The world often seems to be split into those who fear psychedelics, and those who have actually tried them. In the case of magic mushrooms, a literal wave of research that shows their healing potential is turning the heads of people who would never have considered using them before. More folks than ever are keen to experience their trippy effects. However, the pernicious myths still pervade: psychedelics will make you crazy — you’ll never stop tripping — you’ll become paranoid — ‘cracked’ for the rest of your life! 

Those who have actually delved into the psychedelic world know that this is not the case. But there are many people who have never dared to delve themselves, often due to some version of the fearmongering we listed above. Now however, a new study has been published that puts paid to the War-on-Drugs era propaganda machine. Let’s go bust some myths!

Studying Psilocybin Safety

The study, published in JAMA Psychiatry just last month, was carried out by researchers at University of Georgia, Larkin University and Palm Beach Atlantic University. It involved a meta-analysis of double blind clinical trials which explored psilocybin (from magic mushrooms) as a treatment for depression and anxiety. These studies ranged in date from 1966 and 2023. 

While the study noted some expected adverse effects from psilocybin therapy for depression and anxiety, the researchers did not find an association with paranoia and transient thought disorder. 

The authors introduced their research;

“Psilocybin has been studied in the treatment of depression and anxiety disorders… Clinical studies have mainly focused on efficacy, with systematic reviews showing favorable efficacy; however, none have primarily focused on psilocybin safety.”

The analysis they carried out included six studies with a total of 528 participants. To assess the adverse effects of therapeutic doses of psilocybin for depression and anxiety, the researchers evaluated studies, including randomized clinical trials which compared psilocybin with a placebo or another comparator. Additionally, they grouped trial doses into categories of low (1-3 mg), moderate (10-20mg) and high (20-30mg), based on previous clinical data. 

Confounding the stereotype that magic mushrooms and other psychedelics cause psychosis or mental health breakdowns, the study authors noted that psilocybin was “not associated with the risk of paranoia and transient thought disorder,” which is indicated by the sudden onset of psychotic symptoms.

Nausea and Headaches Noted

There were two adverse effects reported in all six studies, which were a headache (with the prevalence ranging from 2% to 66%), and nausea (4% to 48%). Anxiety was documented in three of the studies (with a 4% to 26% incidence rate). 

Photo by Sander Sammy on Unsplash

Although these adverse effects were recorded, they are also expected in psilocybin treatment, and not largely different to what is experienced when an individual takes an SSRI antidepressant. They are often short in duration and do not affect the overall healing experience of the psychedelic therapy itself. The researchers wrote;

“A summary of the acute adverse effects of psilocybin in treating depression and anxiety is needed for healthcare professionals to identify expected adverse effects and provide effective patient counseling,” researchers note in their discussion. “… The results overall suggest a statistically significant incidence of headache, nausea, anxiety, dizziness, and elevated blood pressure… Given the psilocybin mechanism of action, these adverse effects are expected as they are similar among serotonergic antidepressants.”

The study did note that there were 3 cases of paranoia in the high dose category, which although worth further exploration, does not constitute a link. The researchers also highlighted the presence of a therapist or facilitator in all the studies, which may have helped to prevent any complications escalating. 

‘Tolerable Acute Adverse Effects”

The authors wrote;

“In this systematic review and meta-analysis, therapeutic doses of psilocybin appeared to produce tolerable acute adverse effects that typically resolved within 24 to 48 hours…”

Those who have experience with magic mushrooms will know that mildly discomforting effects are not uncommon, especially during the ‘come-up’ period. Nausea, headaches, or even excessive yawning, are the annoying but fleeting symptom that for some people indicates their psychedelic journey has begun. They are important to be informed about, but do not derail the transformative magic of a shroom trip. 

Research has shown that hospitalizations over psilocybin use is extremely rare, and the most common negative symptoms related to psilocybin use were due to an already existing negative mindset, environment, or mixing different substances, ultimately being rectified within 24 hours. 

Psilocybin-containing magic truffles

Knowledge is Power in the Psychedelic World

This knowledge, paired with the new confirmation that magic mushrooms do not cause paranoia or psychosis, means that today people can approach their psychedelic experience in a real and clear-eyed manner. For some people, the act of the ‘establishment’ that once warned them about the dangers of psychedelics now advocating their benefits will encourage exploration. For others, the cold scientific facts that bust the psychedelics-make-you-crazy myth will be the invitation to take the plunge. 

In today’s world many people are curious about psychedelics, whether for recreational, therapeutic, or spiritual reasons. If busting the old myths helps people feel confident and empowered to explore their own psychedelic path, then this can only be a good thing. And if anyone hits you with old myths — why not share the knowledge?