When it comes to drug use, both medicinal and recreational, one of the worst things that can happen is an overdose. I haven't personally experienced it, but it can be terrifying to think about. Some medications carry a much higher risk of overdose than others.
For example, you are much more likely to experience dangerous levels of toxicity when using methamphetamine or heroin than if you were using, say, ketamine or MDMA.
In fact, psychedelics in general (both natural and synthetic) carry a very low risk of overdose . For many compounds in this class of drugs, it is almost impossible to reach this point.
What are the chances of someone overdosing on some of the more popular hallucinogens, like mushrooms or LSD? Keep reading to find out more...
What is an overdose or overdose?
Overdose is the term for the physiological reaction that occurs when we take too much of a substance or combination of substances. Overdoses are often accidental, but can also be intentional and account for a significant proportion of attempted suicides ( 67% to be exact). Additionally, overdoses can occur from a variety of substances, including illicit and prescription drugs, alcohol, and even some vitamins (although the latter are rare).
Overdose can be fatal , and the most common cause is usually respiratory failure , although there are several other ways drug use can lead to clinical overdose.
What to do in case of overdose?
However, an overdose can be reversed and the person can be saved if the right medical treatment is given in time (i.e. Narcan for opioid overdoses or stomach pumping and use of charcoal active for alcohol poisoning).
What are the most dangerous substances in overdose?
Due to the way they work in the human body, opioids are among the substances most likely to cause an overdose . Our body is full of opioid receptors, although they are mainly concentrated in the brain, central and peripheral nervous systems and the gastrointestinal tract.
When small amounts of opioids are used, these receptors are activated and bodily functions begin to slow down . However, if you take too much , these receptors become overloaded and eventually shut down completely...resulting in an overdose and possible death.
Another very dangerous substance is alcohol , although in the context of excessive consumption this is not an overdose, but rather " alcohol poisoning ". Sometimes alcohol intoxication comes on quickly and can affect breathing, heart rate, body temperature, and choking reflexes. Alcohol poisoning can lead to alcoholic coma and even death .
Illegal substances are less dangerous?
The class of illicit substances least likely to cause such harm are psychedelics . This is odd because many of them remain on the DEA's Schedule 1 drug list,
while more dangerous drugs that CAN actually kill people - such as methamphetamine, cocaine, and various opioids - are classified as Schedule 2 or higher .
For the record, the DEA defines Schedule 1 drugs as " drugs with no currently accepted medical use and high potential for abuse "; and drugs with the highest number (Appendices 4 and 5) are considered the safest. So psychedelics are on Schedule 1 and meth is not , as if that makes sense.
Psychedelics and overdoses
While you can technically overdose on psychedelics, it's rare with most and nearly impossible with some. Now let's quickly discuss a concept known as " effective dose versus lethal dose ".
It's about the dose needed to get high versus the dose needed for the drug to kill someone, and how that ratio compares to other drugs.
For example , GHB, heroin and methamphetamine are among the most toxic substances, with lethal doses several times higher than the effective dose.
Even the lethal dose to die from consuming alcohol is only 10 times the dose needed to get drunk. Compare that to psilocybin, whose lethal dose is estimated to be 1,000 times the effective dose, or even ketamine, whose lethal dose is 38 times the effective dose; it can easily be established that psychedelics – both natural and synthetic – are relatively safe.
Among the least physiologically toxic substances, or those that require 100 to 1000 times the effective dose to cause death, are psilocybin mushrooms, LSD, and marijuana .
There are no published cases documenting deaths from smoked marijuana or psilocybin mushrooms, so the actual lethal dose remains a mystery.
Difference between an Overdose and a Bad Trip?
Some people may confuse them, but they are fundamentally different. The main contrast between the two is that overdose is physical and bad trips are mental . Overdoses can be deadly, while bad trips are mostly scary and confusing.
This distinction is hugely important because it really highlights the utter folly of the idea of keeping psychedelic drugs illegal.
How are drugs like OxyContin and other opioids (which kill an average of 44 people a day in the United States) legal with prescriptions, while psychedelics, which are significantly safer, remain banned?
This does not mean that opioids should be banned. Yes, they should be regulated. But not completely banned. There is definitely a time and a place where opioid medications are useful.
But if we can admit that, why is the government so reluctant to admit that psychedelics can be just as useful , if not more so; and much safer because they cannot lead to physical overdose?
Risk of overdose with common hallucinogens?
Below, we'll take a look at the four most popular psychedelics , which also happen to be those currently in various stages of clinical trials, to see what the toxicity levels are for each.
Danger of Psilocybin:
Mushroom overdose is very rare. In fact, recent studies confirm that only 0.2% of magic mushroom users seek emergency medical attention after consuming...the lowest of all recreational drugs, including cannabis.
A psilocybin "overdose", or rather a bad trip , can lead to various psychological symptoms, the main one being a very intense panic attack .
One of the risks of eating magic mushrooms, especially if you pick them yourself, is picking the wrong kind. Considering that there are over 14,000 different types of mushrooms in the world, it is easy to conclude that some of them have very similar characteristics, which makes them difficult to tell apart in real life situations. Eating poisonous mushrooms can be deadly , so this is something you need to be very careful about.
Danger of LSD?
Like psilocybin, an overdose of LSD is nearly impossible. That doesn't mean it's safe to consume in high doses, and yes, you can actually experience LSD toxicity . But because it's so strong, it's very rare that anyone can consume that much.
Again, you can have a bad LSD trip . And because it's such a potent and long-lasting hallucinogen, people can get into accidents or physically hurt themselves when high. There have been reports of self-harm and suicide attempts while under the influence of LSD, but from the research I was able to find online, this is also quite rare.
Danger of Ketamine?
Ketamine has been around for a while, but has recently seen an increase in mainstream adoption with the FDA approval of Esketamine, ongoing research into another drug called Arketamine, and a sharp increase in the number of physicians willing to supply standard ketamine for non-medicinal purposes. .
However, it is possible to overdose on ketamine , more likely than with other psychedelics. The lethal dose of ketamine is approximately 40 times the effective dose , so although it is significantly more toxic than psilocybin, it is still much safer than most recreational drugs ( and even many prescription drugs ).
Danger of MDMA?
It is extremely important to remember here that there are big differences between pure MDMA and ecstasy (which contains MDMA). One of the most important differences is that overdoses are relatively common with ecstasy, whereas with pure MDMA this is unlikely.
This is because ecstasy is MDMA mixed with another type of drug, which means an adulterant is added to increase its potency (and often to increase the manufacturers' profits). Methamphetamine is a common adulterant in ecstasy , making it far more dangerous than its pure form .
Conclusion on the dangers of psychedelics:
There are two main things I would like readers to take away from this article. First, psychedelics are safe and you are unlikely to overdose on them. That should at least allay some people's concerns about trying them.
Second, because they are so much safer than other drugs, it makes no sense to keep them illegal, since the reasons for the ban are clearly not in our interest.
Drug Classification Table
Watch this video from the excellent Youtube channel Damien Maya
" The Inconvenient Truth About Psychedelics "
All information in this article is based on sources and references, and all opinions expressed are my own. I do not give advice to anyone and although I am happy to discuss topics, if anyone has another question or concern they should seek advice from a competent specialist. People who suffer from psychiatric, neurological or cardiovascular disorders or who use psychiatric drugs should completely avoid psychedelics and other drugs.