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    fatal "magic mushroom" overdose sensationalized by media possibly caused by opiates 
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    Bluelighter mjshroomer's Avatar
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    A Private Inquiry into the Circumstances Surrounding the 1972 Death of John Gomilla Jr. who died after allegedly consuming ten hallucinogenic mushrooms while residing in Hawaii
    By
    John W. Allen

    Originally published in The Journal of Psychoactive Drugs Vol 20 (No. 4) 1988:456-459
    Summary
    In the summer of 1987, the author of the present article was residing on the island of Oahu. During this period, while researching numerous articles for a book on the recreational use of hallucinogenic mushrooms, a particular reference in an article by Pollock (1974) peaked this author's curiosity. Pollock cited an article titled "Death Cause Not Revealed" (Unsigned 1972b). The following story unraveled (Allen 198.

    The Circumstances
    On Monday, December 25, 1972, an 18-year-old male who lived in a tent near Mokuleia, Hawai'i, died after becoming ill from consuming what were believed to be 10 hallucinogenic mushrooms (Unsigned 1972c; Unsigned 1972d). The mushrooms had allegedly been picked the previous Friday in a pasture near Mokuleia.

    The youth had told the doctors who were attempting to treat him that he had been picking and eating hallucinogenic mushrooms in Hawaii for over six months, and several of the doctors claimed that the young man was very adamant and assertive in his belief that he had only picked and consumed no more than 10 mushrooms and nothing else.

    The doctor's who examined the young man in the emergency room said that he had become seriously ill on Friday night after eating the alleged mushrooms. He was subsequently admitted to the Wahiawa General Hospital at 3:30 a.m. on Saturday. The attending physician was William Wikinson, who diagnosed the youth as "suffering from severe diarrhea, vomiting spasms, extreme cramps, and showed other signs of muscarine poisoning." Wikinson (1987) reported that the youth succumbed to this illness 31 hours later.

    Within a few days of the youth's death, Wilkinson---along with investigators from the Honolulu Police Department and the University of Hawaii--met with several of the youth's friends, and together they visited the area where the young man had supposedly picked the mushrooms. Eventually some specimens were harvested for study, and after examination they were positively identified as belonging to a species of Copelandia (Majoska, 1987).

    One of the other doctors who had treated the youth stated (Unsigned 1972d) that "other people have eaten this same kind of mushroom before with no ill effects. This boy claimed to have eaten them before on several occasions and so had his friends. But this time he had a very violent reaction to something, and he claimed that he did not eat a very large amount of them."

    On Wednesday, December 27, 1972, an autopsy was ordered (Unsigned 1972a) and then performed to determine the cause of death, but the results of the autopsy were never released to the public (1972b). Due to the sketchy information regarding this matter that was provided to the Honolulu newspapers, which in turn presented the so called facts of the case to the public, the author of the present article decided to conduct an independent investigation into this matter.

    To begin with, it seems that personal experimentation with hallucinogenic mushrooms by thousands of individuals over the past 17 years has not caused a single reported death. Ott (197 reported that one would virtually have to consume an amount of mushrooms equal to one's own body weight in order to bring about death. Scientific literature on hallucinogenic mushrooms that has been published during the past 30 years has only attributed two deaths; both from the accidental consumption of psychoactive mushrooms in a meal. The causative mushroom was identified as Psilocybe baeocystis Singer and Smith. However, there is some question that the causitive species may have been misidentified. Two children, both of whom were six years old, died after allegedly eating mushrooms containing psilocin and psilocybin. One child lived in Oregon, the other in California (McCawley, Brummett and Dana 1962).

    On December 24, 1981, a 16-year-old girl died after consuming several specimens of Galerina autumnalis, which had been mistaken for a Psilocybe species (Allen 1988; Staf-ford 1983; Bigwood & Beug 1982; Unsigned 1981a; Unsigned 1981b). Two other youths, both males, who consumed some of the same mushrooms also became sick but eventually recovered.

    As to the causes behind Gomilla's death, Ott (197 briefly mentioned the case after reading about it in the aforementioned article by Pollock (1974). Ott assumed that Gomilla had accidently picked and eaten a toxic mushroom by mistake. The author of the present article came to the same conclusion. At first, this was a plausible assumption because the newspapers reported that the doctors at Wahiawa General Hospital had diagnosed Gomilla's symptoms as possibly resembling muscarine poisoning.

    There is a mushroom in Hawaii that is commonly referred to as "Green Gills" or "Morgan's Lepiota," which is known to be toxic. Its botanical name is Chlorophyllum molybdites. This mushroom is commonly found on lawns, and the author of the present article has observed this mushroom in pastures along the North Shore district on Oahu island in the Hawaiian archipelago. In Florida, this mushroom has caused much discomfort to pickers who usually mistake it for Psilocybe cubensis Earle. However, after reading the present article, the reader will learn the true facts about the Gomilla case.

    The Investigation
    On the morning of June 23, 1987. the author of the present article located a working phone number--through the Honolulu telephone directory--for the physician who had atternpted to treat Gomilla's illness in December 1972. Dr. William Wikinson (1987), who still practices medicine in Hawaii, could barely recall the details of the case until his memory was refreshed by reading one of the newspaper clippings to him regarding the case. The doctor was very cordial about the matter. He explained that his records from 1972 had been destroyed in a fire several years before, but that the original informalion was stored on tape in his office at the hospital, and if given a little time, he would be able to provide the requested information concerning the case.

    Later that afternoon, the doctor called and said that he remembered that John Gomilla was brought into the emergency room of Wahiawa General Hospital on the morning of December 23, 1972. The patient arrived complaining that he was suffering from severe diarrhea and vomiting. He also exhibited extreme sweating, dilated pupils, increased pulse, and muscle spasms, compounded by gastroenteritis. Gomilla told the doctors who were examining him that he had consumed 10 hallucinogenic mushrooms that he and some friends had picked in a pasture, and as seriously ill as he was, the doctors felt that the youth was telling the truth. They also believed that the patient had no reason whatsoever to lie about the circumstances regarding his illness.

    Because of Gomilla's insistence that he had only eaten "magic mushrooms," the doctors who examined him assumed--as previously mentioned--that the youth was suffering from muscarine poisoning. Yet no atropine or scopolamine was administered, nor was a gastric lavage employed.

    After thanking Dr. Wilkinson for his help, thc present author informed the doctor of his intent to contact the Honolulu Medical Examiner's Office to speak with Dr. Alvin Majoska, who was the contract pathologist who had performed the autopsy on John Gomilla, to see if he could shed some light on Ihe situation as to what caused Gomilla's death. Wilkinson then stated that he "doubted very much that Dr. Majoska had bent over backwards" in determining what caused the young man's death.

    Continuing the investigation, a call was placed to the coroner's office to Dr. Majoska. After explaining the situation of the case to the secretary, the present author was informed that the doctor was not available at the moment, but that she would call back and provide the specifics of the case.

    On the afternoon of June 24, 1987, a call came from the coroner's office indicating that Gomilla had died from an apparent overdose of heroin. This startling revelation was verified by Gomilla's death certificate, which read: "Cause of Death: Unknown, probable heroin overdose." Again, as before, Dr. Majoska was not in or was not available for comment, nor where there any phone numbers avaiiable where he could be reached. His secretary also stated that it was against office policies to give out employees home phone numbers.

    Once more, a home phone number for Dr. Majoska was obtained in the Honolulu telephone directory. A call was placed and a recorded message informed callers that the doctor was not in, but if one were to leave a message, the doctor would return the call as soon as possible. One half hour later, the telephone rang; it was Dr. Majoska.

    Like Dr. Wilkinson, Dr. Majoska (1987) could barely recall the details of Gomilla's death. After explaining some of the facts of the case to him, he mentioned that he believed that the youth had probably died from unknown circumstances due to heroin intoxication. He also recalled that he had sent some stomach specimens back to the mainland to be analyzed for toxins, but he could not remember what the results of those tests had been. Dr. Majoska also recommended that a Dr. Alvin Omori--who is presently the chief coroner at the Honolulu Medical Examiner's Office--be contacted in order to see the original pathologist's report on Gomilla's death. When asked why the newspapers had not printed a follow-up explanation of the true facts behind Gomilla's demise, Dr. Majoska replied that "one should not believe everything that is printed in the newspapers, especially in regard to this particular incident."

    The next day, June 25, 1987, the present author went to the coroner' s office and asked to speak to Dr. Omori. The secretary indicated that the doctor was not in and that he would be unavailable for sometime due to a busy schedule. She then asked if she could be of any assistance, at which time a copy of the pathologist's report that Dr. Majoska had written back in December 1972 was requested.

    Dr. Omori's secretary was very evasive and stated that records dating back to 1972 were stored on microfilm and kept in another building on the other side of town. She explained that a release order would have to be typed up and then someone from her office would have to go search for them and then bring them back to the office. She did mention that Dr. Majoska had called the office saying that someone would be dropping by to inquire about the Gomilla case. She then asked for a phone number and indicated that Dr. Omori would call at his convenience.

    When two weeks had gone by and Dr. Omori had not called, another call was placed to his office. This time the explanation was that Dr. Omori had been given an incorrect phone number, thus making a response impossible. Of course, there had been no mistake on the phone number, and the present author felt impelled to say so; but again, the "correct" number was provided to Dr. Omori's secretary. After patiently waiting around at home for the next few days hoping Dr. Omori would call, one more call was made to the coroner's office on July 7,1987, and surprisingly Dr. Omori was available to talk about Gomilla's death.

    However, unlike Dr. Majoska, who was more than willing to assist the author, Dr. Omori was very reluctant in providing any information regarding the case over the telephone. He offered no speciftc information whausoever, unless it was specifically asked of him. The present author then explained the reasons behind his inquiries; Dr. Omori was somewhat evasive and claimed that he had no way of knowing who he was conversing with, and asked the present author what he was trying to stir up. Dr. Omori claimed that the coroner's office receives many requests for information about old, obscure cases such as this one. Then he asked if he was being taped, and stated "that as far as his office was concerned, the Gomilla case was closed and should remain that way (Omori, 1987).

    The outcome of this conversation did disclose some information that was pertinent and conclusive, showing that Gomilla did not die from eating hallucinogcnic mushrooms as reported in the press. The stomach specimens that Dr. Majoska had sent to the mainland were to be analyzed for the presence of amatoxins, which are deadly when associated with certain species of Amanita and Galerina. None were found, nor was any psilocin or psilocybin detected. Dr. Majoska offered no explanation as to why he requested a screening for the presence of amatoxins, in-as-much as Amanita species are uncommon in Hawaii and bare no resemblence whatsoever to the genus Copelandia. Although George Wong (1989), a mycologist at the University of Hawai'i, recently reported the presense of Amanita virosa on Oahu island, this species does not grow in the dung of four-legged ruminants where the "magic mushrooms" involved in this study are common.

    Further inquiries and attempts to discuss the irresponsible newspaper reports about the case proved to be futile. The reporters and managing editors at both Honolulu newspaper offices were not interested in discussing the matter, nor were they interested in attempting to rectify their erroneous reporting.

    Conclusions
    In December 1972, an 18-year-old male apparently took an accidental overdose of heroin. After becoming ill, he attempted to receive treatment for his condition by being admitted to the emergency room of Wahiawa General Hospita. When confronted by attending physicians in the emergency room as to the nature of his illness, the youth stated that he had only eaten 10 hallucinogenic mushrooms (an average dose for Copelandia cyanescens, the mushroom in question) and nothing else. This story was most likely concocted either by the youth himself or by some of his friends, who probably thought that they could or would be prosecuted for the use of an illegal substance. It is not uncommon that when confronted by an overdose of drugs, many young people are afraid to report their illness to the proper medical authorities out of fear of prosecution due to their illegal activities (Young et al. 1982).

    The doctors who attempted to treat this young man should not be held liable for his death, even though their treatment of the patient was more supportive (i.e., the talk-down method) than pharmacological. They had no way of knowing that the patient had lied to them about his condition. While it is true that several doctors had diagnosed Gomilla as possibly suffering from muscarine poisoning, why was no atropine or scopalamine administered to the patient? And why was his stomach not pumped and specimens collected for a toxicologist to study for the presence of toxins?

    Furthermore, why were the results from the coroner's office about the case held back from the press, who never provided the public with the true facts of the case until two months later (Unsigned, 1973a, 1973b)? Because of the notoriety surrounding the illegal recreational use of hallucinogenic mushrooms and other psychoactive substances by many segments of contemporary society, media reports of drug-related stories are often greatly exaggerated and unfortunately they misinform the public. This is probably due to the fact that the average reporter has had little drug education, much less acquired any knowledge about ethnobotany or the pharmacological actions of drugs they write about. The Gomilla case, involving the reported death by hallucinogenic mushroom ingestion, would seem to be a case in point: sensationalism over responsible journalism.

    References
    Allen, J. W. 1988. Accidental ingestion and death attributed to Psilocybe species. In: Spring Time Magic: A History of Entheogenic Mushrooms. Unpublished manuscript.

    Bigwood, J. and Beug, M. W. 1982. Psilocybin and psilocin levels in twenty species from seven genera of wild mushrooms in the Pacific Northwesi U.S.A. Journal of Ethnopharmacology vol. 5(3): 271-28.

    Majoska, A. 1987. Personal communication. June 24.

    McCawley, E.L; Brummett, R.E. & Dana. G.W. 1962. Convulsions from psiiocybin mushrooms. Proceedings of the Western Pharmacology Society vol. 5: 27-33.

    Omori, A. 1987. Personal communication, July 7.

    Ott, J. 1978. Recreational use of hallucinogenic mushroos in the United States. In: Rumack, B. & Salzman, E. (Eds). Mushroom Poisoning: Diagnosis and Treatment. Cleveland: CRC Press.

    Pollock. S. 1974. A novel experience with Panaeolus: A case study from Hawaii. Journal of Psychedelic Drugs vol. 6(1 ): 85-89.

    Stafford. P. 1983. Psychedelic Encyclopedia. Los Angeles: Tarcher.

    Unsigned. 1981a. Death due to Galerina. Seattle Post-Intelligencer. December 28

    Unsigned. 1981b. Death from a mushroom. Seattle Times. December 28.

    Unsigned. 1972a. Autopsy scheduled in magic mushroom death. Honolulu Advertiser. December 27:8.

    Unsigned. 1972b. Death cause not revealed. Honolulu Advertiser December 28:6.

    Unsigned. 1972c. Magic mushrooms cause death here. Honolulu Star Bulletin. December 26:2.

    Unsigned. 1972d. Mushroom eater dies. Honolulu Advertiser. December 26:4.

    Unsigned. 1973a. Drugs cited in mushroom eaters death. Honolulu Advertiser:A16. Honolulu, Hawaii. Thursday, March 1.

    Unsigned. 1973b. Heroin apparently killed 'magic mushroom' victim. Honolulu Star-Bulletin:B1. Honolulu, Hawaii. Thursday, March 1.

    Wilkinson, W. 1987. Personal communication, June 23.

    Wong, G. 1989. Amanita virosa in Hawai'i. Hawaiian Botanical Society Newslaetter vol. 45.

    Young, R.; Milroy, R.; Hutchinson, S. and Mikessen, C. 1982. The rising price of mushrooms. Lancet Vol. 82: 213-215.
    Last edited by mjshroomer; 28-12-2007 at 16:48.
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    #2
    Interesting read my friend, looks like you really did your homework on the papers.

    My question is, what if some of the people were just allergic to the shrooms, regardless of the specific type? Or they had an underlying illness that the shrooms brought to the forefront? I have no knowledge that would make me ask those questions, just things that popped into my head while reading.

    Either way, a good read.
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    #3
    Bluelight Crew B9's Avatar
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    TDS >>>Psychedelic drugs.
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    #4
    Quote Originally Posted by mjshroomer
    ......Hope you enjoyed this article. If you would like to see more or similar data then please let me know
    mjshroomer - thanks for this. It reminded me of a paper I read about 15 years ago, which "analysed" the death of a French man who had apparently taken a few psilocybin mushrooms, then died (I think he may have collapsed in a bar and some mushrooms found on his person). The authors stated that this was probably the only known death due to this type of mushroom "poisoning". In conclusion they opined that the total ban on the possession & etc. of magic mushrooms was the proper decision, as "even one death is one death too many".

    I tried unsuccessfully to access the paper recently. Perhaps you could help here. I think it would make an interesting parallel to this story, as in this case the man had only ingested a few mushrooms, and yet the cause of death was being boldly blamed on mushrooms. And as for the concluding comments ..................

    E
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    #5
    I remember a case in which a man had died after eating ~54 fresh mushrooms in either Britain or France. I once found a slide show detailing the 9 types of poison in mushrooms then showing all the examples. I decided that any form of mushrooms poisoning is not worth the risk. Unless I lived in an area that harbored many obvious, happy examples, but I do not, as I live in Zone 4. Good to set the record straight.

    Peace,
    PL
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    #6
    Quote Originally Posted by KillinDaPain
    My question is, what if some of the people were just allergic to the shrooms, regardless of the specific type? Or they had an underlying illness that the shrooms brought to the forefront? I have no knowledge that would make me ask those questions, just things that popped into my head while reading.
    it is possible.. my girlfriends mom is highly allergic to any type of fungi, starts with an outbreak of hives and can kill her by suffocation if she goes untreated.. i'd say it could be possible but it would seem rather odd though for the user to be unaware of their allergy unless consuming the said psilocybin's would be their first time ever consuming any mushroom in general.. which would be even more odd
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    #7
    Bluelight Crew Obyron's Avatar
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    I died once on mushrooms, but I came back...
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    #8
    Bluelighter mjshroomer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KillinDaPain
    Interesting read my friend, looks like you really did your homework on the papers.

    My question is, what if some of the people were just allergic to the shrooms, regardless of the specific type? Or they had an underlying illness that the shrooms brought to the forefront? I have no knowledge that would make me ask those questions, just things that popped into my head while reading.

    Either way, a good read.
    No, psilocine and/or psilocybine would not cause that kind of reaction or problem in a subject. One reason is that both of the alkaloids are directly related to your own neurotransmitter, 5-hydroxytryptamine (serotonine) which is both in the mushrooms and in your human brain.

    Of course, some people do have dysphoric reactions to mushrooms as do people with any drugs. Some people who smoke pot get super paranoid and others do not.

    However, I do not promote drug use but I do teach people the positive and negative sides of the story.

    One nice thing I could say about the mushrooms is that they have a low potential for abuse because if one does them and has an uncomfortable experience, usually from eating more than their mind needs or hanging in a bad set and setting, then they have an uncomfortable trip, and they usually do not do them again.

    Also, if eaten continuously over a given period of time, and/or with other drugs (polydrug abuse) the effects of the shrooms disappear with continued use as tolerance builds up fast. So they are considered as a natural substance with a low potential for abuse.

    I do have documented reports of people who like to get naked and chase woman down hallways while high on shrooms.

    People who freak out and try to cut their selves with razor blades after having many good trips and then they freak one time.

    One person raped and killed a four-year-old girl on mushrooms in Hawaii. Luckily the papers and the cops, as well as doctors examining the child's body were kind enough to say that mushrooms do not make people act like that. very rare in a sad situation that all involved were kind to not lay the blame on the substance, but on the person who did it.

    One should read as much data as possible when professing an interest inn trying an entheogenic plant. They are not to be toyed with but can also be great teachers int he right set and setting and right mind set.

    I will post more articles as I drop by from time to time on the shrooms and many historical and scientific papers to help people learn what these mushrooms are and why they do what they do when joined in a symbiotic relationship between fungi and human kind.

    I am recovering form two broken arms with five fractures and I am in pain and I type one finger with my left hand and it is painful to use my thumbs for the space bar.

    mjshroomer and have a shroomy day
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    #9
    thank you very much, mjshroomer. a sad & typical story of mainstream media...
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    hi 
    #10
    Bluelighter mjshroomer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EntheoDjinn
    mjshroomer - thanks for this. It reminded me of a paper I read about 15 years ago, which "analysed" the death of a French man who had apparently taken a few psilocybin mushrooms, then died (I think he may have collapsed in a bar and some mushrooms found on his person). The authors stated that this was probably the only known death due to this type of mushroom "poisoning". In conclusion they opined that the total ban on the possession & etc. of magic mushrooms was the proper decision, as "even one death is one death too many".

    I tried unsuccessfully to access the paper recently. Perhaps you could help here. I think it would make an interesting parallel to this story, as in this case the man had only ingested a few mushrooms, and yet the cause of death was being boldly blamed on mushrooms. And as for the concluding comments ..................

    E
    You are probably referring to someone who died and they claimed that amphetamine was found in the mushroms which were said to be liberty caps.

    Many times when people make a tea or food product it is hard to determine what shrooms were consumed. Since no one else has found amphetamine in any psilocybian mushrooms since this particular death, I am concluding and assuming that that particular death and its cause of death is unknown and why would amphetamine show up in a psilocybian mushroom. And since then no one has found any of that substance in other analyzed mushrooms

    A few papers were published at that time about the findning of this substance with psilocybine.

    However, somewhere in that tale is a false positive or someone had those chemicals in a lab on their fingers, hands or clothes.

    That is the only case I recall form that period which you noted.

    Sorry I cannot be of more help on that matter. I will try to find my article. I think I have it filed either under P. semilanceata or European papers.

    May take me a few days or lo9nger to dig it out

    mjshroomer
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    #11
    Our media is possibly caused by opiates? Terrific news.
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    #12
    Losing sleep over an article in some rag THIRTYFIVE YEARS ago? Is this for real?
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    #13
    Ex-Bluelighter Gaian Planes's Avatar
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    Its a relevant issue if it is used to support the continued scheduling of psilocin-bearing mushrooms.
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    #14
    Heroin constricts your pupils, mushrooms dilate them.
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    #15
    Bluelight Crew B9's Avatar
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    A heroin overdose is fabulously unlikely to kill one after 31 hours!!!
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    #16
    Muscarine poisoning eh, makes me wonder, a lot of Inocybe species contain muscarine, a cholinergic neurotoxin, and most, if not all, are small brown nondescript mushrooms,

    Most are toxic, some, such as I.Patillouardii (sp?) the red staining inocybe, I.Napipes, and I.Fastigiata, contain enough muscarine to be deadly.

    I could see some of those confused with the larger psilocybes, particularly P.Baeocystis.
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    #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Obyron View Post
    I died once on mushrooms, but I came back...
    me to.. scary stuff..mushrooms are dangerous IMO, I dont like dieing on drugs thank you verrrry much.
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    #18
    Bluelight Crew Delsyd's Avatar
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    ^but isnt being reborn just grand?
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    #19
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    He called what he ate "magic mushrooms" and died of "muscarine poisoning", gee dontcha think he confused the term ate 10 amanitas and succumbed to amatoxins or even ibotenic acid?
    Anyway both publication and this thread are past expiration :')
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    #20
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    A dead give away (no pun intended) is that opiate OD causes pin point pupils, which is one of the first things they look for (paramedics noted my pin point pupils after my 3-MeOPCP overdose), which automatically triggers the administration of naloxone/nallorphine, so if it was an opiate OD, the doctors were negligent.

    More likely he'd eaten a toxic species of fungus and that caused his demise (there is at least one toxic species that looks rather similar to Psilocybe semilanceata)

    PS 3-MeOPCP has a high affinity for the mu opiate receptor, hence my pin point pupils (PCP usually causes pupil dilation)
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    #21
    Opiates cause pinned pupils.

    So does muscarine.


    I bet the coroner had no clue what killed the kid, hence why he was evasive, and why the written cause of death is inconsistent with what was reported (death long after ingestion, diarrhea (don't opiates cause the opposite?), and so on).
    Probably ingested some poisonous mushroom on accident and died as a result.
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    #22
    severe diarrhea
    Doesn't sound like opiates to me.
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