CDC warns of several hospitalizations due to chocolates and gummies made with mushrooms

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is warning the public to avoid eating Diamond Shruumz chocolates, cones and gummies following an outbreak of serious illness that has led to 10 hospitalizations.

In an alert sent to health professionals this Wednesday, the CDC noted that a dozen people in eight states have fallen ill after consuming “microdoses” of brand edible mushrooms. All but two had to be hospitalized.

Symptoms included seizures, sedation, muscle stiffness, abdominal pain, abnormal heart rhythm, and high or low blood pressure. None died, but several patients needed to be intubated and were admitted to intensive care units, according to the CDC.

The true magnitude of the outbreak may be even greater, according to Kait Brown, clinical director of the US Poison Centers. Across the country, poison control centers have received 22 reports of illnesses potentially related to Diamond Shruumz products, with new cases being reported every day, according to Brown.

CDC list includes the most serious caseshe said, but poison centers are also aware of milder cases that only had gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea or vomiting, or feelings of drowsiness or light sedation.

What is the reason for diseases?

Diamond Shruumz indicated on its website that its products are designed to be consumed in very small doses. The term usually refers to the consumption of small amounts of psychoactive or hallucinogenic substances, in sufficient quantities to receive their benefits and minimize their most debilitating effects.

However, the company also states on its website that its products do not contain psychedelic substances. Several toxicology experts say mushrooms listed as ingredients, such as lion's mane or ashwagandha, do not produce the powerful effects the company touts, such as relaxation or euphoria.

“The advertised mushrooms they contain are quite harmless and are present in many products that do not make similar claims,” said Maryann Amirshahi, co-medical director of the Nation's Capital Poison Center in Washington, D.C.

The CDC noted in its alert that an increasing number of products contain psychoactive ingredients, such as mushroom extracts, and that they are often sold as gummy candies, chocolate or other snacks. These products may contain “undisclosed ingredients, including illicit substances,” according to the CDC, “or potentially harmful contaminants that are not approved for use in foods.”

Diamond Shruumz did not respond to a request for comment.

“Right now, what is causing the symptoms in these products is still under investigationBrown noted. “It does speak to the uncertainty about what is in the product that could cause a wide range of symptoms.”

Are chocolates with mushrooms regulated?

The market for mushroom-based products, such as coffee and chocolate, has exploded in recent years, as has demand for edibles with psychoactive properties, although psychedelic mushrooms are largely illegal in the United States.

Toxicology experts say Diamond Shruumz products likely fall into the category of dietary supplements because of their ingredients and the way they are advertised.

Dietary supplements do not require approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before being sold to consumers, although the agency requires companies that make, package, label or store supplements to test their ingredients and limit the pollution.

“It's not like a prescription drug, where you have to demonstrate safety and effectiveness before you can sell it,” said Steven Dudley, director of the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center.

“In the case of supplements, it is actually the other way around: there have to be reports of harm so that authorities can intervene and remove the products from the market, etc.”

According to Dr. Chris Hoyte, medical director of the Rocky Mountain Poison Center in Denver, the lack of regulatory oversight makes quality control “murky at best.”

In the past, some dietary supplements have been found to contain undisclosed ingredients that may cause harm. For example, the FDA warned last year that yellow oleander – a poisonous plant – was being marketed as a supplement sold for supposed weight loss.

According to Amirshahi, the Composition of dietary supplements may also vary from batch to batchwhich could theoretically explain why Diamond Shruumz clients had such diverse symptoms.

“At low doses, you can see one thing and at higher doses you can see the other,” Amirshahi explained. “Thus, at lower doses, (those affected) may be very agitated, out of sorts, have high blood pressure, high heart rate (…), but if they start taking more and more, the effects change” .

Experts also said it is possible that psychedelics were illegally added to the products, or that the chocolates and gummies contained other legal substances that were not disclosed.

“We don't know if it's a bad batch,” Dudley said. “We don't know if it's more widespread than that. What we do know is that it is causing harm, so we really urge the public not to use these products.”

The FDA indicated Tuesday that consumers should discard and refrain from consuming any flavor of Diamond Shruumz chocolate bars, cones or gummies. In a statement, the agency added that it “will continue to monitor the market to identify products that pose risks, and will take action within our authority against illegal products in order to protect the public.”