Can you overdose on magic shrooms or magic truffles?

Tell your granny that you take magic truffles, and she will probably worry that you might die from an overdose. After all, the newspapers are full of horror-stories about people who take drugs and end up having their stomachs pumped in the hospital, or worse. Of course, you are well aware of the fact that alcohol and tobacco are among the most lethal substances out there – and that truffles are not your average ‘drug’. But how to convince your granny that her worries are unfounded? Here are some reassuring words about the real dangers of consuming psilocybin truffles.

Toxicity of magic truffles

An overdose happens when a toxic amount of a substance overwhelms the body and causes injury or death. The psychoactive component in truffles, psilocybin, has an extremely low toxicity. Lower than aspirin. The median lethal dose (LD50) of orally administered psilocybin is 280 milligrams per kilogram in rats. (Aspirin: 200 mg/kg.) This would mean that a person weighing 70 kilos would need to consume 19.6 grams of pure psilocybin in order to reach the LD50. Let’s say truffles contain 0.3% psilocybin on average. (The precise percentage of psilocybin in fresh truffles depends on the species.) In order to ingest almost 20 grams of psilocybin, you’d need to eat your body weight – roughly 70 kilograms – in truffles. Good luck! Eating that much broccoli in one session is just as lethal.

Heroic dose

To put things in perspective: the so called ‘heroic dose’ of (fresh) truffles is around 45 grams. Such a high dose seems to be the maximum that our brains and minds can process. With a heroic dose you will travel to the void – not knowing who you are, where you are and how you got there. Going beyond a heroic dose makes no sense. It wouldn’t add anything to the experience.A small side-note here: LD50 results may be misleading due to the physiological differences between (lab)rats, and humans. However, other than a few people with preexisting medical conditions, there are no reports of any deaths due to psilocybin. So it’s safe to conclude that truffles have an extremely low toxicity. Another side note: accidents can happen when people mistake poisonous species for psilocybin mushrooms. But of course, you can reassure your granny that you don’t go digging for truffles in the forest – but that you buy them from a reputable store. Or that you grow your own mushrooms safely at home from a grow-kit.

Bad trip

So we have established that psilocybin truffles are not toxic. There is no risk of a physical overdose. Good news for granny! But there is a catch. All psychedelics, truffles included, carry the risk of causing psychological distress. They can cause anxiety, panic and all the physiological symptoms that accompany them: heart palpitations, sweating, nausea, trembling, confusion and intense fear that you might be dying. These effects are commonly known as a ‘bad trip’. Is a bad trip the same as a (psychological) overdose? The short answer is: no. It is more complex than that. It’s important to realize that a ‘bad trip’ can occur with any dosage. Although the likeliness of it happening is much greater with higher doses – especially when they are in the ‘heroic dose’ range. That’s why it’s not recommended to take heroic doses unless you are very experienced.

Set, setting & dose

This is the moment to explain your granny about set, setting and dose. Yes: dose does influence the outcome of your trip. But it’s not the only factor. Set and setting are just as important. It’s possible to take a very high, “heroic” dose in a setting where you feel extremely safe (let’s say under supervision of a therapist in a hospital) and not feel any anxiety during your trip. But it’s also possible to feel scared or paranoid on a low dose, when taken in a setting where you don’t feel comfortable – such as a party where you hardly know anyone. So, whenever taking any psychedelic, make sure the set and setting are appropriate for the dose. Even a little bit of psilocybin can be too much if you are not in the right mindset or environment. Finally, it’s also important to realize that different types of truffles vary in strength. Always inform yourself about strength and recommended dosage of the particular truffles you want to take.

Respect

Psilocybin truffles are powerful tools. As with any tool, responsible handling is required to ensure safety and a good outcome. If you have a personal or family history of psychotic disorders, it is highly recommended that you do not take psychedelics. If you have no such genetic disposition, psychological risks can be minimized by taking care of set, setting and dose. When treated with respect, truffles are not dangerous. So, your granny can rest assured: you’re more likely to die from an overdose of water than from an overdose of truffles.
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