As bad trips go, losing the ability to move has to be up there with the very worst of psychedelic experiences. And while the phenomenon hasn’t been properly documented in the scientific literature, a growing number of anecdotal reports suggest that people around the world are coming down with a condition known as "wood-lovers paralysis" after ingesting certain species of magic mushroom.
The debilitating effect has become so common that psychonauts now refer to it simply as WLP on online forums. A quick browse through some of these message boards reveals some pretty harrowing trip reports from users who got so shpongled that they literally lost control of their limbs, bodies, and faces.
“I was busy playing games when suddenly I couldn't manage to press the buttons to play anymore, followed by a very blurred vision,” writes one user. “I was unable to make simple adjustments to my camping equipment (pulling down on a tarp tensioner cord) because my abdominal muscles would go slack after less than 1 second of any exertion,” adds another.
“I tried to drink and couldn't keep the water in my mouth: lips went slack. Then I tried eating a sweet protein bar, and I slobbered all over myself for the same reason: lips wouldn't close,” continues the terrifying account.
Fortunately, these symptoms are reported to clear up within 24 hours, although it’s pretty alarming that scientists have no idea what causes this loss of motor control. What we do know, however, is that WLP is typically produced by mushroom species that grow on wood, such as Psilocybe cyanescens and Psilocybe azurescens.
While these species contain psilocybin – the psychoactive component of magic mushrooms that has been associated with mental health benefits – they are not commonly used. Worldwide, Psilocybe cubensis is by far the most popular variety of magic mushroom, and no known cases of WLP have been attributed to this species.
The fact that WLP only seems to be triggered by specific types of mushroom has led to a number of theories regarding its cause, none of which have been properly investigated. One hypothesis is that the condition is generated by a compound called aeruginascin, which is typically found in P. azurescens and is similar in structure to a type of paralysis-inducing toad venom called bufotenidine.
Funnily enough, a study from way back in the 80s found that aeruginascin is normally associated with euphoric trips, inspiring a psychedelic research company to use the compound to create a drug that only produces positive experiences.
Other theories blame WLP on black rot, which often affects wood-loving mushrooms. Meanwhile, numerous forum users claim to have reversed their shroom-induced paralysis using anti-histamine drugs such as Benadryl.
While this may indicate that the condition could be at least partially caused by a histamine reaction, it’s worth noting that internet drug users are not the most reliable source of scientific information, and their claims should never be confused with genuine medical advice.