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 mindframe 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 BC, 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 call-out on social media for people who've had horrible mushrooms trips. In 10 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:
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. It was cocaine, hashish, 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. Very quickly I was losing touch with reality; 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 want back to this hut that we had rented and I spent the next six hours screaming. Non-stop screaming 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 thought I was in hell
I was so removed from reality at that point, I no longer knew I had done mushrooms. I had no idea I'd done drugs. It was so intense that there was no discernable 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 that 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 this." Eventually it kind of wore off and I came back to reality. The trip had started at around 7 PM and I woke up at 8 in the morning 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, doing shrooms for the first time with a couple of my university friends and my boyfriend at the time. We were at our friends' new apartment downtown. They had just moved downtown 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, 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, cause 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. And 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 neighbours were dealers and they invited to a party. So I went into the other house and just partied with them, hallucinated, and walked two and a half hours to get home, still high. And then it hit me and I spent all day crying. We talked afterwards 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 afterwards.
—Claire*, 26, Toronto
I was at a music festival 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 and 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 too. 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 buncha 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 being like "talk to us, are you OK?" I could hear them but there were 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, thinking "it doesn't matter if I die right now, I would be happy if I died." I was not depressed at that time of 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?" and 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
I did them 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. I felt such shame. It was gigantic too, like it took us a long time. Really big letters on the quad.—Emma, 28, writer
Profound art project
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 thoughts, 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 were gonna do them for fireworks night. I had a sick rooftop and we decided we gonna take mushrooms and watch the sunset. I did as many as would fit into my ham sandwich, probably two handfuls and 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 sculling 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 "blaaghh blaghh." And 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, out cold. I have a lot of experience of 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 and 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 3 or 4 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.Follow Manisha on Twitter.