Wood Lover’s Paralysis (WLP) refers to a largely misunderstood, rather mysterious syndrome that occurs in some individuals several hours after consuming certain types of Psilocybin mushrooms, also known as Magic Mushrooms or, more colloquially, “Shrooms.” The symptoms stemming from this peculiar affliction are not life-threatening, but they are certainly unsettling. They include, essentially, severe muscle weakness that ranges in severity from partially debilitating to entirely paralyzing. You may have noticed that Wood Lover’s Paralysis has made some headlines recently; for example, in March of 2022 Business Insider chronicled the experiences of two individuals who described losing control of their bodies after embarking on Psilocybin mushroom trips. As a consequence of these and other similar events, Oregon, the first state to legalize magic mushrooms for therapeutic use, has been debating if certain strains of shrooms should be excluded from this decriminalization process. The tricky thing is that Wood Lover’s Paralysis is actually quite rare; however, the Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board has determined that accounts of WLP are serious enough to cause concern.
Read on to learn about which mushrooms might cause WLP, what symptoms to look out for, and how you might best be able to avoid this syndrome. Even though Wood Lover’s Paralysis is, again, rare, as the Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board’s Jessie Uehling puts it, “I…would take Wood Lover’s Paralysis pretty seriously until we know more about it.”
What Mushrooms Cause it?
Wood Lover’s Paralysis is reported most often in relationship to the consumption of the species Psylocybe cyanescens and Psilocybe azurescens. It has also been reported to a lesser degree in individuals after ingesting Psilocybe allenii, Psilocybe stuntzii, Psilocybe subaeruginosa, Psilocybe pelliculosa, and Psilocybe ovoideocystidiata. Essentially, WLP appears only to occur in mushrooms that grow on wood and generally have high Psilocybin content.
Why does it occur?
It is difficult to ascertain why Wood Lover’s Paralysis occurs, as there have been no scientific studies conducted to determine a consensus regarding the specific causal factors behind this syndrome. However, there are a few hypotheses that physicians and psychedelics experts have proposed. One of them is referred to as the Histamine Hypothesis. The antihistamine Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is commonly used to treat certain types of acute movement disorders (as well as common allergies, more prevalently). Benadryl converts itself to histidine in the human body, which may be the element that successfully treats sufferers of WLP and other forms of movement paralysis. According to the Psychedelic Science Review, Benadryl has successfully treated five people of the syndrome within the past ten years. Of course, this is a tiny sample size and thus produces insufficient data to confirm Benadryl’s broad efficacy in WLP patients.
Alternatively, some suggest that histamine may not be the main culprit behind WLP, but instead hypothesize that it is bacterial contamination that causes the syndrome. The Bacterial Contamination Hypothesis postulates that some form of bacterial and/or microbial contaminations such as black rot are the causal factors. Black rot can develop on the caps and stems of mushrooms and manifest in a bluish-black mass. It is more prevalent on wood-loving mushrooms, which are also culpable in the manifestation of WLP.
Finally, some lean towards the idea that WLP is due to the inhibition of the enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine (ACh), which may cause overstimulation at the neuromuscular junction due to an excess of ACh. The muscles stop responding to the bombardment of Ach, leading to paralysis, and in worse cases, respiratory failure.
Again, these are all hypotheses based on anecdotal evidence and theoretical reasoning. The exact mechanisms behind WLP will not be determined until appropriate clinical studies are conducted in a controlled setting.
Wood Lover’s Paralysis involves a prolonged period of muscle weakness. Anecdotal reports indicate that people generally feel weakness in their facial muscles initially, or, alternatively, their feet and hands. For some individuals, muscle weakness will spread all throughout the body to the degree that they become completely paralyzed for several hours. To summarize, the symptoms that appear to be consistent across most accounts include:
- Loss of motor control, ranging from moderate incoordination to total paralysis,
- Loss of motor function in the facial muscles,
- Several hours’ duration, and
- Total resolution of symptoms within 24 hours.1
If you are consuming other medications that serve as potential respiratory depressants, such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, narcotics, opioids, or sleeping pills, you may be at risk of not being able to breathe during Wood Lover’s Paralysis. Again, this is a hypothesis, because there haven’t been any reports of individuals needing hospital treatment or dying from not being able to breathe during WLP, but one must be mindful of the possibility.5
How long does it last?
Wood Lover’s Paralysis comes on a few hours after the consumption of certain types of Psilocybin mushrooms. However, it is hard to determine the duration and intensity of the syndrome; it appears to depend on the Psilocybin quantities in particular mushrooms, which can vary tremendously. However, anecdotally, individuals typically experience a full eradication of symptoms within 24 hours. Broadly, the symptoms themselves seem to last to varying levels of intensity from 4-6 hours.
- “I got halfway to the kitchen and suddenly my legs felt like they were going to collapse. I sat down for 5 minutes, got up again, walked for a bit…and then my legs DID collapse. It was a little scary because I felt clear-headed, there was no pain or numbness… just non-functional legs.”
- “I collapsed in the middle of a field. I couldn’t walk five blocks. My co-tripper couldn’t smile the next day. I have experienced many muscular problems on these two species (Psilocybe cyanescens and Psilocybe azurescens). They effect these muscle parts/groups: eye, facial, esophageal, hand and leg…. I have never had similar effects on (Psilocybe cubensis).”
- “First noticeable symptoms are blurred vision, hand cramping/numbness, then loss of facial/mouth movement followed by having a hard time walking then full loss of the ability to walk properly or even stand…” 5
- “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.” 
- “I didn’t think I was actually going to wake up… My hands were all like claws and my jaw felt like it was sitting on the side of my face. There was just no comprehension between my brain and my hands. I knew what I had to do but [my body] just wouldn’t do it.” 
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How do I avoid Wood Lover’s Paralysis when tripping?
Be aware of the Psilocybin content of your mushrooms and know the type you are ingesting so you can gauge your risk a little better. Lower dosages usually pose less risk of WLP, so don’t overdo your trip. One should also – always – avoid mixing drugs, including alcohol, because the combined effects can be unpredictable and possibly instigate WLP, in addition to a whole slew of other issues. Further, if you’re really worried about WLP, your safest bet is to stick to Psylocybe cubensis, which is a common strain of Psilocybin mushrooms that doesn’t appear to cause the syndrome.
How common is Wood Lover’s Paralysis?
Anecdotally, WLP seems to be relatively rare. This is probably one of the reasons why it is poorly understood; clinicians don’t have a tremendous amount of data to work with.6
What do I do if I start experiencing Wood Lover’s Paralysis?
There is no consensus regarding the treatment of this syndrome, though some recommend taking Benadryl. The best thing to do is to wait it out in a peaceful space, surrounded by people who can help keep you safe (preferably a sober person or a few sober people). Certainly, do not attempt to operate a vehicle, a bicycle, or anything that similarly requires motor coordination and clear attention.4
Isn’t Wood Lover’s Paralysis a myth?
Some people seem to think this, but WLP is a very real – if rare – syndrome.1
Do all strains of magic mushrooms cause Wood Lover’s Paralysis?
We don’t know for sure, but it is believed that Psylocybe cubensis does not cause WLP.8
 Saunders N. (2022 February 7) What is Wood Lover’s Paralysis? [Explained]. Way of Leaf.
 Schuster-Bruce C. (2022 March 31) 2 people who used ‘magic’ mushrooms then developed rare ‘Wood Lover’s Paralysis’ describe losing control of their bodies: ‘I couldn’t even chew.’ Business Insider.
 Revell J. (2020 June 12) What We Know (and Don’t) About Magic Mushroom Paralysis. VICE World News.
 Lea S. (2021 April 11) Wood Lover’s Paralysis: Psilocybin’s Rare Sickness. Truffle Report.
 Bauer B.E. (2018 December 20) Wood Lover’s Paralysis: An Unsolved Mystery
 Taub B. (2022 April 4) Some Magic Mushrooms May Cause Temporary Paralysis and No One Knows Why. IFL Science.
 Lekhtman A. (2022 February 18) Cubes to Wood Lover’s Paralysis: Oregon’s Therapeutic Psilocybin Plan. Filter.