness. Definitely a different experience, I remember hearing laughing circus clowns all around me. Always close, but never detectable. Not malevolent, but not kind either. Then, as if in a moment, dozens of scenes from films I had seen through my life came to me. I previously thought these films and scenes were “weird” or “strange” (I very specifically remember seeing the end of 2001), and I suddenly understood them as artistic representations of the moment I was experiencing.

    After that I was wrenched from the colors and sounds and transported to a cave with deafening silence only broken by echoing drips and whispers, then I walked through the cave where I stood on the edge of a precipice and saw, like a black river in a deep chasm, my “psychotic break.” I have been concerned for a while that I might have such a break, as there is a history of paranoid delusion in my family, but I remember feeling calm and relieved, like this break was revealed to me and I was given the opportunity to recognize it and choose sanity, like an evil monster’s mask was removed and all their agency was gone.

    After that I felt a lot of bodily sensations of tilting and falling, and I eventually woke up in bed feeling very peaceful, understanding, and calm. This perspective has remained with me now for 4 weeks.

    Has anyone experienced these events or symbols before? I feel very grateful for the experience.

    1. Hi Vince! I publish your testimony as it is, even if it’s not the ideal example of how to take shrooms. Why not?
      Family history of paranoid problems advises against the use of psychedelics.
      It seems that it went well for you, but those who did it wrong may not be here to tell it anymore.
      Be careful, I wish you all the best!

  3. I over indulged and took a way higher dose than I was ready for. I’m new to psychedelics so I hope that you guys will forgive me for not having the eloquence needed to put a lot of what I experienced into words. I started my trip feeling great. Elated. I took a long walk after work and spent some time drawing in this little park near my house.

    Then things started to get rough. I spent my entire walk home feeling like I was stuck in a time loop. It felt like it took me days to get home but in reality I hadn’t even been gone two hours. When I got home and sat in the dark and quiet for a while something snapped and my mind was suddenly overflowing my body. It wasn’t pretty. I stumbled into the shower and tried to center myself in the cold water but it eventually just turned into me throwing up while my mind thrashed about in my head trying to reassure itself that I would, eventually, be okay again.

    After spending what felt like hours puking in my shower and wondering if I was going to die, I realized that, at that particular moment wherever or whenever I was, I was okay. I filled up a gallon jug with water, grabbed a bag of apples from my fridge, and hunkered down in bed. I puked some more. There were moments where I was desperate for someone to talk to but I also felt like if anyone actually spoke to to me then my sanity would shatter. I was worried the entire time about whether or not I would die but what kept me going was my mind’s hunger for stimulation.

    Eventually things quieted down. The sun rose. I was amazed at how quiet my ordeal had been (other than all the puking). I kept wanting to scream and let my discomfort be known but a little voice in my mind kept telling me that I didn’t need to. If I hung on a bit longer then everything would be okay. Even now as I write this I’m amazed at how much I trusted myself to take care of myself.

    I’m currently sitting on my bathroom floor cleaning up puke. I feel like something was purged from my body last night that I’ve been hanging on to for a long time. It feels like I was finally able to face the fear that I’ve carried around with me my whole life without ever noticing it for what it was. I feel like I disassembled myself and trusted something higher than me to put me back together and I made it through. I’m proud of myself.

    1. Hi Sumac, very interesting your experience, I see confirmation that challenging experiences are the ones that give you the greatest gifts, it seems to me that your story tells just that! I can’t congratulate you on the set & setting, but instead I rejoice in your trust because that is what got you safely from start to finish. If there are no psychophysical contraindications – and you take care of the set & setting – then any experience will give you something good, your story confirms this.
      You rarely vomit with mushrooms, I too believe that you expelled something that it was time to let go of.
      Also to you if I may I would recommend reading my book on magic mushrooms, I am sure it will expand your relationship with these magical creatures. I wish you all the best!

  4. Hey:) Im from norway, so excuse my english! I wanted to share my experience (this was on 3,5g of psilocybin). Me and a friend of mine took 3,5g and was in his apartment watching some movies, and drawing some paintings. When about 2 hours into the trip we started going on this psychological trip, it was very emotional. We opened ourselves up like books and started reminiscing about our younger days in life. We realised we’ve done a friend of ours really bad, and ended up calling him, telling him we appreciate him and what not. Then after a little while we started thinking “What even is life” and what not. And started to think we had a bad trip.. we got a bad feeling about what our life had become, i mean we’re literally sitting in his basement in the darkness taking almost 4g of mushrooms each. We also get drunk alot together and smoke weed. We realised this is not the life we want to live. So we immediately after this trip put our life together, and support eachother 110% when it comes to this stuff. We both stopped with weed (unless its a special occasion)- we barely drink anymore. And we workout and eat healthy EVERYDAY. And because of the diet, training and healthy lifestyle- we both feel really good. The mushrooms are truly magic!

    – Love jan <3

    1. Dear Jan, thank you for your beautiful story! The magic of the mushrooms was to open your eyes and heart about your life, but without your decisions and actions nothing would have happened, just a magical experience easy to forget.
      Congratulations, keep up the good work, a big hug to both of you <3

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