Courtesy of Godoy Medical Forensics
Users can come to the attention of the legal system due to possession, intoxication, or criminal behavior that occurred after ingestion of the mushrooms. The active drug in these mushrooms is called psilocybin, which is chemically related to Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD). It has a long history of being used in religious rituals in Mexico and Central America. Users are typically teenagers and young adults and it is not known to cause physical dependency. Many users attempt to gather mushrooms themselves, leading to dire results as misidentification of mushrooms can have serious consequences. In this way, poisonous mushrooms have been mistakenly ingested by users resulting in illness and death.
Psilocybin is taken orally. It can be ingested in food, dried, eaten fresh, or brewed in tea (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2009). The drug produces psychotic symptoms similar to those seen in schizophrenia. The user may feel that they are in a dream state; their sense of time is distorted. Perceptions—such as sight, sound, and touch—may seem to blend together. Thinking is impaired and the user cannot distinguish fantasy from reality. Of particular interest to criminal attorneys is that users do not have the ability to act with intention or determine right from wrong when in a psychotic state induced by psilocybin ingestion. Users have been known to act violently towards themselves or others after using psilocybin.
“Bad Trip”: Psilocybin Adverse Reaction
When someone uses a hallucinogen and experiences anxiety, paranoia, and a panic reaction, it is called a “bad trip.” It is difficult to predict who will have a “bad trip” because individual response to drugs vary and can be dose-dependent. A group of people may be partying with psilocybin and some may have a bad reaction while others do not. The best predictor of who will have an adverse reaction is a history of having a “bad trip” in the past. Treatment of an adverse reaction is usually supportive, with a quiet, low-stimulation environment. Sometimes, medications (benzodiazepines) may be administered to control extreme agitation or seizures (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2009).