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Side Order of Mushroom-Fried Brains, Anyone?

answered 01:13 PM EST, Sat June 15, 2013
Can magic mushrooms fry your brain the way LCD can?

Dr. Richard Schultz Says...

Hello, and thank you very much for addressing this question to me.  I apologize for the delay in responding, however, I suppose I was a bit befuddled by your suggestion that a large screen television could induce a psychedelic trip.

Okay, sorry, just busting your chops a bit for referencing "LCD" in your question, versus "LSD," which I am assuming, and hoping, you meant.  Feel free to let me know if my assumption is incorrect.

Questions about the potentially harmful neurobiological effects of LSD, mushrooms, or other hallucinogenic substances, and their frequency or severity, have been posed to the scientific and mental health communities for a great many decades.  I will cut to the chase by saying the jury is still out regarding the absolute danger or degree of safety in ingesting any such substances.  This is partly the case due to the sheer complexity involved in making any generalizable statements regarding the interaction of widely varying users and widely varying substances.  I believe it will be useful to quote from my response to another very recent question on this topic:

"It is indeed true that the use of hallucinogenic substances (i.e. mushrooms, LSD, Ecstasy) can cause lasting changes in the neurobiological system. These can manifest as symptoms of psychosis, depression or anxiety that recur even when one is not using any mind-altering substance at all. The incidence of such phenomena are relatively low, are not particularly well-measured, nor are their pathways fully understood.  Lasting psychological and behavioral impact from hallucinogen use is far more common than biological insult, however, and interactions between the two are also quite possible" (read more from: Did Shrooms Fry My Brain Or Is It Just Anxiety?).

Another few reasons why reliable and valid findings about the effects of hallucinogens on humans are difficult to come by are primarily methodological.  Obviously, the Institutional Review Boards that govern research with human subjects would never approve such studies due to their inherent risks and the criminalized legal status of the substances.  Also, animal analogues would be of limited generalizability due to the uniqueness of the human cerebral cortex, which is also likely to be the area of greatest impact in the use of hallucinogens. 

Ultimately, you cannot be given any assurance, from any medical, mental health or neuroscience professional, that the use of any illicit substance with hallucinogenic or mood or perception-altering proerties, will not harm or "fry" your brain in a lasting manner.  The safest course of action is therefore to reduce or eliminate your use of such substances, and/or to stay with what you know and have experience with, versus branching out and experimenting with new or different substances.  Even if you were to take the latter suggestion, I should mention that your neurobiological, psychological and cognitive responses to the existing drug repertoire is also likely to undergo change across time as your brain ages and your neural processes and connections shift.  The only constant is change.

Thank you again for your question and I hope that some of what I have written has been useful to you.  And do watch out for that television!


Richard E. Schultz, Ph.D.





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Page last updated Jun 15, 2013

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