Public service announcement: Nobody try this at home. Ever. Magic mushrooms aren’t all that magical when they send you to the emergency room—and worse.
A man who brewed a shroom concoction that he injected into his veins got him rushed to the ICU with life-threatening microbial and fungal infections. Turned out spores in his blood had started to grow into actual mushrooms, and his organs were starting to fail by the time he was in the hospital. In a horrible twist that seems to merge Alice in Wonderland with Creepshow, the mushrooms growing inside him started feeding off his body.
“The case reported…underscores the need for ongoing public education regarding the dangers attendant to the use of this, and other drugs, in ways other than they are prescribed,” said a team of doctors and researchers who recently published a report about the incident in Journal of the Academy of Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry.
Psilocybin is what makes the effects of hallucinogenic mushrooms so unearthly. If you’re wondering where the psychedelic aesthetics of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s came from, it was mostly from tripping on these and other not exactly legal things in the hookah-smoke haze of somebody’s hippie van. Your body converts the psilocybin in shrooms to the mind-altering chemical psilocin when they are ingested. Psilocybin and psilocin are otherwise known as psychedelic tryptamines, and the brain has receptors for serotonin, which psilocin can bind to because it is so similar. If you know the happiness boost serotonin is capable of, think of psilocin as serotonin on steroids.
This is why eating these mushrooms is supposed to send you to Wonderland or Never-Never Land or wherever else. However, this is also why hallucinogens like psilocybin are being explored as alternative psychiatric medicine, which explains the disastrous results of attempted self-medication.
The 30-year-old man who barely got away with his life only wants to identify as “Mr. X.” He had been previously treated for bipolar disorder, depression and opioid dependence, but had ditched his prescriptions in favor of trying to medicate himself. He then came across research about the possible benefits of psychedelics like psilocybin and LSD for someone with his conditions. Where he even got the idea or advice for the “mushroom tea” he injected remains unknown. After boiling Psilocybe cubensis down and filtering the liquid through a cotton-swab, he injected it and came down with symptoms that read like an epic case of food poisoning.
It wasn’t long before Mr. X started to feel disoriented and lethargic, and was soon suffering with diarrhea and vomiting up blood. Some days later, he was found jaundiced and incoherent by a family member who raced him to the hospital. He was starting to succumb to lung and kidney failure by the time he reached the ICU. Doctors who examined him realized that the spores in that deadly concoction had made it into his veins and started to grow into mushrooms. Veins supply organs with oxygenated blood. Because the fungi in his bloodstream ended up in every organ imaginable, they were literally eating him alive.
Mr. X pulled through, but only after 22 days in the hospital (eight of those spent in the ER) with an intense course of medication that included heavy antibiotics and antifungal drugs. He was still on antimicrobials when he was discharged.
This is why psilocybin from magic mushrooms is extracted if it is going to be used for any alternative treatments. Even eating them can be potentially fatal if not under the supervision of a medical professional. In 2018, a 15-year-old who consumed magic mushrooms experienced severe abdominal pain along with hypertension and nausea. His kidneys were failing. At least he only spent five days in the hospital and was not having his flesh and blood devoured by a killer fungus.
Though both this patient and Mr. X were able to recover, hallucinogenic fantasy worlds may not be the only place that shrooms could send you.