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It must be noted that outside of a few intoxications caused by Psilocybe cubensis (in Africa), and one caused by Psilocybe semilanceata (in England in the late 1700's), the majority of all
intoxications which occurred prior to the recreational use of these species, were caused by various species of Panaeolus with the exception of Japan and the Northeastern United
States, where some of the inebriations were the result of ingesting various species of Gymnopilus.
Published reports describing symptoms attributed to Panaeolus intoxications, were often written in a similar manner. Subjective effects included:
"...drowsiness, lightheadedness, an inability to walk, a staggering gait, giggliness, much hilarity, inappropriate speech, uncontrollable
laughter, euphoria and acting as if one were on a bender." On the other hand, occasionally terrifying, visual and psychological disturbances
have been known to result from accidental or deliberate ingestion of Psilocybe cubensis or P. semilanceata, which sometimes result in
emergency room treatment.
In a paper published in 1958, Dr. Sam Stein briefly mentioned similar observations when Panaeolus and Psilocybe fungi were used in the
treatment of a single patient. Mushroom extracts used by Dr. Stein were obtained from dried specimens of Panaeolus venenosus
(=Panaeolus subbalteatus), and Psilocybe caerulescens. Further investigations were carried out in 1959 by Stein and some of his
colleagues who revealed that the subjective effects caused by the ingestion of Panaeolus species were more tranquil and less
hallucinogenic than the effects produced by the ingestion of certain species of Psilocybe.
The fear of poisoning by physically toxic mushrooms is the main cause of mycophobia (a fear of mushrooms) throughout the world. Many
of the deadly poisonous species of mushrooms macroscopically resemble some of the hallucinogenic mushrooms in the genus Psilocybe.
For example, three species of deadly poisonous Galerina's, and Conocybe filaris, which are extremely poisonous mushrooms, are
commonly found in mulched gardens in the Pacific Northwest of the United States and other regions of the world, and have been observed
sharing the same habitat as Psilocybe baeocystis, Psilocybe cyanescens, and Psilocybe stuntzii.
Another example of misidentification involves Chlorophyllum molybdites also known as "green gills" or "Morgans" Lepiota. According to
Stephen Peele, curator of the Florida Mycology Research Center, it is often picked in Florida and mistaken for Psilocybe cubensis
(personal communication to J.W. Allen). Chlorophyllum molybdites is considered toxic but not deadly. This species is common in Australia
and may occasionally be mistaken as Psilocybe cubensis. Peele also claimed that in Tampa, Florida, over 90% of all mushroom
poisonings were the result of ingesting C. molybdites. While two children in California developed a "mydriasis-fever-convulsions" syndrome
after ingesting mushrooms taken from a lawn habitat, another in the state of Washington was reported to have died due to complications
following the suspected consumption of hallucinogenic mushrooms. Also, three children were reportedly mildly poisoned after accidentally
grazing on lawn specimens of Panaeolina foenisecii, however, in a recent study of the literature, it was suggested by Allen and Merlin
(1992b), that this species is not psychoactive.
"...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
intravenously, the results could be very serious." There are no known cases of such injections, and it
seems extremely unlikely that anyone would attempt this.
PSILOCYBIAN FUNGI AND THE LAW
Between the years l969 and l975, the non-traditional use of psychoactive mushrooms does appear to
have increased rapidly in Australia. 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. Government 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.
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 psilocybine. "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 gray 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" (Unsigned. 1969).
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. The author of this guide expresses his gratitude to the following for their
contribution to this paper: Dr. R. V. Southcott for providing case histories from
Australia, and for supplying photographs of P. subaeruginosa; Dr. A. E. Stocks of
the Brisbane Clinic; Dr. Malcolm C. Hall, General Manager of Vision Systems,
Adelaide; Julie Shepherd of the National Library of Australia, Canberra, A.C.T.;
Elizabeth Duncan, Secretary to the Editor of the Sunday Telegraph, Sydney;
Crispin Hull, Editor of the Canberra Times, A.C.T.; The Librarian of the Biomedical
Library, University of New South Wales; Field Naturalist Club of Victoria, South
Australia; The Flora and Fauna of South Australian Handbooks Committee; Rob
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