How Mixing Mushrooms and MDMA Affects Your Body and Brain

"Shrooms and MDMA made me feel like it was OK to laugh, fuck like a banshee, and see the forest for the trees."
How Mixing Mushrooms Affects Your Body and Brain
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Combining mushroom and MDMA, or hippie-flipping, is meant to give users trips that are both euphoric and psychedelic. People have been hippie flipping in clubs and other social settings for decades; now, some even take mushrooms and MDMA together on their own or with guides for self-styled spiritual or therapeutic purposes. 

Here's a basic outline of what these two drugs do, how they respond to each other, what their risks are, and a few other things potential users should know. As is always the case with drugs, it's also good to keep in mind that bodies and brains respond differently to different substances, and that there are always potential risks. With that being said: Let's get into how hippie flipping works and what it feels like to combine shrooms and MDMA.


What does combining mushrooms and MDMA do to your brain and body?

As you might be able to guess, the combination of mushrooms and MDMA will definitely affect your mood and judgement, and that's because both drugs affect the way you experience pleasure. “MDMA increases the release of [the feel-good chemical] serotonin, and this can evoke the release of dopamine"—a neurotransmitter also associated with pleasure—"in neurological networks that are involved in motivation and desire,” explained James Giordano, professor of neurology and biochemistry at Georgetown University Medical Center. “The active ingredient in mushrooms, psilocybin, also affects the serotonin system by acting at serotonin receptors and inducing serotonin-like effects in the brain.”

People who combine MDMA and mushrooms will likely not only feel an unusual range of emotions, but also have unusual sensory experiences. “Psilocybin’s effects include an altered perception of time and space, intense changes in mood and feeling, and visual alteration and distortion, such as halos of light and vivid colors,” said Sal Raichbach, an addiction psychiatrist at Ambrosia Treatment Center, a drug addiction rehab facility in Florida. “When a person is mixing both drugs, their brain releases excess amounts of serotonin, creating feelings of intense joy and enhanced physical sensations.” MDMA, in particular is known to enhance the sensation of touch, according to one 2019 study in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology (and, also... many people who have simply taken MDMA).


Some dual users say the combination of substances helps them process trauma, grief, and other emotions that are otherwise difficult to face. “The activity of mushrooms is primarily working in the visual, as well as the associative, cortexes, but there are also some activity and serotonin receptors found in the limbic system"—the brain’s emotional center—"and what’s happening there is people get memory recurrences with mushrooms,” Giordano explained. 

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The serotonin and dopamine rush people get from MDMA can infuse even the most painful memories with positivity. “They don’t call it ecstasy for nothing,” Giordano said. “To quote Nietzsche, if you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back at you. With MDMA, the abyss is smiling back.”

How do people take mushrooms and MDMA together?

Using mushrooms and MDMA together will produce stronger effects than taking either alone. Giordano recommended taking a lower dose of each substance than a person normally might when using them individually, especially if they don't have much experience with one or both of the drugs. A smaller-than-average dose of MDMA would be about 25–75 milligrams; a smaller-than-average dose of mushrooms might be 1.5–2.5 grams, Giordano said.

Altering this ratio by taking more of one drug than another will produce the effects you might expect, based on what a person increases: Taking more MDMA may mean “you’re a little more outgoing, you're a little more amorous, you feel a little bit more connected to people,” said Giordano. More mushrooms, on the other hand, could result in more hallucinations and sensory effects.


Giordano mentioned a popular saying when he described the process of actually taking the drugs involved in hippie flipping: “Shrooms before X gets you trippy and sexed, and X before shrooms leaves you off in the gloom.” In other words: People usually wait to take the MDMA until after they've peaked on the mushrooms, since experiencing an MDMA comedown on mushrooms can make for an unpleasant trip.

What is it like to hippie flip?

A mushroom and MDMA trip might make a person feel exuberant, free, and inspired—or the two drugs might cause a more complex or heavy trip. Laura, a "provider" whose name has been changed here for her privacy, gives people mushrooms and MDMA and guides them through their trips. She said that her clients process difficult emotions that they’re not normally able to access in her sessions, which involve music, talking, and silent meditation with the aid of blindfolds and noise-blocking headphones.

“Mushrooms can be dark and heavy,” Laura explained. “It’s important to look at the shadow and start to build a sense of comfort in the murky waters of the psyche, but when you're addressing trauma, not everyone is fully able to be that immersed in the murky waters, so the combination of the MDMA and the mushrooms really helps to lift up the experience to make it a little lighter and more manageable.”


People will generally feel whichever substance they’re more sensitive to, said Giordano. If a person is very prone to hallucinations on psychedelics, mushrooms may have more of an effect than MDMA. It’s also normal for MDMA to hit quickly when a person is already on shrooms, because their serotonin receptors are getting a “double-whammy effect,” he said.

Each time Leslie Greening, a 37-year-old public servant in Halifax, Canada, has mixed MDMA and mushrooms at clubs and festivals for years, they said they've felt “absolutely silly, free, and almost aggressively eager for exciting stimuli to trip on." They liked the experience so much because, they said, “I focused on only the exact moment I was experiencing. The extreme presence was joyful.”

When a person takes mushrooms and MDMA with other people, it can facilitate meaningful connections between them, said Giordano, since the MDMA gives users a sense of closeness with others, while the mushrooms give everything an air of profundity. However, this drug-induced intimacy can backfire, because if a person has a negative experience with others, the highly emotional state that comes with hippie flipping can magnify it. “It's usually best to do this in an environment with people you know and you like,” he said.

Laura, the provider, claimed that the drug combination “allows one to have compassion for oneself and for others,” as she explained. “It can help you to build a deeper connection to yourself, to find self-love, and to connect to your soul.” During trips, she frequently sees people expressing their intense emotions physically by laughing, crying, shaking, or sweating.


“These drugs are amazing because they [make me feel] the potential for healing and hope,” said Sara, a 30-year-old attorney in the northeastern U.S. whose last name has been omitted for her privacy. Sara believes hippie flipping has helped with her PTSD. “I was just so grateful to be me, which I couldn't feel when I was sober. It's life-changing to be someone who comes from so much violence and then feel… lucky," she said. "Mushrooms and MDMA let me feel like it was OK to laugh, fuck like a banshee, and see the forest for the trees.”

For some of the more casual users VICE spoke to, hippie flipping was underwhelming. One anonymous 39-year-old writer and editor in Los Angeles said he could only really feel the mushrooms when he tried hippie flipping. “I feel like MDMA is largely redundant,” he said. “Like MDMA is just psilocybin minus the hallucinations.” 

Daniel Becerra, a 36-year-old visual merchandising professional in Long Beach, California, only felt the MDMA. “But I also think it made my MDMA hit a lot faster and harder,” he says. “Within 20 minutes, I immediately felt like I was peaking on the MDMA. It wasn’t a slow roll to the top; it was like I slammed to the top.”

As you might guess, a risk of taking multiple mind-altering substances is that people on drugs sometimes make dumb decisions or feel overwhelmed or afraid. “Psychedelics, especially when combined with other drugs, can provoke powerful and challenging states of mind,” said Raichbach. For damage control on that front, people who decide to hippie flip might want to journey alongside a sober trip-sitter. 


What are the risks of using MDMA and mushrooms together?

Like most drug combinations, mixing mushrooms and MDMA is not without its risks. Overdosing on MDMA can lead to serotonin syndrome, where an excess of serotonin in the brain produces muscle cramping, high temperature, and cardiac arrhythmia, said Giordano. Add mushrooms, which prevent the reuptake of serotonin from your brain cells—essentially keeping it in your system longer—and your risk is higher. 

MDMA can create disturbance in heart rhythm, as well as oxidative stress on the heart, which is an imbalance of antioxidants and free radicals that can lead to tissue and cell damage. Since mushrooms increase blood pressure and pulse, any cardiac risks a person might experience would also increase, said Matthew Johnson, professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Mushrooms may also compound the potential damage MDMA can do to brain cells by over-activating the cells, he added. 

In the moment people are hippie flipping, there are additional side effects to be aware of. “Other undesired effects from a hippie flip trip include weakness, nausea, rapid eye movement, clenching of the jaw, dry mouth, extreme thirst, dizziness, insomnia, and more,” said Raichbach. “These side effects can be mitigated by testing the potency and purity of your substance.” Conservative dosing is also key when it comes to safety and potentially lessening risk, in general.


Before hippie flipping, people should make sure they don’t have any health conditions that might put them at greater risk of health problems or complications. “Less risky use would involve somebody knowing they don't have heart diseases—and not being without a sober companion able to call for medical help,” said Johnson. 

Others who should completely avoid this combination are those who take medications or supplements including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), or St. John's wort, which increases the risk of serotonin syndrome, an excess of serotonin that can lead to rapid heart rate, overheating, and other problems, according to Giordano.

How long does the trip last, and what's the comedown like?

You can expect the trip to last for about four hours, said Giordano, and the comedown will depend on when you take each substance. If a person takes mushrooms first, they'd probably have more of a standard MDMA crash at the end, which may involve feelings of sadness or anxiety as their brain’s serotonin supply runs low. “Taking the mushrooms last and the MDMA first, you're getting a bit of that crashing effect of the MDMA, but it'll be superimposed by the hallucinogenic effect of the mushrooms,” he said. This might be preferable for some, but for many, it can create the conditions for a bad trip.

Either way, you’ll probably feel “a bit tired and a bit spent,” said Giordano, but hydrating well can temper the comedown by helping to clear the remainder of the substances out of your body. 

“I suggest people keep a journal so they can actually remember what the trip felt like: their doses, the timing of the doses, and what the comedown feels like,” Giordano added, “and to reflect on what that means, going forward.”

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