Thu, May 15, 2014 - Page 5 News List

‘Magic mushroom’ case alerts officials

PSYCHEDELIC STIR-FRY:A Taipei resident picked the mushrooms, took them home and made a vegetable stir-fry, only to experience a two-hour hallucinatory trip

By Jason Pan  /  Staff writer

“Magic mushrooms,” which are classified as a Category 2 drug, are pictured in an undated photograph.

Photo provided by the Criminal Investigation Bureau

Authorities have issued a warning after “magic mushrooms” were found growing at a popular pasture in Yangmingshan National Park (陽明山), saying the fungi are classified as a “Category 2” illegal drug.

Taipei’s Seventh Special Police Corps (保七總隊), in charge of public safety at Yangmingshan park, said they were alarmed at the discovery of “magic mushrooms” and have beefed up patrols in the park, which is frequented daily by city residents, hikers and tourists.

“We are paying close attention to this case and a team was dispatched this morning to collect the mushrooms. They will be sent for lab analysis,” said Wang Chi-cheng (王志成), head of the criminal investigation unit at the Seventh Special Police Corps.

“Before making a proper identification, we have reinforced patrols throughout all areas of Yangmingshan,” Wang told reporters.

The beefed-up patrols are needed because authorities have become aware of reports of the mushrooms creating a buzz both online and off the Web, mostly due to unfamiliarity and curiosity about this particular wild fungus with hallucinatory and psychedelic properties, Wang said.

According to a Chinese-language Apple Daily report on Monday, a man from Taipei surnamed Huang (黃) last month went to park’s Qingtiangang (擎天崗), a scenic mountain pasture still used by local farmers to graze cattle.

Huang said he found wild mushrooms, mostly white in color, growing on the cow dung. Thinking they were edible, the 24-year-old picked a bunch and took them home. He made a vegetable stir-fry with the mushrooms and consumed the dish.

Huang recalled that he began to experience something unusual.

“I felt light, like my body was floating in midair. I saw strange things and space seemed distorted. I also had this uncontrollable drooling,” he said, according to the newspaper report.

After coming down from the hallucinatory trip, which lasted about two hours, Huang was frightened and told a friend about the experience, who was certain Huang had eaten “magic mushrooms.”

According to experts, Huang had eaten psilocybin mushrooms, which contain the active ingredients psilocybin and psilocin.

Chen Chi-chen (陳啟禎), a biology professor at Southern Taiwan University of Science and Technology, said some indigenous people of central America used psilocybin mushrooms to induce psychedelic experiences during traditional ceremonies and religious rituals.

“In this case, the mushroom spores were eaten by cattle and expelled in their feces. When suitable temperature and humidity conditions were met, they sprouted on the dung and grew into mature mushrooms,” Chen said.

“They can also grow on other cool and wet mountain slopes around Taiwan, not just on Yangmingshan,” he added.

On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration issued a statement warning the public not to pick any wild mushrooms found in mountainous areas and not to eat them.

“Psilocybin mushrooms affect the central nervous system, lead to muscle weakness, and may cause convulsions and lead to death in serious cases,” the administration said.

The statement stressed that psilocybin mushrooms are illegal in Taiwan, as they are considered a “Category 2” drug, alongside marijuana and amphetamine.

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