Aussies warned of 'very expensive mistake' in wake of suspected mushroom poisoning

Melbourne doctor Michael Mrozinski says when it comes to wild mushrooms, it's best to 'leave it to the experts'.

A concerned Aussie GP is advising the public to never experiment with wild mushrooms they aren't familiar with, in the wake of the recent death of Ballarat mother Rachael Dixon in a suspected poisoning. A seemingly innocent mix-up, he said, could result in a "very expensive" doctor's bill — or even death.

Melbourne doctor Michael Mrozinski said that when it comes to sourcing mushrooms, it's always best to "leave it to the experts" and to be completely sure of what you're consuming before putting anything in your mouth.

The problem lies with the common misconception that certain types of mushrooms — including psilocybin, AKA "magic mushrooms" — are "good for your mental health", but that's not always the case, he argues.

Personal trainer Rachael Dixon beside an image of the Soul Barn retreat, where she died.
Personal trainer Rachael Dixon, 53, went into cardiac arrest and died about midnight on Sunday after consuming the drink at Soul Barn in Clunes, near Ballarat in regional Victoria. Source: NCA Newswire

Doctor's stark warning over common misconception

"I think where we've got a little blasé about magic mushrooms is it's been looked at as a treatment for certain mental health conditions," Mrozinski told The Project.

"The problem is ... the public think 'this must be safe, it must be great, it's going to help my mental health' — whereas in reality, every person is different and the way that they react...will be completely different."

On Monday, in the latest in a string of tragic event to rock the Victorian town of Ballarat, it emerged that mother and personal trainer Rachel Dixon had died after a suspected cardiac arrest from what authorities believe stemmed from consuming a mushroom tea at the Soul Barn in Clunes.

Dr Michael Mrozinski.
Dr Michael Mrozinski has explained some of the dangers of foraging and consuming wild mushrooms. Source: The Project

Soul Barn, which is described as a "creative wellbeing centre" specialising in holistic and alternative practices, said in a statement on Thursday it was shocked and devastated by Dixon’s death. The centre said the event was not run by them or facilitated by any of their staff.

Aussies 'need to know the risks'

Mrozinski said it's alternative medical treatments like this which people should be wary of.

"No matter what treatment you're going for, medical or an alternative medical treatment, you need to know what you're getting into," he said. "The wellness industry has gotten away with this for a long time and it probably needs to be regulated a whole lot more than it is now."

Online, reports of people foraging for their own mushrooms are growing in popularity.

Mushroom foraging on social media

One Melbourne man took to social media this week to share with people a collection of mushrooms he'd found, revealing after eating one "that tasted strange" he "felt a tingly" in his mouth.

"I ate one and it tasted a little off, just want to know if I'm going to eat the rest," the man wrote. "The one I ate tasted strange, and it made my mouth a little tingly".

A Facebook screen shot where a man details his mushroom forage.
Online, people sharing their stories about collecting their own mushrooms has grown in popularity. Source: Facebook

Mrozinski says these online groups can give people a false sense of security.

"I think with the invention of social media and internet they think they can be an expert in everything. In reality we can see it can be a very expensive mistake if you get a mushroom wrong," he told The Project.

"My advice is leave it to leave it to the experts," he said." A mushroom like death caps — which will kill you if you take it — and those used as magic mushrooms are very similar and it's a huge risk."

Last year, Erin patterson was charged with three counts of murder after her former in-laws Don and Gail Patterson and Gail’s sister Heather Wilkinson died after allegedly eating a poisonous beef wellington dish at her home on July 29 last year.

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