Hallucinogenic mushrooms Psilocybe semilanceata (specimen harvested in Sweden) © Wikimedia Commons

Forensic pathologists and toxicologists from Lyon reported in the Journal of Forensic Sciences December 12, 2018 a tragic case: that of a young man of 18 years who threw himself from a balcony after having consumed hallucinogenic mushrooms.

The night of the events, the victim and two of his friends consumed hallucinogenic mushrooms, a fourth comrade just smoking cannabis. According to the testimonies collected, the three comrades ingested only "magic mushrooms".

During the evening, the young man isolates himself in the bathroom and comes out completely naked. Having become abnormally aggressive and presenting a state of abnormal excitement, he goes to the balcony, located on the 2nd floor, and throws himself into the void. He dies instantly. One of her friends told the police she had not managed to detain him.

The victim did not have a particular medical or psychiatric history. According to his friends, the young man had already consumed magic mushrooms, a way for him to overcome his shyness.

Psilocybes

The most consumed psychoactive mushrooms, psilocybes, have psilocybin as the main active ingredient. Their consumption most often takes place in festive evenings with friends or during a rave party. Psilocybin mushrooms are eaten fresh, dried, boiled or boiled in water to make an infusion. The concentrations of psilocybin and psilocin vary between species and within the same species.

In the young man's room, the police found, in addition to cannabis, several hallucinogenic mushroom plants, also known as magic mushrooms: red and white amanita (probably fly agaric or Amanita muscaria) and psilocybin mushrooms.

The autopsy was performed on the day of death. The external examination found multiple facial fractures, bruising and bruising of the chest, abdomen, arms and legs. Above all, the autopsy revealed a cranio-encephalic trauma with fractures of the left orbit, the right temporal bone and occipital hemorrhage (at the back of the skull). Finally, the examination of the contents of the stomach only found mushrooms, partially digested, whose hat was characteristic of psilocybe.

Pholiotina cyanopusmushroom at psilocybin. © Wikipedia

Psilocybin and psilocin

Psilocybin is the main psychoactive substance of hallucinogenic mushrooms. After ingestion, it is transformed into a pharmacologically active form, psilocin. This reaches a maximum blood concentration within 50 to 100 minutes after ingestion. Psilocin is able to cross the blood-brain barrier. At the cerebral level, it acts mainly on the 5-HT1A, 5-HT2A and 5-HT2C receptors of serotonin, a neurotransmitter.

Toxicological analyzes showed that the victim had consumed approximately five grams of dried mushrooms before dying, a dose corresponding to the upper limit of the usual dose for recreational use. The alcohol level was negative. In addition, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) blood tests indicated that considerable time had elapsed between cannabis use and the young man's death. In fact, no other psychoactive substance was detected in the biological samples taken at autopsy. It therefore appears that "The inexplicable behavior that led to the fatal fall is toxicologically related to the influence of hallucinogenic mushrooms", according to Emma Honyiglo, Laurent Fanton and their colleagues from the Forensic Institute of the Civil Hospitals of Lyon.

Magic mushrooms enjoy a good reputation among narcotics because of their low direct toxicity and lack of dependence. In 2017, 6.8% of 17-year-olds reported having consumed hallucinogenic mushrooms at least once.

The effects of psilocybin and psilocin are manifested by an alteration of perceptions, mood, and thought. These desired effects are not usually immediate but occur about 30 minutes after ingestion, which sometimes encourages consumers to resume and present greater psychedelic effects. These are also amplified by concomitant use of alcohol or other psychoactive substances. The effects of magic mushrooms dissipate after about 4 to 6 hours, which may seem rather long in case of bad trip (delirious delirium).

Unpredictable dangerous behavior

Tragic incidents associated with the consumption of hallucinogenic mushrooms have been published in the medical literature. In 2000, Luxembourg toxicologists described the case of a 23-year-old woman who had defecated from the second floor of a house after eating about 5 grams of dried mushrooms. She had also smoked a marijuana joint. The 9-meter drop was deadly. This was the first time that psilocybin consumption was indirectly associated with death.

Three other fatal cases were reported in 2013 and 2014: the death by hypothermia of a Japanese man found in a canal, the death in Germany of a man who had stabbed himself, a suicide in the Czech Republic.

Other non-fatal cases have also been published. A study, published in 1982, of 44 hallucinogenic mushroom intoxication cases admitted to the emergency department, showed that patients had aggressive behavior, suicidal thoughts, and dangerous driving (walking naked along the line). a railway, banging your head violently several times).

These publications show that " the psychological effects of psilocybin mushrooms can indirectly lead to death or severe trauma and that their use is not as safe as their reputation might suggest. ", say the authors. In rare cases, their consumption can lead to unpredictable side effects, as evidenced by the case of defenestration under the influence of hallucinogenic mushrooms reported by forensic doctors and toxicologists Lyon.

And the authors conclude that "This case illustrates the possible dangers of psilocybin mushroom consumption, as being a regular user, consuming in a known environment and in the presence of a sober guide, does not protect you from consequences that can be fatal ".

Marc Gozlan (Follow me on Twitter)

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To know more :

Honyiglo E, Franchi A, Carton N, Bottinelli C, Advenier AS, Bevalot F, Fanton L. Unpredictable Behavior Under the Influence of "Magic Mushrooms": A Case Report and Review of the Literature. J Forensic Sci. 2018 Dec 12. doi: 10.1111 / 1556-4029.13982.

Asselborn G, Wennig R, Yegles M. Tragic flying under the influence of "magic mushrooms". Probl Forensic Sci. 2000; 42: 41-6.

On the Web :

Levels of illicit drug use in France in 2017. (French Office for Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT), November 2018)

Hallucinogenic mushrooms (European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction, EMCDDA)

Drugs at 17: analysis of the 2017 ESCAPAD survey (French Office for Drugs and Drug Addiction, OFDT, February 2018)

Contemporary Uses of Hallucinogenic Plants and Mushrooms – An Exploratory Qualitative Survey Conducted in France (French Office of Drugs and Drug Addiction, OFDT, December 2006)

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