Psilocybin is naturally-occurring hallucinogen that’s found in some types of wild mushrooms. Those “magic mushrooms” or “shrooms” can give a user a transcendent experience that is difficult to describe to anyone who hasn’t experienced it. While the short term effects of shrooms can be profound and obvious, less is known about the potential long term effects of shrooms.
Long Term Effects of Shrooms on the Brain
There haven’t been many recent studies on the effects of shrooms, mostly because they are considered illegal substances with no medical purpose. Because of this, it’s difficult to say what the long term effects of shrooms on the brain really are. The experience of tripping, especially a bad trip, can trigger feelings of depression, anxiety, or psychosis in extreme cases. It’s unknown whether the psilocybin causes those symptoms or whether mental illness was already present.
There have been a handful of studies, however, that suggest shrooms could cause positive long term effects on the brain. One study showed that psilocybin caused long term, and perhaps permanent, changes to a user’s personality by making them more open to new experiences and more empathetic. Another study showed that shrooms helped lessen the depression and anxiety of terminal cancer patients for at least several months after taking them. It’s important to note that these studies were performed in very controlled environments to minimize the risk of a bad trip as much as possible.
Another possibility is flashbacks. People who have used shrooms might experience flashbacks in which they feel the physical or mental effects of taking shrooms suddenly and without ingesting them. Oftentimes stress or other substances can initiate flashbacks. Very rarely, some people may develop Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD) in which flashbacks are chronic. It’s unknown why some people have flashbacks or HPPD and others don’t.
Long Term Effects of Shrooms on the Body
The physical long term effects of shrooms are also elusive. It is known that the more psilocybin a person ingests, the more of a tolerance they build up to it. If a person takes enough shrooms in a short period of time, they will stop feeling any effects from them at all until they stop ingesting them for at least several days. Physical addiction does not occur, but psychological addiction is a possibility.
Another physical risk of taking mushrooms is poisoning if the wrong shrooms are taken. If a person ingests poisonous shrooms by accident they can have many bad side effects. A potential lasting side effect of taking toxic mushrooms is liver damage, which could be fatal.
Most of the long term physical effects of shrooms are related to decisions a person made while tripping. Because shrooms can lower inhibitions and increase feelings of euphoria, a person might take bigger risks, like attempting dangerous physical feats or having unprotected sex. Injuries, broken bones, and STDs could affect a person long after their trip is over.
Every individual can experience different short and long term effects of shrooms. There are many factors that can influence the effects a person feels, such as their weight, environment, expectations, brain chemistry, pre-existing conditions, or medications taken.