This article originally appeared on VICE Canada. I hate mushrooms. I realize that drug experiences are completely subjective, and a lot of people adore mushrooms ("it's natural"), but I am not cut out for them. And, yes, I've tried them in the outdoors. I've tried them only with people I trust. I've tried doing a lower dose, though to be fair, never that low. Each and every time I've found that my mind goes to dark places, and I end up in an hours-long loop thinking, I want this to be over. One time, that loop played out in a tiny bathroom in Laos where every time I looked in the mirror, I thought my skin was made of tree bark. Another time, I got stuck in that mind frame as my friend went non-verbal and started barking like a dog and biting at us. Over the years, I've heard some mushrooms horror stories, but, especially being from British Columbia, overwhelmingly people have very positive opinions about mushrooms. In fact, a lot of people have been insulted or even patronizing when I've said that I hate them and that they just don't suit my personality. Still, I knew I wasn't alone. So I put a shoutout on social media for people who've had horrible mushrooms trips. In ten years of being a reporter, it was probably the most enthusiastic response I've ever received. Without further adieu, here are the worst of the worst mushroom stories I could find:
I Thought I Was in Hell
We were in Vang Vieng a few years back, which is a town in Laos where backpackers go to do drugs. There was this strip of restaurants where if you go in and say the secret phrase which is like, "I want to do drugs," they will bring you a menu that is all illegal, mind-altering substances. They had cocaine, hashish, and bags of heroin. We decided to do a mushroom pizza, which seemed innocuous compared to what was on offer. My approach was to eat one slice and discover that it didn't do anything and keep eating slices until reality completely melted away.
I had eaten a lot of the mushroom pizza by the time we realized that this was going on, and I was like, "We gotta get outside." We moved outside the restaurant. I started losing touch with reality very quickly; I was convinced I was back home on a street in Vancouver. I could not understand why there was a half-man half-chicken statue outside, which does really exist and seems like poor planning at a place that sells hallucinogens. We went back to his hut that we had rented, and I spent the next six hours screaming, nonstop as loud as I could. I got locked in this weird psychological loop where I thought I was dead. I'd become convinced I was a dead body lying in a clearing in the forest and that these crickets I was hearing were surrounding my body. I was in the afterlife, and more than that, I was in hell and hell was an eternal loop where you're forced to believe you're alive just so you can go through the hell of realizing you're dead again.
I was so removed from reality at that point that I no longer knew I had done mushrooms. I had no idea I'd done drugs. It was so intense that there was no discernible difference for me between being awake and being asleep. I was still in the room, the walls were still melting, I was still alive, and dead and in hell. The only thing that made me realize later on that I'd been asleep was when I woke up and got onto my knees and started screaming, the person I was with rolled her eyes and said, "I thought we were through with this." Eventually, it kind of wore off and I came back to reality. The trip started at around 7 PM, and I woke up at 8 AM, and it was finally over. It had never occurred to me that it would stop. As you can imagine, when you've been told you've been damned for all eternity, it's surprising when you wake up, and you're OK. I was shaken for the rest of the trip and for six months after. I was having panic attacks and waking up in the night and leaving crowded places. It diminished my enthusiasm for mushrooms.
—Ted*, 38, Vancouver
I was 21 when I did shrooms for the first time with a couple of my college friends and my boyfriend at the time. We were at our friends' new apartment downtown. They had just moved and were like, "Let's do shrooms and party." It was like a Tuesday. We did it, it was great, we all had a really awesome time during the day when we went to a park. I loved it so much. It was as good as it could possibly be. At one point, my boyfriend was like, "Hey, can you grab my phone, let's put on some music." So I went and grabbed his phone, and I had kinda felt weird because we were fighting a bit at the time, and in the past, he had done things like smashed my phone. So I went through his phone very, very quickly and immediately saw messages to three other girls, one of whom he had dated right before me. He had been driving me home and messaging them like, "Hey, are you up? What are you doing?"
I found all these messages, and I was like, "What the fuck?" I kind of knew something was going on, but I was at the peak of my high. I was hallucinating. I confronted him, and I was like, "Hey, man. What are you doing? What the fuck? I just saw these messages." And he was also so high, and he was like, "Yeah, so what?" I was like, "I thought we were in love" or something dumb—we had been dating two and a half years. I went to the yard to cry, and the neighbors were dealers and were invited to a party. So I went into the other house and just partied with them, hallucinated, and walked two hours to get home, still high. Then it hit me, and I spent all day crying. We talked afterward, and we broke up. He blamed me and was like, "It was your fault. You were distant." And now he's been with the same girl ever since, and I hooked up with one of his good friends right after. Because it was such a bad trip, I kept having flashbacks of certain things. I had to go to therapy. It was a fucking nightmare for like a year afterward.
—Claire*, 26, Toronto
I was at a music festival in Detroit in 2011, and I hadn't been to Detroit before, so I didn't have a good hookup there or anything. So we went through some old friends that my ex had to get mushrooms—they were in pill form, kind of like MDMA but bigger capsules, so I didn't know how much was in a capsule. During the day, I dropped one, and my friends did one each as well. I guess the one I had was really potent, I was also doing coke that day. It wasn't the first time I had done mushrooms. I'd done them a bunch of times before that and had good experiences. I was watching Claude VonStroke, and I just started tripping out super fucking hard. I looked at my friends and was like, "Are you tripping this hard? What is going on? Are these mushrooms?" I went into a different level than them I think.
As it was getting later in the night, I think we were watching Jeff Mills, a really good old house DJ, and it seriously felt like I was on an alien planet. I lost the ability to speak. My friends were shaking me, saying, "Talk to us. Are you OK?" I could hear them, but there was like these shadows following me where I was in and out of reality. It was like a sheet was going over my face and going back down again. I was having ego death—I didn't think there was a difference between life and death. That was really fucking scary. I just remember walking around the festival going into this basement underground part and thinking, It doesn't matter if I die right now. I would be happy if I died. I was not depressed at that time in my life. I was happy. I started crying at some point. My friends eventually decided to take me out of the festival, but before we left, my partner at the time knew that I wanted this very specific T-shirt. I was so messed up, though, and he didn't know which one I wanted. He takes me to the stand and was like, "Is it this one that you want?" I nodded and said yes, but it wasn't even the one I wanted at all. I had spent $30 on a T-shirt I didn't want, and the next day, I didn't even have enough money to get the T-shirt I wanted. I still wear it sometimes.
—Allison, 26, Toronto
Profound Art Project
I did mushrooms a lot in undergrad, and every time I had horrible trips; I thought I was a huge loser and the world was coming to an end. The only time I thought things were going well, my friend and I spent two hours drawing things in the snow with our boots. I thought we were making some profound art, but then I started to come down and realized all we had drawn was the word POO, and I felt such shame. It was gigantic, too, like it took us a long time. We had drawn really big letters on the quad.
—Emma, 28, writer
The thing in general with hallucinogens is you can't turn it off. All it takes is one bad thought to creep in there, and then it's an avalanche of awful. It's hard when you're Jewish and constantly assailed by fears, worry, anxiety, and mortality. I have awful, terrifying thoughts a million times a day, and you can't just turn that off when you're on mushrooms.
We were doing mushrooms a fair bit at that time. We decided we would do them for fireworks night. I had a sick rooftop, and we decided we going to take mushrooms and watch the sunset. I did as many as would fit in my ham sandwich, probably two handfuls. It's nice, the sun is going down, we're good friends sharing some laughs. My friend John* had this thermos of whiskey and lemonade that he's drinking the entire time, and we watched a Dave Chappelle special that we've all watched a thousand times. Then I got so hot. I go into my room and take off all my clothes, and I look around, and the walls are just melting like candle wax. I decided the walls were melting because I was not a good son to my mother. I was too harsh on her for cheating on my father. So I started texting her saying "Mom I love you." I texted her probably 30 times—no reply. I'm like, "OK, that's good, I got that out of my system."
Then I go back to the living room, and we decided to go to this bar. We all leave. We're all a little fucked up but John, with the combination of the mushrooms and the jug of whiskey—he's pretty loopy. He's like, "One second, I gotta throw up." We're all waiting for him on the corner, and he walks to some bushes, and we hear the sounds of vomiting. Then we hear a sound which is unmistakeable. This sound cannot be mistaken for anything else. This is the sound of a head hitting concrete. Before the sound was even finished, I was sprinting over. I've never run so fast in my life. We find John splayed out on his back. He's out cold. I have a lot of experience with people passed out because of 15 years of being a degenerate, so I fishhook his mouth and started slapping him. He comes to, and his eyes are facing different directions, and he's like, "Let's go to the bar."
We bring him back to the apartment and put him on the couch. He's talking gibberish. We kept him awake for six hours until we could get him in touch with his girlfriend at the time, and she took him home. The next morning, he was throwing up, and it turned out he had like a grade three or four concussion. For me, it was incredibly terrifying. That was the last time I took that many mushrooms.
—Andrew*, 34, Vancouver
*Names have been changed to protect privacy.
Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
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