A man’s experiment with psychedelic mushrooms went disastrously wrong and nearly killed him, according to his doctors. In a new case report released this week, they detailed how the man injected a “tea” made from the mushrooms into his body and created a life-threatening infection that had them growing in his blood. Fortunately, he survived.
The 30-year-old man, who had a long history of bipolar disorder and opioid abuse and had recently stopped taking his prescribed medications, his family told doctors. In the course of trying to self-medicate his depression and dependence, he came across research showing some benefit from using psychedelic drugs like mushrooms and LSD and decided to try it out himself.
He had decided to use mushrooms by first boiling them down into what he called “mushroom tea,” then filtering the mixture through a cotton swab and intravenously injecting it. Soon after, he developed symptoms including lethargy, jaundice, diarrhoea, and nausea, along with vomiting up blood, soon after which his family took him to the ER.
By the time he was admitted to the hospital’s intensive care unit, multiple organs had started to fail, including his lungs and kidney. Tests revealed that he had both a bacterial and fungal infection in his blood, likely meaning that the mushrooms he injected were now literally feeding off him and growing. The doctors wrote that the fungus found in the man’s blood was the same species of psychedelic mushroom he had injected. Among other treatments, he was given an intense course of antibiotics and anti-fungal drugs.
It took 22 days in the hospital, including eight in the ICU, but the man did eventually pull through. At the time his doctors had finished writing the case up, though, he was still being treated with a long-term course of antimicrobials.
This report was released online on Monday in the Journal of the Academy of Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry as a pre-proof paper.
Believe it or not, this isn’t even the first time that someone has been hospitalized after shooting up shrooms. According to Curtis McKnight, a psychiatrist at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Arizona and co-author of the present study, another case study from 1985 reported two other cases where people got sick after injecting psilocybin. As with the current case, the 1985 case featured a 30-year-old man who became sick with vomiting and other symptoms post-injection, though he recovered quickly after getting medical care.
McKnight and his colleagues make it clear that they support recent research showing that psilocybin and other natural psychedelics have the potential to treat depression, anxiety, addiction, and other issues like chronic pain. But the authors also note that the lack of public knowledge about these drugs and their risks can lead to unfortunate situations like the one detailed in this report.
There are ongoing efforts to legalize these drugs for psychiatric use in the U.S., but meanwhile, there will be individuals who turn to them as an alternative or in addition to their current medication on their own, as this man did. For those people, it’s important to emphasize the potential risks and dangers of these drugs and the safest ways to use them.