Collage of Fish with Background of Ocean

People Are Accidentally Tripping on Weird Fishes

Several species of fish are known to have psychedelic effects, but most people who have tried them did so accidentally—and had an unpleasant experience.

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Like the LSD surreptitiously splashed in the punchbowl, most diners are not spiked with trippy fish liquid. Luckily, for them, it only seems to happen once in a blue moon.

In March 2002, a healthy 90-year-old man in Saint Tropez, on France’s Mediterranean coast, purchased a type of sea bream that he had eaten before without any side effects directly from a fisherman. He then, much like other folks throughout humanity who have accidentally stumbled upon a naturally-occurring psychedelic, proceeded to have nightmares for two days following his dinner. Afraid that he may have been on the precipice of serious mental illness, he suffered in silence, until he overheard people at the fish market discussing the hallucinogenic potential of sea bream. Following the revelation, he contacted the authorities at the Poison Control Center in Marseille, reports a paper published in Clinical Toxicology

The 90-year-old is not the only person to have endured an unwanted trip, thanks to psychedelic seafood. The toxicologist who co-wrote the paper says new reports of magic mushroom-like effects emerge every couple of years thanks to the fish. On rare occasions, depending upon how it is prepared, the sea bream species, known as salema porgy or Sarpa salpa, causes a mysterious condition known as ichthyoallyeinotoxism, or hallucinogenic fish inebriation. 

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One of the most memorable cases came back in April 1994. A 40-year-old man ate a freshly caught and baked sea bream for dinner in Cannes. Again, sounds decidedly un-psychedelic. But by the next day—following a night of vomiting—he was dazed, confused, and agitated. He decided to drive home, but began to have overwhelming visions of giant insects around his car and had to pull over and seek medical attention. He was admitted to the hospital, and his symptoms cleared up within 36 hours.


The Sarpa salpa (which means “dreamfish” in Arabic, and was reportedly consumed for recreational purposes during the Roman Empire era, though it is now considered inedible in Italy) is just one of several known types of psychoactive fish. The venom from a stingray in the Caribbean, the Urolophus jamaicensis species, has been consumed for its entheogenic and aphrodisiac properties, according to a review in Frontiers of Psychiatry, titled “Psychedelic Fauna for Psychonaut Hunters,” while another species, Siganus spinus (aka “the fish that inebriates”) can be found off the coast of Reunion island near Madagascar. I guess one man’s fish is another man’s poison. Or, in other words, be careful what you fish for.

*This story originally appeared in DoubleBlind Issue No. 11

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DoubleBlind is a trusted resource for news, evidence-based education, and reporting on psychedelics. We work with leading medical professionals, scientific researchers, journalists, mycologists, indigenous stewards, and cultural pioneers. Read about our editorial policy and fact-checking process here.

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DoubleBlind Magazine does not encourage or condone any illegal activities, including but not limited to the use of illegal substances. We do not provide mental health, clinical, or medical services. We are not a substitute for medical, psychological, or psychiatric diagnosis, treatment, or advice. If you are in a crisis or if you or any other person may be in danger or experiencing a mental health emergency, immediately call 911 or your local emergency resources. If you are considering suicide, please call 988 to connect with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

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