HÀ NỘI – Consuming magic mushrooms has emerged as the latest trend among Vietnamese youth who are into mind-altering substances.
Many people are worried about the impacts this trend could have on the youth.
Local reports say magic mushrooms (Psilocybe pelliculosa), have become particularly popular among the youth who tend to consume substances like marijuana and “American grass,” slang for numerous synthetic drugs.
The “magic” mushroom contains psilocybin, a hallucinogenic substance.
It is said that the hallucinogenic effects can start approximately 30 minutes after the mushrooms are consumed. A person’s perceptions of color, sound and light may change. Surfaces may seem to move or ripple. Moving objects may seem to have visible trails that linger behind them. Along with these effects, some people also feel nauseous, muscle weakness, and other physical changes. Changes in perception and thinking can last between three and eight hours.
The mushroom grows across wide sections of Mexico, South America, Malaysia, India and Indonesia.
Because of its effects, the mushroom has been made illegal in many countries.
In Việt Nam, meanwhile, it has gained popularity among some groups of young people as a new kind of drug. It is easy to find the mushroom on many websites, promoting it as a “magic” product.
According to some websites, around 30 minutes after taking the mushroom, a person feels very excited and experiences a “trip” to paradise or promised land.
The websites also carry some comments from those who tried the product out of curiosity to experience the “trip”.
Đinh Văn B, a supplier of the magic mushrooms in Hà Nội, told the Tiếng Chuông (The Bell) website of the National Committee for AIDS, Drug and Prostitution Prevention and Control that it costs around VNĐ300,000 (US$22) for 5g of mushroom to experience a “trip”.
“You should try it at least once in your lifetime, you will have a very exciting time,” he said.
However, some people who’ve tried the mushroom have said that they’ve had bad experiences, very unlike what is advertised.
Bùi Văn N. of Hà Nội said he tried the mushroom once and would never do it again.
“At first, it was exciting and fun. Everything seemed to change completely and it sounded like I was in a completely different world. Something magic happened and changed the world.
“However, a few hours later, I lost consciousness and fell into a deep dream with terrible things. At that time, I had thought that I was facing death and wanted to escape but could not. I felt desperate,” he recalled.
The trip lasted for nearly a day, he said.
Another user said 50 minutes after taking the mushroom, he felt that his head had automatically turned round and his body seemed to be bent.
“I cried sometimes and laughed at other times. I also did many strange things…. It was very frighteningg,” he said.
One expert said that as a natural product with different amounts of active elements, users could have bad or good “trips,” depending on their moods, bodies, characteristics and surrounding environment.
"Besides, it is easy for sellers to mix mushrooms with other kinds of substances to make profit and users won’t know this," he warned. Using this mushroom in a wrong way could lead to temporary or long-term schizophrenia, he added.
Doctor Trần Thị Hồng Thu of the Mai Hương hospital, which specialises in mental health and addiction, said the use of mushrooms containing hallucinogenic substances can make people feel dizzy, sick and tired.
Overuse of the mushroom can make users dependent on it, she said, adding that it would be particularly dangerous for those suffering from mental illness.
According to the Hà Nội Police’s Drug Crime Investigation Office, it has discovered some cases of trading and smuggling of the magic mushrooms into Việt Nam. Tests show that these contain narcotics that are yet to be named in the Government’s list of banned substances.
Bùi Đức Thiêm, Deputy Head of Office No 5 of the Ministry of Public Security’s Drug Crime Investigation Department, said some kinds of drugs, like American grass and khát (Catha edulis) leaves are being used in Việt Nam, but it was very difficult for police to crackdown on this crime because they were not in the list managed by the Government.
“We will co-ordinate with relevant agencies to propose that the Government brings these kinds of drugs into the list it manages, so that this abuse can be fought more effectively,” he said. - VNS