Magic Mushrooms and Truffles in Amsterdam – What’s the Difference?

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Some people see the Netherlands, and more specifically Amsterdam, as a drug-utopia. A place where everything is legal, allowed and thriving. A place where you can smoke cannabis on the street, walk along the red-light district, and munch on some magic truffles. But what are magic truffles? And are they as potent as magic mushrooms? In addition, why is one legal but the other is not? Although Amsterdam may seem like an unapologetically open city, it’s far more nuanced than that. Using Amsterdam as a reference point, let’s take a closer look at what the true difference is between magic truffles and magic mushrooms.

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Netherlands Drug Laws

Cannabis

It’s a common misconception that drugs are legal in the Netherlands. In fact, even cannabis, which is sold publicly on the streets of Amsterdam, is still an illegal drug. This means that Luxembourg was actually the first country in Europe to officially legalize cannabis for growing and consumption. But how can this be the case? Well, CNN Travel elaborates:

“You may be surprised to learn that recreational drugs are illegal in the Netherlands. Yes, even pot. But an official policy of tolerance emerged and in 1976 the Dutch parliament decriminalized possession of less than 5 grams of cannabis.”

What occurred after this decision was a new culture of coffee shops where you could buy up to 5 grams of cannabis flower, under the guise that it was not illegal, only decriminalised. That evolved and now Amsterdam is known for its cannabis culture, with over 160 coffeeshops in the city center. There are a wide range of cannabis products on sale in Amsterdam, these include: edibles, high-THC buds, tinctures, and more. 

Magic Mushrooms

So, what about other kinds of drugs? How about magic mushrooms? Almost all other drugs are dealt with harshly. Much like the rest of the world. Cocaine, heroin and MDMA are all illegal and only sold unlawfully on the dark web or from street dealers. It’s only cannabis that has seemed to find its own loophole. Well, interestingly, before 2008, magic mushrooms actually were a legal drug in the Netherlands.

Magic mushrooms are wild growing fungi found all over the world. Mushrooms can be poisonous, so it’s important to know what exactly magic mushrooms look like if you decide to go searching for them. The magic kind look like an ordinary mushroom except they have a longer stem and smaller head. Magic mushrooms contain psilocybin, which is a naturally-occurring hallucinogen and psychoactive ingredient. It’s the psilocybin that is responsible for the well-known effects of shrooms. These effects include: 

  • Distorted sense of reality 
  • Euphoria
  • Sensory enhancement
  • Hallucinations
  • Introspection

Magic mushrooms are usually placed in the top tier of drug categories around the world because they are a hallucigen. In the USA, they are considered a Schedule 1 and in the UK they are considered a Class A, meaning they’re believed to carry a high risk of abuse and addiction. Any drug that twists and re-shapes reality are often considered to be the most dangerous drug by most nations, although this is not necessarily accurate. And this is despite the fact that psilocybin has been found to have numerous different medical benefits. In 2016, a John Hopkins study found that psilocybin could help treat people with anxiety and depression.

In the Netherlands, it wasn’t until recently that mushrooms were made illegal.This was a headline for an NBC News article, written in 2007:“The Netherlands will ban the sale of hallucinogenic mushrooms, the government announced Friday, tightening the country’s famed liberal drug policies after the suicide of an intoxicated teenage girl.”

After a girl under the influence of mushrooms jumped out of a window in 2007, protests against hallucinogens took place and resulted in the drug being made illegal. Consequently, the majority of magic mushroom types were banned. All, except one: the truffle. 

What are Truffles? 

So, in order for us to understand why truffles were left legal, we first need to understand what they actually are. And, of course, how they differ from magic mushrooms. Truffles are mostly spoken about in relation to the Netherlands because most other countries do not allow them. In addition, when people visit Amsterdam, many are surprised by the ease of purchasing truffles. They can be bought in coffeeshops and smart shops and usually come in colourful packaging with names like: ‘mexicana’, ‘atlantis’ and ‘high hawaiians’. All claim to be stronger than the next. But really what are truffles? 

Magic truffles are nothing like the kinds of truffles you cook with, except they do have one similarity: they grow underground. Magic truffles are sclerotia, which is essentially a hardened mass of fungal mycelium that grows beneath the surface. Magic truffles are from the psilocybe mushroom mycelium and contain psilocybin. Psilocybin is a hallucinogenic compound and gives both truffles and mushrooms their psychedelic effects. 

Taste & Look

Magic truffles are essentially magic mushrooms that never made it to the surface, and this is exactly what they look like. They look like mushrooms that have never seen the sun and haven’t been able to grow. This means they taste a little like soil and dirt. In addition, they’re very dry so eating them without liquid can be quite difficult.  

Magic Mushrooms vs Magic Truffles

So, what are the differences between these two fungi, and why is one legal and the other is not in the Netherlands? 

Science

First up, let’s take a look at the scientific differences between the two substances. So far we know they both contain psilocybin, which is a psychedelic compound. But also, this is what the National Library of Medicine has to say:

“Magic mushrooms is the most common name given to hallucinogenic fungi containing the psychoactive alkaloids psilocybin and psilocin. In recent years, fungis’ sclerotia, commonly called “magic truffles” have become a form of supply of psychoactive Psilocybe alkaloids since Psilocybe sclerotia are not specifically included in the laws banning the sale, the purchase and the use of such substances and mushrooms containing them”

What this means is that magic mushrooms and magic mushrooms are essentially the exact same thing. However, magic truffles are simply at an earlier stage of development. They are at a more embryonic stage, hence why they are ‘picked’ whilst they’re still underground. Known also as sclerotia, hallucinogenic truffles are a younger fungus, which stores food reserves in a hard mycelium. These then grow into magic mushrooms after time. 

Look

Magic mushrooms and magic truffles do not look the same. In fact, truffles look like what they are: stunted mushrooms that never made it to the surface and never saw the sun. They also resemble a darker-looking bit of ginger. Whatever you want to liken them too, they definitely don’t look appealing. Magic mushrooms – on the other hand – look the same as usual mushrooms, except with longer stems and smaller heads. 

Potency

Some believe that truffles must be less potent than mushrooms because they are legal and less formed. This is not necessarily correct. Both contain psilocybin and the same chemical compounds, therefore they should technically have the same potency. However, due to the fact that magic truffles are standardised and commercialised, they have been able to create and package various strengths and potencies. Therefore, you can purchase weak, mild and strong magic truffles in Amsterdam. It’s harder to do the same with magic mushrooms as they are illegal and are usually sold by people who do not have various types. Both magic truffles and magic mushrooms are digested, they usually kick-in after around an hour and their effects can last from 4-8 hours. Overall, magic truffles and magic mushrooms have the same level of potency, but truffles can be bought to have less if customers require it. 

Legality 

If all this is the case, then why have the Netherlands decided to illegalise magic mushrooms but not magic truffles? Well, it’s first important to understand that countries like the UK and the USA have banned the substance of psilocybin which, as a result, has made anything containing this substance also illegal. This includes both magic mushrooms and magic truffles. However, in the Netherlands, they decided to illegalise magic mushrooms as a substance, rather than what they contain. This left room for magic truffles to slip through the cracks. 

Conclusion

Magic mushrooms and magic truffles are both essentially the same drug, except they are both at different stages of growth. The Netherlands, in particular, have decided to treat each drug individually rather than the substances that the drug contains. Whatever you believe to be right or wrong, the situation is that magic truffles are potent and extremely easy to purchase in Amsterdam. So, if you’re looking for an exciting and legal experience, make sure to head over there and try them out.

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DisclaimerHi, I’m a researcher and writer. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advise, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.

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