An unfortunate reality for psychonauts is that magic mushrooms remain illegal in many countries. Some employers will conduct drug tests to detect a battery of various drugs - including psilocybin. In this article, we provide practical information about drug tests: how drug tests detect psilocybin, and what steps you can take to avoid getting “caught” by one of the drug tests.
Magic Mushrooms in the Body
While psilocybin is a main component of magic mushrooms, it doesn’t readily cross the blood-brain barrier. In order to induce psychedelic effects, it must first be broken down into smaller molecules in your body. Psilocybin has four metabolites, but the most important of these is psilocin, a molecule close in structure to DMT.
About 20 minutes after eating mushrooms, your liver will convert most of the psilocybin to psilocin, which then produces psychedelic effects by acting on serotonin receptors in your brain.
A mushroom trip will last for 4-6 hours, and your kidneys will gradually filter out the psilocin before the end of the trip. By the time your trip ends, almost all of the psilocin and inactive metabolites will have already passed out of your body through your urine.1
Half-Life of Psilocybin
All substances have a half life, which refers to the time it takes for half of it to be broken down. This exponential excretion means that some trace amounts will remain in your body for a while. Modern drug tests detect tiny quantities of metabolic byproducts, so even a small psychedelic dose may result in a positive test if the particular test is designed to detect mushroom use.
Your saliva and blood will not store metabolites of psilocybin for very long, but they may appear in urine for up to a week after a trip, and can stay in fatty tissues or hair follicles for even longer.2
Types of Drug Tests
Drug tests vary in their level of sophistication. If an employer decides to test you, it is unlikely they will throw the entire kitchen sink at you. In this section, we describe the different types of drug tests, how they work, when they are used, and whether they can be used to detect consumption of psilocybin mushrooms.
Urine tests are common because they’re relatively noninvasive and affordable. They are available commercially and at most pharmacies for at home use. Unless you’re being tested at home by family members, you will typically visit a testing site and provide a urine sample in a cup, which is then sent to a laboratory. Urinalysis is determined by chemical reagents and chromatography, and is most effective at detecting drugs used within the previous week.
When is urinalysis/urine testing used?
If you’re being drug tested at work, your company will probably use a 5-panel urinalysis. These tests look for cannabinoids, most opioids, cocaine, PCP, and amphetamines, including MDMA.
10-panel urine tests are also available commercially and include sedatives and specific opioids, but still do not test for mushrooms.3
These are used by many private and federal workplaces, and are legally required for commercial drivers. All branches of the military use urine drug tests, but will not test for psychedelics unless you are suspected of using them or fail a less specific drug test.
Can urine tests detect psilocybin mushroom consumption?
Urinalysis for psychedelics exist, but are not common as they are expensive. You are most likely to be tested for psilocybin if you are in the military or working for a government employer, and are already suspected of using them. Usually, psilocybin tests are reserved for individuals on probation for charges related to mushroom use.4
In almost all cases, psilocybin use will not be sought by a urine test. The laboratory procedures used to detect its metabolites must be done separately from a typical drug test, incurring higher costs. Mushrooms are also not used as frequently as most drugs in a 5-panel test and are not addictive, so they are not as high a concern for most employers and organizations.
Blood tests are highly accurate but are not frequently utilized. A professional phlebotomist must take a blood sample on site at a medical facility, which makes them expensive and invasive. They don’t typically include psychedelics, and are generally used to look for the same drugs covered by urine tests.
When are blood tests used?
You may be asked to take a blood test as part of a court order or when applying for insurance.5
Blood tests may be used in medical facilities, especially in emergency situations. As psilocybin only remains in your blood for a couple hours, the highest chance of receiving this type of test would be if you were admitted to the emergency room while having a bad trip.
If you are in a car accident or arrested for reckless driving, a blood test to determine alcohol concentration may be administered, but it will not be used to look for the presence of psilocybin. Despite this, driving on mushrooms is extremely dangerous and should never be attempted.6
Can blood tests detect psilocybin mushroom consumption?
Because blood tests only detect a “parent” molecule and not its metabolites, they can only screen for drug use within a short window of time.
Hair Follicle Test
Some organizations are abandoning urine drug tests in favor of hair tests, which are more accurate and detect drug use within 90 days. During this type of test, you will submit between 100-120 hairs. They are usually collected by a professional and trimmed carefully to avoid producing bald spots. If your head is shaved, body hair will be collected instead.7
When are hair tests used?
This test may be required as part of a court order for individuals with prior substance abuse problems. Hair testing is gaining popularity in Europe for people attempting to regain a driver’s license after an intoxicated driving charge.
A follicle test is several times more expensive than urinalysis. Small companies with few employees may be more likely to spend the extra money than large organizations who must test many individuals. Most government employers still rely on urinalysis, but some are adopting hair tests in recent years.
Can hair tests detect psilocybin mushroom consumption?
Hair tests are highly accurate and rely on either ELISA or GC/MS laboratory analysis techniques, which can screen for many drugs while differentiating between false positive results. They readily detect 17 substances, including those already covered by 10 panel urine tests and some of their common analogues.8
While psilocybin is not included in most hair tests, it can be detected by a specific laboratory technique. As standard hair analysis is already costly, a psilocybin test will not be likely unless you are dealing with ongoing legal consequences related to mushroom possession or use.9
Some workplaces still opt to use saliva testing instead of urine testing, because saliva testing is more affordable and difficult to cheat. Employment saliva tests often take place in the workplace, and involve a supervisor swabbing your mouth and sending the sample to a lab by mail.
When are saliva tests used?
Because saliva tests are available for home use, you may be given one if you are living with family members who suspect drug use. Home saliva tests include 5-panel drugs, but not psychedelics like psilocybin.10
Saliva tests are not used by the military or federal workplaces. Saliva tests are sometimes used to detect alcohol use during traffic stops, but recent psilocybin use will not be detected in this situation.
Can saliva tests detect psilocybin mushroom consumption?
Oral tests are only capable of accurately detecting drug use within the previous 2-5 days.
Standard saliva tests are used for the same drugs 5-panel urine test, but psilocybin can be detected within 5 days and may be specifically tested for by probation officers if you have a history of using mushrooms. As urine tests are the most commonly used in this case, an oral test is theoretically possible but very unlikely.11
Passing Drug Tests for Psilocybin
As a general rule, detectable levels of psilocybin and psilocin may remain in your blood for several hours, saliva for 5 days, urine for one week, and hair for several weeks or months. The concentration can vary based on factors like body weight, age, gender, and liver or kidney health.
As most drug tests are not designed to include psilocybin, you will not have anything to worry about except in the case that a specific test is ordered. Under these unusual circumstances, you will likely have time to prepare by briefly avoiding mushrooms around the time you anticipate a urine or saliva test.
Drinking Water/Liquid Supplements
Some options for passing a urine test are better than others. Drinking excessive amounts of water prior to the test can be dangerous and isn’t effective, as urinalysis only needs tiny amounts of metabolites to result in a positive. Most laboratories are also capable of detecting when someone has tried to dilute their urine by drinking a lot of water, which looks suspicious and often results in additional tests.12
Some supplements and drinks claim to help pass a urine test, but many are expensive and include substances that some laboratories now test for alongside drugs. The websites selling these products often make statements not based on science and feature major inaccuracies about drugs like psilocybin.13
If you are expecting a urine test, another way to pass is by purchasing synthetic urine or by using a sample from a friend who does not take drugs. Most corporate urine tests allow you privacy, making this an easy option. Probation or court ordered tests may require you to pee in front of an officer, but prosthetic devices are available that can help you smuggle a sample into the testing room. Be aware that some laboratories can detect synthetic urine, and the quality may vary depending on where you purchase it.14
Passing Hair Drug Tests
A hair drug test is harder to pass. There are shampoos that claim they can help rid your hair of past drug use, but many are just as expensive and questionable as the previously mentioned supplements.
Some techniques exist involving cleaning your hair with a series of household products like vinegar and laundry detergent. While anecdotal evidence suggests this may work for cannabis, there is no firm scientific proof that this can help you pass a psilocybin drug test. The only certain solution is to wait until your hair grows enough to trim, which isn’t practical.15
As with many things in life, prevention is the best option. Hair tests for psilocybin are not likely unless you already fail another type of drug test or are dealing with legal consequences related to mushrooms. These legal consequences can be avoided by using mushrooms responsibly. Plan to have a sober sitter available, do not trip in public places, and avoid selling any mushrooms that you grow.
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