Oregon Poison Center at OHSU warns against self-treating with psilocybin

Brown psychedelic mushrooms stand before a white background

While Oregon prepares to implement a new law allowing supervised use of psilocybin in certain situations, the Oregon Poison Center at Oregon Health & Science University reminds the public it isnt safe to treat mental health disorders with psychoactive substances without professional support and direction. (Getty Images)

While Oregon prepares to implement a new law allowing supervised use of psilocybin in certain situations, the Oregon Poison Centerat Oregon Health & Science University reminds the public it isn’t safe to treat mental health disorders with psychoactive substances without professional support and direction.

A man with brown hair and a beard smiles while wearing a black suit and a blue-and-gray-striped tie.

Rob Hendrickson, M.D. (OHSU)

“It is important to only use psilocybin safely and under the guidance of a practitioner who understands the effects of psilocybin, psilocybin dosing and can handle adverse effects,” said Rob Hendrickson, M.D., medical director of the Oregon Poison Center and professor of emergency medicine in the OHSU School of Medicine.

Oregon voters approved Ballot Measure 109, or the Oregon Psilocybin Services Act, in November 2020. The measure’s passage directs the state to create a program for administering psilocybin products such as psilocybin-containing mushrooms to individuals 21 and older in the state of Oregon.

Psilocybinis the active chemical found in certain types of mushrooms that are also known as magic mushrooms and ‘shrooms. Psilocybin causes hallucinations and, in rare instances or in the case of an overdose, may cause anxiety and psychotic symptoms. In small studies, when psilocybin was used in guided therapy with psychotherapy, patients experienced reduced symptoms of depression. 

The Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board will advise the Oregon Health Authority over the next two years on available scientific studies and research on the safety and efficacy of psilocybin in treating mental health conditions, and make recommendations on the requirements, specifications and guidelines for providing psilocybin services in Oregon.

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In the meantime, the Oregon Poison Center at Oregon Health & Science University reminds Oregonians that it isn’t safe to self-treat mental health disorders with psychoactive substances without professional support and direction. People with questions about mental health treatment options should contact their health care provider for recommendations.

The public should not use mushrooms or psilocybin to treat or enhance therapy for mental health issues until providers are licensed or certified to provide it to patients, Hendricks said. Program requirements established by Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board and Oregon Health Authority will provide important treatment and safety recommendations for patients and licensed providers.

It also isn’t safe to forage for mushrooms unless you have obtained expertise in identifying them. Some edible mushrooms native to the Pacific Northwest have toxic look-alikes that may make you sick. 

“It can be very difficult to identify a wild mushroom without proper education and training,” Hendrickson said. “Unfortunately, every year people in Oregon get very sick after ingesting foraged mushrooms that they mistakenly identify for edible varieties.”

The Oregon Poison Center at OHSU receives more than 100 calls every year from foragers and mushroom enthusiasts who ingest wild mushrooms of unknown providence and experience symptoms ranging from gastrointestinal upset, nausea and vomiting to liver damage, kidney failure and, in rare cases, death. For more information about wild mushroom identification, contact the Oregon Mycological Society

More information about psilocybin is available from the Drug Enforcement Administrationand the National Institute on Drug Abuse(hallucinogens). And more information about Oregon’s implementation of Measure 109 is available from the Oregon Health Authority.

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If you or a loved one is experiencing a poison emergency, call the Oregon Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222. A trained health care provider is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The call is free and confidential. Poison prevention education and other poison safety resources are available at https://www.ohsu.edu/oregon-poison-center.

Accredited by the American Association of Poison Control Centers, the Oregon Poison Center is a designated regional poison control center for Oregon, Alaska and Guam.


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