2 people who used ‘magic’ mushrooms then developed rare ‘wood lover’s paralysis’ describe losing control of their bodies: ‘I couldn’t even chew’

Psilocybe cyanescens, a species of psychedelic mushrooms

Psilocybe cyanescens, a species of psychedelic mushrooms that is most widely cultivated.Thomas Angus, Imperial College London

  • Oregon, the first state to legalize “magic” mushrooms, is debating which species of mushrooms to legalize in 2023.

  • They are leaning towards one that doesn’t grow on wood to avoid “wood lovers paralysis,” a rare, temporary muscle weakness that may be linked to wood-grown mushrooms.

  • 2 people who experienced wood lover’s paralysis told Insider what it was like.

Some people say they’ve become temporarily paralyzed after eating certain “magic” mushrooms — an unproven risk that Oregon officials are taking very seriously as the state becomes the first to legalize psilocybin, the psychedelic ingredient in magic mushrooms, for therapeutic use early next year.

“I couldn’t even chew. I had to scrape a chip back out of my mouth with my hand,” one user who experienced so-called “wood lovers paralysis,” and asked to withhold their identity, told Insider.

Bob, another regular magic mushroom user who asked to omit his last name due to the illegality of psilocybin in most places, told Insider that he’d experienced wood lovers paralysis, also known as WLP, three times.

On one occasion, Bob was crossing a street, and “without warning” his legs collapsed beneath him, he said.

“I had no control over them at all. I couldn’t even bend at the knees. I began to drag my body off the street with just my arms and the help of my friend,” he said.

WLP isn’t scientifically proven as a side effect of wood-grown mushrooms, but draft rules from Oregon’s Psilocybin Advisory Board — the expert panel guiding state decisions on how psilocybin is legally rolled out — hint that even the hypothetical risk could influence what Oregonians have access to in 2023. It’s likely Oregon will ban all magic mushroom species, apart from one that’s considered safe, to avoid the theoretical risk of WLP.

Jessie K. Uehling, a member of Oregon’s Psilocybin Advisory Board, said accounts of WLP were “not trivial” and posed some “very serious concerns”.

“These people are being paralyzed in a field overnight because they’re out for a walk and they lose the ability to use the legs,” Uehling, a professor and research-laboratory head at Oregon State University, told Insider.

“I personally would take wood-lovers paralysis pretty seriously until we know more about it,” Uehling said.

Wood lovers paralysis seems to be linked to certain species of mushrooms, but there are plenty of unanswered questions

According to Dr. Simon Beck, a former psychiatrist who a co-ran a survey of 400 magic mushroom users in Australia to characterize the experience, said there have been hundreds of reports of people saying they’re unable to control parts of their body hours after taking magic mushrooms that tend to grow on wood.

But he cautioned that we don’t know exactly how often it occurs because there is no central database to report it.

“We still don’t think it is all that common relative to how many people are actually out there picking and eating wood-loving mushrooms, especially in north America and Australia,” he said.

Examples of mushrooms associated with WLP include:

  • Psilocybe azurescens found in the US, Psilocybe cyanescens picked in Europe and Canada

  • Psilocybe subaeruginosa from Australia.

Not everyone that ingests a particular species or batch of mushrooms will experience WLP, though, and we don’t know how or why it happens.

Beck aid that it was “really difficult” to convince people that WLP exists. “All I’d say is we’ve now heard very consistent reports which all sound like a really consistent syndrome,” he said.

There were no reports of people needing hospital treatment or dying from not being able to breathe from WLP, according to Beck. “But I do worry that if you were consuming other respiratory depressants and then had a bad enough episode of wood lovers paralysis, that the possibility may exist,” he said.

‘You couldn’t move, even if you had to’

About 40% of people in Beck’s survey experienced WLP as a temporary weakness that got worse with movement and better with rest, and about half reported altered sensation, such as numbness or pins and needles, in addition to weak muscles, Beck said.

Beck added WLP wasn’t the result of being too intoxicated and feeling “heavy” or unable to coordinate movement.

“With the wood lovers paralysis, it’s true weakness. You couldn’t move, even if you had to,” he said.

Beck warned that those surveyed reported accidents from WLP, such as falling off push bikes and near-miss car accidents, up to three days after any psychedelic effects had worn off.

“You’re already quite sure that you’re back to normal. And then all of a sudden your arm gives out where you’re trying to steer,” he said.

There isn’t much you can do if it does happens, apart from resting and waiting for the effects to wear off, users told Insider, adding that it’s best to take ‘magic’ mushroom in a safe place, for example not near a roads, and with another sober person.

It’s hard to give harm reduction advice for a syndrome that comes on randomly, Beck said.

“WLP does not warrant panic or fear in my eyes, but I think that cautious approach is sensible for a new system that’s going to be looked at by the rest of the world as an example of how to do things safely,” he said.

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