Calls to poison centers about magic mushrooms have skyrocketed since a wave of decriminalization efforts for the drug took off less than five years ago.

The rate of calls coming from teens aged 13 to 19 more than tripled from 2018 to 2022, and three-quarters of exposures to psilocybin – the psychoactive chemical in magic mushrooms – required medical attention. 

Anyone can call the 1-800 poison control hotline which will connect them with one of the country’s 55 poison centers, which have experts on call at all times to give advice if someone has ingested something dangerous like a drug or household chemicals.   

The rate doubled among young adults in their 20s, with nearly the same share requiring help from a doctor, according to University of Virginia researchers.

The calls to poison centers were not limited to those in states where restrictions on the drug have been lifted, suggesting that the drug’s rising acceptance nationwide could be driving potentially dangerous use even where it’s illegal.  

Oregon and Colorado have decriminalized psilocybin, as have several cities, including Washington, D.C., Detroit and Seattle

Oregon and Colorado have decriminalized psilocybin, as have several cities, including Washington, D.C., Detroit and Seattle

The most common complaint from callers to poison centers was hallucinations, followed by agitation and abnormally fast heart beat

The most common complaint from callers to poison centers was hallucinations, followed by agitation and abnormally fast heart beat

Denver, Colorado, set the stage in May 2019 for a wave of efforts across the country to lift prohibitions on psilocybin, a growing subject of interest among scientists seeking new ways to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and severe depression in veterans.

While the psychedelic has shown promise in those arenas, it has not been tested in the young developing brains of children, who may be subject to lasting effects such as changes in brain structure, impaired cognition and emotion processing, increased risk of psychiatric disorders, and potential for addiction.

Doctors are concerned that children can get their hands on the drug despite a 21-and-over age restriction in those places where it has been decriminalized, adding that the compound comes in kid-friendly vehicles like chocolate and candy.

Calls from 13 to 19-year-olds surged from 152 to 464 in the period from 2018 to 2022, while calls from people 20 to 25 climbed from 125 to 294 over that period. 

By comparison, the number of psilocybin-related calls to poison centers for people ages 13 to 25 was largely unchanged between 2013 and 2018, the researchers found.

The sharp increase in children getting the drug was ‘particularly alarming’, the researchers said.

The most common effects were hallucinations or delusions, accounting for 37 percent of calls.

Agitation was the second most common reason, accounting for about 28 percent of calls, followed by abnormally fast heart rate at 20 percent. Sixteen percent of callers cited confusion.

Two deaths were linked to using psilocybin, but both people had also taken other drugs at the same time.

The main reason for their deaths was either fentanyl or a type of hallucinogenic amphetamine, with psilocybin playing a smaller role. 

Dr Rita Farah, the Blue Ridge Poison Center epidemiologist, said: ‘As psilocybin may become more widely available, it is important for parents to be aware that psilocybin is also available in edible forms such as chocolate and gummies.

‘And we learned from our experience with edible cannabis that young children can mistake edibles for candy.’

Oregon and Colorado have decriminalized psilocybin, as have several cities, including Washington, D.C., Detroit and Seattle.

Psilocybin has mind-altering effects by binding to serotonin receptors in the brain and upending their signaling pathways.

Activating receptors for serotonin, which is crucial for mood and emotion regulation, creates a cascade of neurological activity, including increasing the neurotransmitter glutamate, which is involved in learning and memory.

It also disrupts what is known as the default mode network, which involves mind wandering and introspection, which leads to alterations in consciousness and sense of self.

It also increases connectivity among different brain regions, which could explain the altered sensory experiences during a ‘trip’.

Dr Christopher Holstege, director of UVA Health’s Blue Ridge Poison Center and chief of the Division of Medical Toxicology at the UVA School of Medicine, said: ‘It is markedly concerning to me that children are gaining access to these products.

‘We have limited data on the potential long-term consequences on the developing brains of children when exposed to such compounds that impact the brain’s neurotransmission. 

He added: ‘We also do not understand fully why some individuals have markedly adverse complications to psilocybin, known as “bad trips,” that can lead to harm to the individual taking or others who may be victims of violent behavior.’

Small clinical trials have shown that low doses administered in a clinical setting, such as a therapist’s office, can have even more beneficial effects than standard antidepressants.

But a’ bad trip’ could be dangerous in an unregulated setting, such as in a person’s home alone or with friends. For instance, some people have been known to jump out of windows while under the influence.

You May Also Like

Abortions surge past record 250,000 in a single year, with experts blaming cost of living crisis forcing women to terminate pregnancies 'for purely financial reasons'

A record 252,122 abortions were recorded in England and Wales in 2022,…

Warning to 'never use this item with your shampoo despite what you see online'

Social media users are being urged to avoid following a popular trend…

It's been a year since I quit Ozempic after dropping 26lbs…here's what happened to my weight

Millions of Americans have successfully lost life-changing amounts of weight thanks to…

Doctor's warning as there's grim reason you should wash belly button every day

Belly buttons, if not properly cleaned, can harbour a horrid odour that…