Friday, February 6, 2009

There's a Fungus Among Us

The Legend:  If you smoke psilocybin mushrooms, the spores will get into your lungs and grow there.

Status:  False


Recently there has been discussion in chat rooms about smoking psilocybin mushrooms rather than eating them. It is said this may produce faster but milder effects. However, it is not clear whether psilocybin or psilocin mushrooms can produce psychoactive effects at all when smoked. User reports vary widely, and there is the constant worry about planting mushroom spores in your lungs.

A spore is the seed of the fungi. Spores are designed to survive for extended periods in unfavorable conditions to ensure perpetuation of the species. Knowing that, it would be easy to jump to the conclusion that mushroom spores are quite hardy and can certainly survive inhalation from their dark and moist breeding ground to the new dark and moist environment inside your lungs.

It turns out that there really is a definite danger from inhalation of mushroom spores. Medical literature has coined the term "mushroom worker's lung" to describe the symptom pattern seen in people who are over-exposed to mushroom spores through the cultivation, picking and packing of the mushroom crop, (Moore et. al. 2005).

But the mushroom spoor has a weakness, something that can hurt it like Kryptonite hurts Superman. A close reading of the directions that come with the apparatus for growing magic mushrooms warns that when growing fungi like mushrooms it is important to keep the spores away from anything hot. Heat is an efficient killer of spores and bacteria. Single celled organisms like spores and bacteria can be killed by boiling, pasteurization or even the small rise in temperature from a fever. What this means is spores from a mushroom will not survive the heat needed to light and burn them for smoking.

A review of the National Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Health medical research databases show no articles published on the effects, either acute or long-term, from smoking psilocybin mushrooms.