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Drug Testing for Mushrooms

Dear Dr. Shulgin:

Can you be drug tested for mushrooms? - Mack

Dear Mack:

Most of the "magic mushrooms" are various species of the Genus Psilocybe. And the chemical that immediately comes to mind, with the mention of this Genus, is the compound psilocybin. This alkaloid was first isolated from Psilocybe mexicana almost fifty years ago by Albert Hofmann, the chemist at Sandoz who first synthesized LSD and discovered its activity.

Psilocybin is an internal salt, with an acid function at one end (a monophosphate ester) and a basic function at the other end (a tertiary amine group). This type of structure is known chemically as a zwitter-ion. This is why it is rather water soluble, forming beautiful white crystals when recrystallized from boiling water. And this is why it is not the active component of these mushrooms in man -- it is blocked by the blood-brain barrier from getting into the brain.

But in the blood stream, the phosphate group is very quickly hydrolyzed off by a serum esterase and the resulting metabolite, psilocin, is an extremely potent psychedelic drug and readily enters the brain. This rather fragile compound is present in both the blood and the urine of the user, as both the free base and its glucuronide conjugate. These are excreted quite rapidly, reaching a maximum urinary level of about 1 microgram per milliliter in about three hours, and this rapidly falls to below the limits of analytical detectability (< 10 nanograms per milliliter) within 24 hours. Maximum serum levels of the combined psilocin and its conjugate are about 50 nanograms per milliliter. Psilocin is further metabolized by the loss of one of the nitrogen atoms to form the alcohol 4-hydroxytryptophol and the corresponding carboxylic acid, 4-hydroxyindole-3-acetic acid.

All three of these materials, psilocin and its two deamination products, are observable, after derivitization, by conventional chromatographic instruments.

So, yes, you certainly can be tested for mushrooms, but I know of no laboratory that is presently set up to perform this analysis. 

Most of these human studies have been performed in the last three or four years, largely in Switzerland, and represent the cutting edge of present day research. It will be quite some time before these procedures will be part of any random urine test.


   --Dr. Shulgin
 

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