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l. The earliest published report of an intoxication from a suspected psilocybian mushroom in Australia occurred sometime prior to 1934. In 1934, Dr. John Burton Cleland, M.D., wrote that "......Some kind of toadstools give rise to a kind of intoxication. A former colleague of mine told me how his parents ate once a dish of mushrooms, and, as the meal progressed, they gradually became more and more hilarious, the most simple remarks giving rise to peals of laughter. The intoxication passed off without any further unpleasant effects."
Cleland further noted that the mushrooms ingested were probably a dung inhabiting species; probably Panaeolus.
2. In 1941, a number of mushroom poisonings resulting from fungal ingestions of what were believed to be Panaeolus ovatus but was probably Copelandia cyanescens occurred in the Northern Rivers area of New South Wales, particularly around Murwillumbah. One case of special interest was reported in January of 1941: "Specimens of P. ovatus were harvested from dung after a period of wet weather. Soon after dinner, the effects became evident. First drowsiness, then dizziness. After a while several patients became uncontrollably hilarious and acted as if they were drunk as in alcohol intoxication. They displayed a difficulty in standing and walking, and were incoherent and made many foolish remarks, laughing inordinatedly. Some of the patients vomited and hospital treatment was necessary." 3. On March 14, 1942, 3 persons became intoxicated near Eudlo, Queensland, and sought medical treatment from Dr. H. K. Shaw of Buderim Mountains. The species of mushrooms ingested in this case history is/are unknown.
4. The 1943 records of the Department of Repatriation and Compensation in South Australia provide another case history of accidental mushroom poisoning. "A 21 year old soldier was admitted into the Australian Casualty Clearing Station near Brisbane, with the following symptoms. "19 May 1943. The soldier reported that he ate some fried mushrooms at about 1 P.M. in the afternoon. He described the fungi which he had picked as being brown, with flat tops. The mushrooms were dark underneath and had appeared to have been drying in the sun for a day or two. One hour later the effects had begun. At first he experienced a light feeling in his legs, then felt lighthearted and giddy, losing control of much of his emotions. He reported that he could not stop laughing and felt as though he was on a bender. One other person also ate some of the same mushrooms and exhibited the same symptoms. The latter was given an emetic and recovered quickly, and was released. The soldier recovered and was discharged the following day."
This poisoning was probably the result of ingesting Panaeolus subbalteatus. This assumption is based on the fact that 1). the victim claimed that the pileus was brown and that the cap was flat, and 2). the symptoms described by the victim are similar to those symptoms previously attributed to Panaeolus intoxications.
5. Similar intoxications occurred on November 24, 1943, when a number of poisonings, 3 females and 1 male, were reported after these victims of cerebral mycetism were admitted into a district hospital. Shortly after they had eaten a meal of cooked mushrooms, which they had picked in a heavily manured cow field in Eudlo, they apparently became aware that something was definitely changing their perception of reality.
"...Within twenty minutes from the moment of ingestion of these mushrooms, each patient began to feel a numbness in their arms and legs. They reported seeing colored lights and laughed quite hysterically. The male patient felt as if he had been on a bender. Zinc sulfate was administered which immediately induced vomiting. He was released from the hospital on the following day with no ill effects following (Trotter 1944).
6. On December 18, 1943, five more cases of psychoactive mushroom intoxications were reported from Murwillumbah. The symptoms in these cases were described as being similar to alcohol intoxication. An emetic was given to all five patients and recovery was rapid. The patients were allowed to leave the hospital eight hours after being admitted. The mushrooms in this case were later identified by Dr. D.A. Herbert of the University of Queensland as Panaeolus ovatus. After 1945, no cases involving the accidental ingestion of inebriating mushrooms were reported in the Australian medical journals or the press until 1957. In that year the Wassons had announced their discovery of the ceremonial use of hallucinogenic mushrooms in Mexico.
7. James H. Willis, in his 1957 book "Victorian Toadstools and Mushrooms" published this interesting anecdote regarding the suspected ingestion of Panaeolus ovatus: "...Rumour has it that they will cause an intoxication under which the victim suffers a strange sensation of growing taller and over?topping the objects about him: Who knows but this may (very well) be the magic mushroom of `Alice In Wonderland' fame." Willis then goes on to say that, "P. ovatus has intoxicated people near Sydney."
8. According to the physician Dr. A. E. Stocks, between 1957 to 1963, 11 patients were admitted into the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane due to complications of poisoning from several different species of toxic and/or mind?altering fungi. Five of these cases were definitely caused by psilocybian mushrooms; and two other patients, whose onset of disturbing symptoms began after ten minutes of consumption of the mushrooms, were also probably affected by psilocybian intoxication. Stocks failed to mention whether these mushroom intoxications were accidental or deliberate ingestions, and he inadvertantly reported that R. Gordon Wasson's personal first experience with these mushrooms had produced undesirable effects. Although Wasson's first experience had been reported as being profound and ecstatic, it is possible that Stocks was actually referring to Swiss chemists Albert Hofmann's personal account regarding his somewhat unpleasant initial experience while under the influence of Psilocybe mexicana, or Dr. Sam Stein's frightening experience while under the influence of 5 dried gm of in vitro grown specimens of Psilocybe cubensis.
Although Dr. Stocks suggested that the hallucinogenic effects of these mushrooms were more potent than either lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) or mescaline (Peyote), it should be pointed out that users of these three drugs, usually prefer the natural experience of the mushrooms since this has a shorter duration of 3 to 6 hours as opposed to the 8 to 12 hour experience of LSD, mescaline or MDA.
Stocks' paper on mushroom poisoning presents us with two case histories of psilocybian intoxication. The first referred to a female who: "...noted after 30 minutes of ingestion, a dark cloud passing across her eyes, then a green cloud. Her tongue felt thick and she complained of being paralysed. There was no impairment of memory, and no hallucinations other than the colored vision; the symptoms resolved in 12 hours. This patient described her experience as distinctly unpleasant." The second case Stocks described involved a male who sought medical treatment at another southeast Queensland hospital. "...After 5 minutes of ingestion, the patient reported that he felt a tingling in both of his temples, and a general feeling of strangeness. His T.V. set `changed color' and the images on the screen became brighter and steel?blue. Vision later became blurred, and objects seemed either too large or too small, and appeared alternately to advance and receed from him. Later, sharp images of dragons appeared in a brilliantly?colored oriental setting. He had to fight to stay awake, experienced by a dry mouth and a tongue `like leather' ,and regards the whole experience as definitely unpleasant."
9. In 1971, a noted physician wrote that "Over the years, the Southport Hospital on the Gold Coast has had a steady flow of accidental poisonings with Psilocybe cubensis. A good example occurred in 1969 when a whole family was affected after a picnic somewhere in the mountains." No mention is made as to the exact location where this incident took place. Symptoms from this intoxication included "...Euphoria, depression, inappropriate speech and answers, visual hallucinations, ataxia, vomiting, urinary incontinence, diarrhea, dry mouth, and dilated pupils, and a respectable family man was caused to run naked through the hospital, trying to molest the nurses who were attempting to treat his illness".
During this period, heavy rains in the spring of 1969, produced bumper crops of Psilocybe cubensis, and large quantities of this species was consumed by hundreds of drug users, who ate them raw, with or on toast, or in soup. These youthful users who were members of Australia's counter culture described their effects from the ingestion of these mushrooms as being similar to LSD, but more natural. Goverment authorities soon claimed that the popularity of psychoactive mushrooms at this time [winter, l969], diminished due to many regular users who began to experience extreme depression and lethargy; some users even reported that they had `lost their will to live'. This resulted in a number of "freakouts", and by the end of l969, local authorities assumed that their popularity [use of mushrooms] had declined. However, it was not too long before an export market was established by dealers and users, who by March of 1971, had made Psilocybe cubensis available to users in Sydney and other larger cities throughout Australia. To illustrate the availability and danger of toxic plant substances, an American botanist Julia Morton, reported in 1982 that this same kind of exporting situation was noted in a book describing several poisonous plants common in Florida. By l972, Tasmanian authorities became concerned that the widespread collection and ingestion of psychoactive fungi in their state would attract interested people from the mainland (Australia) to Tasmania, who would come in search of these species. Additionally, Dr. Malcomb Hall stated in l973, that "exportation of fungi from Tasmania to the mainland is highly likely, as knowledge of suitable species becomes [more] widespread."
10. On June 3, 1969, at 7 P.M., the Australian Broadcasting Commission, aired the following story of an intoxication which occurred near Forster along the Central Coast of New South Wales. "The New South Wales Department of Agriculture is investigating the case of a Sydney couple who had violent hallucinations after eating mushrooms which they had picked during a weekend sojourn.
The couple, both professional artists, were kept under observation at the Forster Hospital, while the effects from the mushrooms wore off. For over three hours, they experienced symptoms similar to an LSD intoxication. The couple told attending physicians that they had each eaten about a dozen bush mushrooms, and within five minutes or more were experiencing hallucinations. The woman reported that she felt as if her skin was peeling off of her hands, and she believed that she was dying. They were both terrified from their inebriation. Samples of the mushrooms were sent to the Department of Agriculture to be analysed for identification" (Southcott l974).
On June 5, 1969, a follow up radio broadcast from Sydney declared that the mushrooms in question had not been identified, however, because the symptoms in this incident were described as resembling an LSD intoxication. The mushrooms involved were probably P. cubensis.
In this case, as well as many others involving use of suspected hallucinogenic fungi, very rarely is reference made as to whether or not the specimens of mushroom material, received by the toxicologists or mycologists is fresh, dried, or derived from a gastric lavage.
11. On Friday, July 11, l969, four young men, aged 20?22 years, from New South Wales, were each fined $200.00, on charges of being in possession of the drug psilocybin. "A complaint was registered by the manager of `Sippy Downs' station near Nambour, which is about sixty miles north of Brisbane, stating that the young adults had gained illegal entry onto the owner's private property. Detective?constable T. Tame and another police officer went out to the property. There they found a parked grey van alongside the road. A box containing the mushrooms was observed by the officers on the floor of the van, so the police asked the four adults to accompany them to the Nambour Police Station, which the four men consented to do. The magistrate of the court found the young men guilty and allowed them two weeks to pay their fines. If the fines were not paid on time, then they would be found in default and would have to serve a sentence of one month imprisonment".
Cattle ranchers in Australia have often been referred to as irate that some mushroom pickers have little respect for their property, trespassing frequently in search of psychoactive fungi. In the United States mushroom pickers have been known to leave gates open so that the cattle wander out onto the roadways, litter the fields and paddocks with garbage such as bottles, beer cans, etc., break down fences and bring dogs into the pastures which chase the cattle.
12. A female drug user, aged 17, of Adelaide, who had a history of marijuana use, and on one previous occasion had used LSD, sought medical treatment after having a `bad trip' while under the influence of Copelandia cyanescens, which was obtained in the vicinity of Adelaide. She soon became frightened, seeking immediate medical attention, because she thought that she was a banana, and that somebody was attempting to skin her. This incident occurred sometime in 1971.
13. In July of 1971, two adults and their child sought medical treatment after the deliberate ingestion of some specimens of Psilocybe subaeruginosa. The child was taken to the Adelaide Children's Hospital. The parents had supposedly sought treatment at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, yet no records exist from the hospital showing that the parents of the child received treatment there. These two adults described their mushroom induced symptoms from these mushrooms as sensations which felt like they were slipping out of their skins. In 1974, Dr. Roland Southcott also reported similar symptoms from several victims of these psilocybian intoxications.
14. On July 11, 1971, a young child, aged 3 years old, allegedly ate some mushrooms which did not look like mushrooms. About one hour later, she began to scream that she was seeing things, and she kept asking for a glass of water. At this, the mother noticed that their little girl's pupils were widely dilated. The adults, who had also eaten some of the same mushrooms, felt peculiar, and complained of having a bellyache with some nausea.
The child was seen at the Adelaide Children's Hospital, and 1 1/2 hours after the ingestion of the mushrooms, was conscious and very alert. Even though the child appeared to look well, her eyes were puffy and some yellow discharge was evident. Her pulse rate was recorded at 136 per minute. Ipecac was administered as a syrup, which was followed by vomiting. The vomit was found to contain spaghetti [with mushroom sauce]. After a few hours, the parents decided to take the child home.
15. Following is an excerpt from a news item appearing in a local Australian paper.. "A small brown mushroom that grows widely in the Adelaide Hills in July and August is providing drug addicts and thrill seekers with a potent hallucinogenic drug. The mushrooms, brown all over, contains the drug Psilocybine, which is prohibited by the Narcotics and Psychotropic Drugs Act (of South Australia). The mushroom is being passed around in fresh and dried forms. Three young people who tried the mushroom drug last year were admitted into the Royal Adelaide Hospital and treated for poisoning."
An expert [no mention is presented as to who the expert is], at the Waite Agricultural Research Institute warned that even small quantities of it [psilocybin mushrooms] could cause serious poisoning, however, Lloyd Davis, Pharmacological Inspector for the South Australia Health Department said that "Users and those interested knew what the mushrooms looked like, where they could be found, and how to use them." Davis also "Doubted whether amateurs experimenting with them would be poisoned because there was a well organized system of communication among users and would be users". From this account taken from a local newspaper, one might easily see how the true facts of incidents of poisonings could be interpreted in different ways and cases could become distorted from their original report. Such journalistic license by newspapers which present sensationalistic reporting of drug cases can be misleading and sometimes dangerous (cf. Allen l988).
16. This case concerns a young girl in Campbelltown, a suburb of Adelaide. Clinical records from the Adelaide Children's Hospital describe this 3 year old child as being a lively spirited red?head, with an on going allergic condition. Her mental distress symptoms discussed below, may have resulted from the fact that she indulged in pica (one who eats dirt, grass, leaves and twigs). Southcott reported that: "for some months she had been known to have repeated episodes of hallucinations, and each attack was marked by her person being cold and clammy, with frequent bed urination including bedwetting. Her attacks would usually commence about six to eight hours after being allowed to play outdoors around her home, in the lawns and the garden.
In October of 1973, the mother stated that during the past 12 months her daughter had at least a dozen such attacks, which were very frightening and distressing to the child.
Symptoms reported by this little girl included: seeing colored lights on the ceiling, seeing cats that were not there, and feeling that she was bigger than she really was. An attack usually lasted no more than four hours. The first attack occurred when the child was not more than two years eight months old.
Searches around the Kikuyu garden showed the presence of several different species of grass?inhabiting toadstools, yet the mother had never observed the daughter ever eating a fungus during the period when the child was having her symptoms. After the mother had asked the child about the toadstools, the child described them as being `yummie', i.e. "tasty."
Specimens of the fungus were then obtained and photographed, both before and after drying. Dr. Ronald Southcott photographed the fungi in situ among the grass. In l974, "Dr. Roy Watling of the Royal Botanic Gardens of Edinburgh, Scotland, visited Adelaide and identified the fungal specimens as being species of Panaeolus foenisecii.
While the evidence in this case involving this particular species is only circumstantial, it appears to be the only justifiable explanation in attributing the girl's symptoms" .
While the symptoms and duration of affliction described in this particular incident are similar to those often attributed in the literature to psilocybin poisoning, it must be noted here that the onset of psilocybin intoxication normally occurs within 15?30 minutes after ingestion. This child's intoxications, however, always seemed to occur within 6 to 8 hours after she was allowed to play in her yard outdoors, or upon waking up after taking a nap. Besides the child's distressing habit of indulging in pica, Southcott had also noted that the child was experiencing some minor psychological difficulties with her mother. This may have contributed to the child's condition. However, based on the above observations, it is of the opinion of the author that the psychological symptoms exhibited by this child were not caused by the ingestion of Panaeolus foenisecii. For a more discriptive analysis of this incident and similar alleged posionings by Panaeolus foenisecii, see Allen and Merlin, 1992c.
17. In l974, Malcolm C. Hall, in a personal communication to Dr. R.V. Southcott, provided the following account of a local drug user's experience with psilocybian mushrooms. "I interviewed one abuser in Hobart, Tasmania, during l973, who claimed that he had taken about l00 `Gold Tops' with bread and butter at one sitting. His `trip' was similar to those he had obtained with LSD, although he felt an overwhelming sense of panic some hours after ingestion of the fungi and he therefore ran several miles home, sensing that he was being pursued, although at the time he was fully aware that there was really no one following him. This abuser felt that he was adversely affected for three months after taking the fungi. He believed that his driving was impaired for the whole of a three month period, particularly his reaction time, and stated that he would not use the fungi again, although he thought that he might further experiment with LSD". Because of the large amount of fungi ingested in this case history, one can assume that the species involved was probably Copelandia cyanescens. Hall then went on to explain that "the adverse side effects of these fungi have become apparent to some within the drug subculture and it would appear that detected use of this type of plant form is declining". In fact, the recreational ingestion of these mushrooms has continued to grow.
18. In 1973, prior to the above statement by Hall, reports regarding the use of hallucinogenic mushrooms in Australia appeared in a United Nations Publication. It should be noted that this U.N. paper was presented as a critique which proposed new legislative measures to restrict and curb the use of mushrooms.
Hall noted that in 1972, the Tasmania Police Drug Squad had confiscated some fungal specimens which were previously unknown in Tasmania. Upon examination, the mushrooms were identified as being Psilocybe collybioides, reportedly a new species in Australia which previously was recognized as only occurring in Argentina. Specimens analysed for indole compounds indicated psilocybin as being present. According to Dr. Gast?n Guzm?n this mushroom does not exist in Australia. Dr. Guzm?n suggested that the fungus in question (Psilocybe collybioides) may very well have been one of the three newly detected hallucinogenic species of Psilocybe which he and Dr. Roy Watling had just recently recorded as indigenous only to Australia.
Reports from the Tasmania Police Department in 1973, indicated that "local drug abusers were picking the mushrooms (P. collybioides) and, after drying them and crushing them, would then place the powdered fungus into gelatin capsules for resale on the illicit drug market where they would sell for as much as six dollars a capsule."
At the time that this United Nations 1973 paper was being written, Dr. Hall believed that because of the increasing popularity of these mushrooms, a decrease in the sales of LSD had occurred in Australia, and that "few if any sales of LSD were taking place in Hobart in 1972". At the same time however, Dr. Hall claimed that "as a result of the widespread use and abuse of these fungi, law enforcement authorities were considering new legislation in order to curb the future abuse and end the problem of mushroom use". Dr. Hall was, at this time, the Principal Research Officer of the Narcotics Section of the Commonwealth Police Force in Canberra. Hall had also reported that several drug users had been experiencing recurring `flashbacks' from mushrooms that were similar to `flashbacks' which were associated with LSD consumption.
The author is aware of little firm evidence that mushroom `flashbacks' can occur. Researchers in 1983, have reported that out of 318 specific cases of Psilocybe intoxications occurring in England between l978?l981, 21 patients experienced `flashback phenomena of some form' for up to four months after ingestion", and also mentioned that some of these were the result of drug synergy and polydrug abuse. "...However, with such a controversial phenomena as `flashbacks', it is necessary to specify precisely what form these do take, so that they may be distinguished from psychological stress reactions wrongly attributed to past drug use." Dr. Hall also pointed out that "if solutions of mushroom extracts were injected intraveneously, the results could be very serious." There are no known cases of such injections, and it seems extremely unlikely that anyone would attempt this.
In Tasmania, government officials and local law enforcement authorities became overtly concerned about the influx of drug users and dealers who might travel from the mainland to Hobart, bringing with them species of hallucinogenic fungi. They were also concerned that the Tasmanian varieties of hallucinogenic species would probably be in great demand and therefore might be exported throughout Australia from Tasmania, especially since the use of these mushrooms had become well known to drug users throughout the continent. Dr. Hall and several other interested parties thus began to view the recreational use of hallucinogenic fungi as a nation?wide problem.
In the conclusion to Dr. Hall's paper on problems in legislating against the abuse of hallucinogenic fungi, he suggested that the following ideas be implemented: "It would appear that the Australian authorities could make a valuable contribution to law enforcement in the drug area by sponsoring research projects designed to elucidate the pathway involved in the natural synthesis of these compounds [psilocybin and psilocin] and their metabolism and dehydration, the presence of their concentrations under a variety of conditions, including natural growth, and the evaluation of the pharmacological actions of potential hallucinogens related chemically to psilocybin and psilocin which can be identified as being present in these fungi."
Several Doctors in Great Britian, have suggested using fungicides on hallucinogenic Psilocybes in order to curb their potential abuse; however, this idea is also impractical. The inherent danger of eating a fungus which has been sprayed with toxic substances could do more damage physiologically than the actual eating of the mushrooms. Another reason for not spraying these mushrooms with fungicides is that many of the hallucinogenic species maintain a symbiotic relationship with the trees and plants growing around them, and fungicides could damage the natural ecological relationship between the fungi and the vascular plant life. This misguided use of fungicides has apparently caused much discomfort to users in New Zealand where this practice is approved by some law enforcement authorities.
Authorities who conceive such ideas as a means to solve the problem of mushroom abuse should take caution in their approach to this situation by broadening their knowledge of the substance and the problem.
19. The following case history concerns a young South Australian University student who considered himself a member of the drug?using subculture. Seen in treatment over a period of three years, he decided that his use of drugs had caused him harm. He thus resolved to stop drug use completely. "At the age of 19, he was introduced to Cannabis, and only used it in order to become part of the youth protest movement in Australia. This apparently gave the student much confidence and a great feeling of belonging. From a few joints a week, he progressed over a six month period, and after another thirty months he became a weekly user.
His use of Cannabis during these thirty months was also interspersed at intervals with the usage of LSD and hallucinogenic mushrooms. As only small amounts of LSD were available, he was only able to take this substance on one occasion.
During the thirty odd so months of drug usage, this student stated that he had only eaten mushrooms on four separate occasions. Each of his experiences were different, and involved two species of mushrooms.
In his first episode of mushroom intoxication, he used `Queensland Gold Tops' without any other drug. He claims to have eaten only three semi?dried mushrooms, consisting of both caps and stems, and consumed them with bread and jam to disguise their bitter and somewhat acrid taste. After about 30?45 minutes, he noticed a mild euphoria creep up on him, gradually intensifying as his inbriation grew, while waves or ripples of euphoria occurred over the next three to four hours. He felt that a pleasant song would increase his euphoria. It was assumed that the mushrooms were probably P. cubensis.
His second and third experience involved a species known as P. subaeruginosa, and the student, for some reason or other, had a hard time in separating the symptoms of these two episodes. He referred to the mushrooms in these two episodes as `South Australian Gold Tops', which were alledgedly picked in National Park, Belair, and from other spots in the Adelaide Hills. On one occasion fresh mushrooms were eaten, and on the other, dried specimens were consumed. One of the two experiences was similar to the first (experience), and the other was different.
This third episode involved the student and several [of his] friends, all of whom also ate some mushrooms about an half of an hour prior to going to the cinema. The picture apparently was a depressing one about a family afflicted with mental illness, and the student developed a paranoid?anxiety reaction to what he was watching. He stated that he also had similar experiences while in crowds of people. His friends also claimed to have disturbances during the film. Once the movie was over, the distressing symptoms disappeared.
His fourth episode occurred after he had consumed some Australian `Gold Tops', which were presumed to be P. subaeruginosa. This time he ate only two small young mushrooms which were collected in the Adelaide Hills by some friends. Since his dosage was lower then the three previous trips, he experienced only some mild euphoria, which lasted no more then 3?4 hours, and reported no unpleasant effect like he had experienced during his three other trips. He mentioned that he had also smoked some `low grade' Cannabis prior to taking the mushrooms.
Three days later, while in a crowd of people, he experienced an acute fear reaction, and sought medical treatment. He stated that he was informed that his symptoms were the results of prolonged repetitive usage of Cannabis. For this reason, and possibly others not mentioned, the student felt no reason to associate his paranoia specifically with the use of the fungi, but on the other hand he considers that it cannot be disproven that the fungi may also have contributed to his problem. Because of this, he has resolved never to use any of these substances again, and greatly regrets that he ever started to use them".
Another interesting effect of the symptoms of cerebral mycetism which Southcott (1974) noticed about this case, was that several of the student's friends had also ingested the same exact amount of mushrooms during the student's first trip. One of the student drug users reported that his
". . .whole visual field became covered with `dots as though it was a computer printout'?colored dots, regularly spaced, floating in space, perhaps corresponding somewhat to the painting technique of pointillism."
20. This next account is also from an unidentified South Australian drug user who wished to remain anonymous (Southcott 1974). While this person was more then willing to describe his personal usage of these mushrooms, he was extremely cautious about revealing his identity and expressed concern about who might read his story, whether they be friends or law officers. He admitted that he would deny his story if need be.
This denial of the use of hallucinogenic fungi by a member of the drug subculture can be compared, in some ways, to the secrecy by which various Indian tribes living in Mexico during the past four centuries have prevented foreigners from exploiting or persecuting their use of psychoactive fungi. In the conquest of Nueva Espana, the Spanish clergy deplored what they considered to be pagan, ritual practices, many of which utilized hallucinogenic plants and mushrooms ceremoniously. The Spaniards harassed, often violently, those whom they caught carrying out these practices. Eventually, the Indians of mesoamerica, out of fear of persecution, began to hide their use of these plant substances from their Spanish conquerors, and would only communicate their knowledge and use of these substances to one another in secret. Just as the early Christians once tried to hide their Christianity from their peers in ancient Rome, so did several native Mesoamerican tribal peoples hide their use of these magical plants from the Spanish clergy and the Holy Office of the Inquisition.
The following account is a good example of the psychological and physiological symptoms of psilocybian intoxication. It also provides insight into this user's own justification for his personal use of psychoactive fungi.
"The mushrooms which were prepared in a broth and boiled for about two minutes may be used to induce an extremely powerful hallucinatory trip. When eaten raw the effects can take up to two hours to come on [This time lapse only occurs when fresh food has been consumed prior to the ingestion of fungi], but taken in soup form (or as tea) it can began to occur within five to ten minutes after being eaten.
The first noticeable effect is a tingling sensation from head to toe, followed by extreme warmth or cold all through the body. Mild hallucinations began to occur within a quarter of an hour, and become stronger as the trip reaches its peak. This peak can be a terrifying experience for the novice; he does not know what to expect, and can believe himself to have gone insane. This `insanity' can also be pleasurable in many cases and can cause a person to lose all unnecessary fear of things which had previously seemed impossible to bear. Everything material and otherwise is laid in front of you for examination and nothing is beyond human comprehension. In my own opinion and experiences these mushrooms used by persons capable of understanding the tremendous power contained in them can only be beneficial in their effect.
I have found them growing in flat?bottomed valleys and on gentle slopes. They thrive in moist, grassy soil and can range in size from a quarter of an inch (approximately 6mm) up to two or three inches (5? 7.5cm) in diameter. [Bob Harris' book, `Growing Wild Mushrooms', published in 1976, contains a photograph of P. cubensis with a cap that is over ten inches in diameter]. In regards to an overdose of these mushrooms, this user feels that: overdosage is not really an accurate term for this condition. It is more an extreme fear of certain things or people which causes `freakouts'. I have sucessfully calmed down several people who thought they were on the point of dying. The trip can change from one of fear and hysteria, to one of pure ecstacy in a matter of a second if a person is treated correctly.
The police in my opinion [can] cause more bad experiences than all other reasons combined. This is because people strive to have a good trip but the thought of arrest or even goal (jail) can be drastic at the height of a trip's peak. I myself have almost lost all fear of everything I previously feared.
I intend to continue the use of these mushrooms and see where it leads me, whether it be a good (lawful) or bad thing, and I am not signing this report on the grounds that it may incriminate myself and other persons." 21. By the middle of the 1970's Copelandia cyanescens appears to have become just as popular as Psilocybe cubensis and Psilocybe subaeruginosa in Australia; and their use as recreational drugs among drug users in that country had become well documented. In 1975, one book claimed that Psilocybe cubensis caused users to experience feelings of great well being, uncontrolled mirth, and disturbances of vision.
22. In 1980, in a special goverment report on drugs and drug abusers, several prominent Australian citizens expressed their concern about the growing problem of mushroom abuse in Australia.
"A Queensland school teacher told the commission that because LSD was difficult to obtain and was expensive, people were picking hallucinogenic mushrooms. These could easily be collected around Samford, for example. An informed witness agreed that psilocybin? producing fungi were growing in and around Brisbane and mentioned Samford, Ferny Grove, Pinkenba, Dayboro, and Beenleigh. A senior Queensland Police Officer said that `Gold Top' mushrooms (P. cubensis) were plentiful in the Gold Coast area, but there was no evidence to suggest that they were grown commercially. He said this prohibited plant thrived in the Currumbin and Tallebudgera areas in the wet season and was harvested by drug users."
There is no evidence in the literature indicating that the cultivation of hallucinogenic mushrooms (particularly Psilocybe cubensis), is common among Australian or New Zealand drug users. Recently the author obtained information verifying that mushroom growing kits from the mainland United States are sold through the U.S. mail to both Australian and New Zealand citizens on a monthly basis. Therefore, it may be assumed that some users in Australia and New Zealand do grow these mushrooms at home under clandestine conditions. It is obvious though, that the home cultivation of either Psilocybe, Panaeolus, or even Copelandia species, would not attract the attention of the public or local law enforcement agencies since their growth could be well hidden in home basements, garages, attics, or closets. and not as easily detected as a field of Cannabis.
In this same l980 governmental report, Captain B.C. Mundy, Commanding Officer of the Salvation Army in Darwin, Australia presented details concerning the availability of mushroom hallucinogens in the Northern Territory. According to Mundy, "Gold Tops' and `Blue Meanie' mushrooms grew freely in the tropical climate in animal manure and in manured gardens. He referred to an incident where a resident of the Red Shield Hostel in Darwin, who was accused of housebreaking, said he picked `Blue Meanies' in the hostel garden and boiled them to make a drink. As a result he was found by the court not responsible for his actions. Captain Mundy explained that the garden had shortly before this incident been treated with fowl manure." This is probably the first reported case of the species C. cyanescens ("Blue Meanies"), being found fruiting from the manure of either chickens, geese, or ducks, rather then from the manure of ruminants (i.e., four legged mammals). It should also be noted here that the youth was not under the influence of inebriating mushrooms prior to his illegal entry at the youth hostel; technically, therefore, he was responsible for his actions.
22. In 1986, a brief note referring to the recreational use of psychoactive mushrooms appeared in an Australian newspaper briefly mentioning that heavy rains had caused a prolific growth of hallucinogenic mushrooms. The same article also went on to say that the "danger in eating these magic mushrooms lay not so much in the toxicity which they produced, but rather in the ease with which they could be confused with genuinely poisonous species." As on the mainland, annual public announcements regarding the weather related appearance of hallucinogenic fungi by newspapers and popular radio station programs may attract more individuals interested in ingesting these illegal fungi.
23. In 1988, a surfer from New Zealand (Pers. Comm. l988), who was vacationing on the Island of Oahu, claimed that although most users in New Zealand and Australia, were unaware of the botanical names of hallucinogenic species common in his country, he reported to one of the authors (JWA) that his friends referred to them as `gold tops'. According to Dr. Karl L. L. Jansen (l989, Pers. Comm.), this is not correct. The term `gold tops' is rarely used by New Zealanders, who are thoroughly resistant to using Australian expressions. The most popular term is `magic mushrooms'. There are no other popular names in common use. This user mentioned Psilocybe cubensis to the author, yet Psilocybe cubensis does not occur in New Zealand (See section Psilocybian Mushrooms in New Zealand). This same user also said that he had picked and eaten magic mushrooms in Victoria, Australia.
24. A male and female English couple, both in their late thirties, who had previously eaten "Liberty Caps" (Psilocybe semilanceata) in England during their teen years, reported (Pers. Comm. l988) that after having moved to New Zealand, they were delighted to find `Liberty Caps' "down under", but also enjoyed eating "Blue Meanies" (Copelandia cyanescens), which they fried in butter and then ate on toast with jam. They said that they had ingested these mushrooms on several occasions after moving to New Zealand. This couple denied having knowledge of any other species except for "Liberty Caps" and "Blue Meanines". Both adults admitted to eating "Blue Meanies" when visiting relatives in Australia.
25. In June of l989, a 23 year?old man from Kelston, New Zealand, appeared in District Court and was convicted of possessing psilocybin. A police spokesman said that they had confiscated approximately 120g of "magic mushrooms" from the suspects home. Mushrooms were found packaged in plastic bags and others were in various drying stages on newspapers placed on the floor. The young man had told the arresting officers that he enjoyed the mushrooms because they "gave him a better outlook on life".
A study was conducted to investigate the deliberate and accidental consumption of hallucinogenic fungi in Australia and New Zealand. It was determined that there are at least 18 species of mushrooms containing psilocybin and/or psilocin in Australia which are ingested for psychoactive purposes; in New Zealand at least 8 hallucinogenic fungi species are known to be consumed for psychoactive purposes. Although the use of these psychoactive fungi appears to be widespread in Australia and New Zealand, there is a lack of quantitative data pertaining to the distribution and frequency of their consumption.
Three recent surveys in the U.S.A. pertaining to the recreational use of psychoactive fungi indicate that usage of hallucinogenic mushrooms is most prevalent among teenagers, young adults, and college students. These fungi are still popular among surfers, citing personal communications with young adults from Australia and New Zealand who were interviewed on Oahu, Hawaii. It appears that a network of communication exists among those who consume psychoactive fungi. Knowledge of these fungi within various age?groups has spread by personal communication among friends, and by news items appearing in the popular press, and broadcasts. Media attention given to reported mushroom poisoning incidents, announcement of seasonal availability of the fungi, and information in the existing literature devoted to hallucinogenic mushrooms have contributed to increased awareness of their presence and effects. In Australia the majority of hallucinogenic fungi seem to occur in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and to a lesser degree in South Australia; but several of the species, listed in Table 1, have been collected in all of the Australian States including Camberra, A.C.T. Use of these fungi also occur on both the North and South Islands of New Zealand.
It appears that among those who ingest these mushrooms, some of them apparently sell these psychoactive species among their friends and close associates rather than on the streets. Mushrooms in Australia and New Zealand range in price from $5 to $10 dollars per single dose (usually 1 gm dried) and up to $25 dollars or more for an ounce (28 gm) of fresh fungi (Hall l973). These figures appear to be a standard price throughout much of the North American continent, as well as the British Isles and Europe (Pers. Comm. from informants who wish to remain anonymous).
Most of those who consume hallucinogenic fungi do not know the latin names given to these species; hence the common epithets such as "Magic Mushrooms" (the most common and generic term used for psychoactive mushrooms), "Gold Tops" (usually referring to P. cubensis), "Blue Meanies" (usually referring to C. cyanescens), and "Liberty Caps" for P. semilanceata.
Published medical reports of cases involving psilocybian mushroom poisoning are often confusing when presented by individuals who are unaware of the particular species of mushrooms which were consumed. Most dysphoric reactions apparently are the result of (1) improper dosage (2) unfavorable set and setting or (3) emotional and recurring psychological problems often associated with a past history of poly?drug abuse. This has often hampered proper medical diagnosis, resulting in delayed treatment, especially if the doctors cannot properly identify the causative species involved.
From all the published material of the last century, we have come to the conclusion that the effects following the ingestion of Panaeolus spp. appear to be more tranquil and less intense than the sometimes overwhelming hallucinatory effects attributed to the consumption of certain species of Psilocybe, which may be frightening, sometimes causing dysphoria and confusion when taken in excessive dosages.
Case study # 13 represents attitudes towards mushroom pickers who trespass on private property in search of fungi. In this case, four men were charged with possession of psilocybin mushrooms. They willingly accompanied the arresting officers, went before a judge, were convicted and given a fine in lieu of a jail sentence for their offence.
While arrests for psilocybian mushrooms in australia and New Zealnd usually occur due to trespassing rather than possession of the fungi, it should be mentioned that in Florida, as in Great Britain and Holland, possession of psilocybin mushrooms is currently not an illegal act (and cultivation of Psilocybe cubensis is legal in England and psilocybin mushrooms (fresh and dried, are now legally sold in Holland). Judges in these areas have ruled that psilocybin and psilocin are chemicals and mushrooms, regardless of any psychoactive content, are simply mushrooms. Although this is presently accepted, the law states that the chemical substances are illegal to possess. However, very few if any prosecutions take place in the United States, Great Britain, and Canada for these offences (except when illicit large cultivation of P. cubensis occurs). This apparently is also true for both Australia and New Zealand.
While much documentation exists in regards to the users who sought medical treatment, it should be mentioned that many may be afraid to seek medical aid because of fear of prosecution. A good example of this is the teenager who died in Whidbey Island, Washington from eating a poisonous variety of fungi which she thought was a Psilocybe species. For more than two days she and her companions were afraid to report their illness to the proper medical authorities, which resulted in delayed treatment and death (Allen l988). Drug educators and those who are involved in Drug Abuse programs, especially teachers in public schools, should make aware to their students or patients that doctors and hospitals will not report their activities to law enforcement agencies when treating them for their drug habits.
There is also no evidence indicating that the sale of common, commercial mushrooms (e.g., Agaricus bisporis and/or A. campestris) adulterated with LSD or PCP are sold on the continent or in New Zealand. However, in 1978, Jonathan Ott reported that this was a common situation in the mainland United States for several years and may continue today. These fake "magic mushrooms have been referred to as Psilocybe hofmannii.