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Psilocybin mushrooms, also known as psychedelic or magic mushrooms, contain the alkaloid psilocybin and other related compounds. Psilocybin is a mind-altering substance. It changes the brain to an altered state of mind, or a different state of consciousness. This can lead to effects like hallucinations or visions. They can also be used for medical purposes to treat cluster headaches, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and certain kinds of depression.
Some people who use them later have psychological problems.
Psilocybin can kill in extremely high doses. The LD50 of psilocybin is 280 mg/kg for rats, this is about 1.5 times that of caffeine. In normal psychedelic mushrooms, psilocybin makes up about 1% of their weight. Therefore, nearly 1.7 kilograms of dried mushrooms, or 17 kilograms of fresh mushrooms, would be required for a 60 kg person to reach the 280 mg/kg LD50 rate of rats.
Psilocybin mushrooms have likely been used since prehistoric times and may have been depicted in rock art. Many cultures have used these mushrooms in religious rites. In modern Western society, they are used recreationally for their psychedelic effects.
The function of compounds like this in nature is they reduce the likelihood of the mushroom being eaten before its spores have been scattered. It is a defence against herbivory.
- Clusterbusters. "Psilocybin mushrooms" (html). http://www.clusterbusters.com/hallucinogens.html. Retrieved 2006-12-01.
- "Safety, tolerability and efficacy of Psilocybin in 9 Patients with obsessive-compulsive-disorder" (PDF). University of Washington. http://courses.washington.edu/psy202/Readings/Psilocybin%20for%20OCD.pdf.