Why injecting magic mushrooms can be fatal? Fungus grows in blood as man mainlines 'mushroom tea' into vein
Researchers said he boiled the mushrooms in water, filtered the liquid using a cotton swab before 'directly injecting' the solution into his veins
A 30-year-old man went into multiple organ failure a few days after he injected himself with a self-made “magic mushroom tea.” The case, reported by doctors from Creighton University School of Medicine, Phoenix, is regarding “Mr X,” who suffers from bipolar disorder and depression. He also has a history of opioid dependency.
According to researchers, he boiled the mushrooms in water, filtered the liquid using a cotton swab before “directly injecting” the solution into his veins. By doing so, he had hoped to relieve symptoms of bipolar disorder and decrease his opioid dependence. However, he ended up at the emergency department with fungus growing in his blood.
“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,” wrote authors in the Journal of the Academy of Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry..
The case study
The individual with type 1 bipolar disorder had stopped taking his medications and attempted to self-medicate with psilocybin instead. Magic mushrooms contain the psychedelic drug psilocybin. During a series of manic and depressive episodes, he had read about the potential therapeutic effects of hallucinogens, such as LSD and psilocybin mushrooms. This prompted him to brew the “mushroom tea.” Days later, the person became lethargic and started developing symptoms of jaundice. He developed diarrhea and started vomiting blood. He was rushed to the emergency room after family members found him in a confused state.
“History gathered from his family was remarkable for recent non-adherence with his prescribed psychotropics (risperidone and valproate) and subsequent cycling between depressive and manic states,' says the report. It adds, “He had reportedly been researching ways to self-treat his opioid dependence and depression. In his reading, he encountered reports of therapeutic effects of micro-dosing LSD and hallucinogenic psilocybin mushrooms prompting him to inject what he had named mushroom tea.”
Emergency medical personnel found that the patient was suffering from acute kidney dysfunction and liver injury, and he had started to go into multiple organ failure.
“Initial exam was remarkable for O2 saturation on room air of 92%, heart rate of 100, and blood pressure of 75/47. He was noted to be ill-appearing with dry mucous membranes, mild cyanosis of the lips and nail beds, and jaundiced skin. His abdomen was diffusely tender to palpation without rebound or guarding. He was grossly confused and unable to meaningfully participate in an interview,” the findings state.
A blood test revealed a bacterial infection. It also showed a fungal infection from Psilocybe cubensis (a species of psychedelic mushroom), which indicates that the magic mushroom had started growing in his veins. The patient was hospitalized for 22 days, where he had to be placed on a ventilator. He was administered antibiotics and antifungal medicine to kill the infections.
“He was treated for a total of 22 days in the hospital with eight of them in the ICU. At the time of writing, he is currently still being treated with a long-term regimen of daptomycin, meropenem, and voriconazole,” notes the team.
What’s the science behind magic mushrooms?
Hallucinogens are a diverse group of drugs that alter a person’s awareness of their surroundings as well as their own thoughts and feelings. Psilocybin comes from certain types of mushrooms found in tropical and subtropical regions of South America, Mexico and the US. Some common names for psilocybin include little smoke, magic mushrooms, and shrooms.
Last year, Oregon became the first US state to legalize psilocybin for mental health treatment in supervised settings at licensed centers. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has previously designated psilocybin as a “breakthrough therapy,” an action meant to accelerate the drug development and review process after clinical trials found psilocybin to be a promising therapy for treatment-resistant anxiety and depression.
According to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), psilocybin mushrooms are ingested orally. They may also be brewed as a tea or added to other foods to mask their bitter flavor. “Psilocybin is a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning that it has a high potential for abuse. The psychological consequences of psilocybin use include hallucinations and an inability to discern fantasy from reality. Panic reactions and a psychotic-like episode also may occur, particularly if a user ingests a high dose,” cautions the DEA.
In a November 2020 study involving adults with major depression, Johns Hopkins Medicine scientists reported that two doses of the psychedelic substance psilocybin, given with supportive psychotherapy, produced rapid and large reductions in depressive symptoms, with most participants showing improvement and half of study participants achieving remission through the four-week follow-up.
In 2016, Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers first reported that treatment with psilocybin under psychologically supported conditions significantly relieved existential anxiety and depression in people with a life-threatening cancer diagnosis. The latest analysis indicates that psilocybin may be effective in a much wider population of patients who suffer from major depression than previously appreciated.
“Results of this randomized clinical trial demonstrated the efficacy of psilocybin-assisted therapy in producing large, rapid, and sustained antidepressant effects among patients with major depressive disorder (MDD). These data expand the findings of previous studies involving patients with cancer and depression as well as patients with treatment-resistant depression by suggesting that psilocybin may be effective in the much larger population of MDD. Further studies are needed with active treatment or placebo controls and in larger and more diverse populations,” the investigators conclude.