Magic Mushrooms…Poisonous?


Dear Mary,

I was talking about my magic mushroom experiences with a friend the other day and he said the hallucinations you get are from food poisoning.  This sounds a little farfetched, but I had no evidence to prove him wrong.  Who’s right?



Dear Anonymous,

You are.  While there are many deadly mushrooms varieties like the notorious “Death Cap” (Amanita palloides) and green-spored lepiota–magic mushrooms are not toxic to humans.  In fact, the active compound, psilocybin, is considered to be less toxic than both aspirin and nicotine by the National Institute For Occupational Safety And Heath.

As anyone who has had food poisoning can tell you, it is a highly unpleasant (and sometimes fatal) experience.  Food poisoning is caused by contamination of foods by harmful bacteria like Salmonella and E. Coli.  Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, intestinal cramping and–occasionally–hallucinations.  The euphoria, giddiness and other pleasurable effects of magic mushrooms are simply not a part of the food poisoning experience.

That’s not to say that taking magic mushrooms is perfectly safe.  The greatest risk is mis-identification, or mistaking poisonous mushrooms for the psilocybin variety.  To prevent this catastrophe, never attempt to pick wild mushrooms yourself and avoid taking mushrooms picked by others.

Your Friend & Fellow Fungal Fetishist,

Mary M.



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