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IT'S A KIND OF MAGIC; They're an illegal drug, but that doesn't stop the hunt for mushrooms.

Byline: ESTEL FARELL-ROIG Reporter

AFTER his best friend died from an overdose of prescription drugs and opiates, Marc (not his real name) was struggling.

The 30-year-old was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and severe anxiety, and he ended up turning to old habits such as cocaine, which had been a burden on his life many years before.

He sought medical advice from his doctor, who offered him a prescription of what had just killed his friend. Marc, from Swansea, said: "This made no sense to me - I had to find an alternative.

"Instead of prescriptions for antianxiety and PTSD, I used micro doses of LSD and dried magic mushroom daily.

"If it wasn't for psilocybin [a naturally occurring psychedelic compound produced by more than 180 species of mushrooms] and Dimenthyltryptamine (DMT) [a hallucinogenic drug] I would be in a grave right now."

Marc, who has tried most drugs, said psychedelics saved his life, adding that he felt Valium and benzobased drugs would only mask his anxiety.

Psychedelics, on the other hand, made him truly think about the reasons behind his mental health and find a way to solve his issues rather than burying them deeper, he said.

"All this drug [Benzodiazepinebased medication] does is numb and mask problems rather than actually working out what is wrong in your life," he said. "Talking about your problems openly is the first step.

"The next step is to find your inner peace and realise your own selfworth.

"Psychedelics have helped me more than anyone could ever imagine."

Magic mushrooms have a key ingredient called psilocybin which means that, when they are eaten, they can produce hallucinogenic and psychedelic effects.

Psilocybin mushrooms are consumed in many ways, fresh or dried and, for example, some people brew them into tea or put them into food.

Under the The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, magic mushrooms are listed as a Class A drug, the same class as heroin. Fresh mushrooms were made illegal in 2005.

It is illegal to be in possession of them, and being found to be can lead to up to seven years in jail and/or an unlimited fine. Supplying someone else is punishable with life imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine. At the moment, Marc is taking cannabis supplements daily in different forms and psychedelics in microdoses, with the occasional full dose "to spice life up a little bit".

He said that, if it wasn't for psychedelics, he would be in a very different place, instead of running a successful company, having two mortgages and a happy family.

His anxiety and PTSD are now at a controllable level where he could lead a normal, happy life, he continued.

"I feel that, even if I suffer from another tragic event, I have the tools in my life not to suffer like I previously had to," Marc said.

Marc, who first tried mushrooms aged 14, goes mushroom hunting himself and, if not, gets them from friends or buys them through the dark web.

He said: "Of course I enjoy hunting for them - what is more fun than finding something as magical as the psilocybin mushroom? It's glorious to stumble across a patch of those beautiful nipple-shaped fungi."

The first time he tried magic mushrooms he said it was a fun experience with a group of friends in some woods. They only had a small amount, but it was enough for them all to experience some mild hallucinations and a lot of laughter.

"When tripping, it is not about what you see," Marc said. "Your perception is changed and your senses are heightened. Colours become a lot more vivid and your hearing may even become more tuned in to higher frequency.

"Soon, the world becomes a happier and funnier place to be.

"The trips can become more vivid, and walls can begin to melt and bright colours may have changed to beautiful geometric patterns that will have you in an ultimate tranquil state.

"Psychedelics come in many forms but the majority of 'trips' are not a hallucination of a flying dragon chasing you round a room."

Marc said he had never had a bad trip and that his advice was to take psychedelics when in the right state of mind.

The 30-year-old continued: "Being in a comfortable environment is everything for me when I want to get my trip on."

Danny (not his real name), on the other hand, had a different experience of magic mushrooms, saying he felts they take him into a spiritual world.

"Magic mushrooms relax me - they make me feel nice and make me laugh," the 33-year-old said. "They make me feel like I don't have to worry about anything.

"I like to do them with friends and people that I know. I am lucky because I have never had a bad trip."

Danny, who also uses other drugs such as cannabis, said he had been taking mushrooms since he was a teenager.

He recalled the first time he took them and, as he was waiting outside his friend's house, he could see two sumo fighters fighting on the pavement.

"I could hear mother earth talking to me," he continued. "She was saying there is something wrong with the planet and that she needed my help to sort it out."

Danny, from Port Talbot, said that, for him, the effects could last between nine and 12 hours, with the experience being intense for the whole time.

"I normally see very vivid colours, which helps me with my art a lot," he said. "A lot of the colours I use in my art come from what I have seen when I have been on magic mushrooms.

"It is such a lovely feeling. They are one of my favourite drugs."

Danny said he enjoyed hunting for the mushrooms as well, as it was exciting. Because they are only out in September, they were something to look forward to, he continued.

Danny offered to take us mushroom hunting one day and, on a sunny September afternoon, he took us to fields in the Neath area.

We started walking and, at first, we didn't find anything. However, within half an hour, I found our first mushroom - it was bright red and had white spots. It was a Fly Agaric, according to Danny. He said he had spent 12 years searching for one and couldn't believe I had found one on my first magic mushroom hunt.

The Fly Agaric, which belongs to a different family and should not be confused with psilocybin-containing mushrooms, is stronger than the traditional "liberty cap" mushroom. They are taken by some for hallucinogenic properties, although they have unpleasant side effects. These include twitching, drooling, sweating, dizziness, vomiting and delirium - and incorrect preparation may lead to death, as they are poisonous.

It was not until we went to another, much bigger field with sheep that we found liberty caps, one of the most common and widespread species of magic mushrooms found in Europe. They are really small and you have to scan the ground closely.

We went some minutes without finding any and, then, all of a sudden, we found quite a few of them.

At the end of the walk, we had found two handfuls of mushrooms, but Danny said: "I had better take these from you now or you could be in a lot of trouble."

For more evidence-based information on magic mushrooms, you can visit DrugScience, a committee chaired by Professor Nutt.

South Wales Police were contacted for comment.
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Oct 14, 2018
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