Law enforcement seizures of “magic mushrooms” or “shrooms” containing the psychoactive component psilocybin surged dramatically between 2017 and 2022. According to new research funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, seizures increased from 402 in 2017 to 1,396 in 2022. Additionally, the total weight of psilocybin mushrooms confiscated by law enforcement rose from 498 pounds in 2017 to 1,861 pounds in 2022. Most seizures happened in the Midwest (36.0%), followed by the West (33.5%).
“We are in the middle of a rapidly evolving cultural, media, and legal landscape when it comes to psychedelics, and we need data to help shape informed and appropriate public health strategies,” said NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow. “Moving forward, we must continue to track data on the availability of psychedelics, patterns in use, and associated health effects to guide efforts in promoting accurate education and reducing potential harms among people who do plan to use psychedelic drugs.”
Psilocybin mushrooms belong to the broader category of psychedelic and dissociative drugs, capable of temporarily altering a person’s mood, thoughts, and perceptions. According to a NIH-funded study, hallucinogenic drug use among adults aged 19 to 30 has reached record levels, with 8% reporting past-year use in 2022, compared to 5% in 2017 and 3% in 2012. Use has also reached historically high rates among adults 35 to 50 years old, with 4% reporting use in 2022.
“While psilocybin is by no means the most dangerous drug, recreational use can come with unforeseen risks such as bad trips” said Joseph Palamar, associate professor at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine and lead author on the paper.
Study authors believe that the uptick in psilocybin use is likely linked to the growing trend of decriminalization across various U.S. states, making it more accessible. Moreover, a rising number of people claim that psychedelic and dissociative drugs can help treat some medical conditions, including mental health disorders.
Despite this, study authors say it’s crucial to note that psilocybin doesn’t have the official green light from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treating any condition or disease. Most people who admit to using psychedelic and dissociative drugs are doing so outside of medical or research settings. Reasons vary, from seeking recreation to believing it enhances well-being or facilitates spiritual and self-exploration.
“People who use psilocybin outside of medical supervision need to be educated about risks associated with use,” said Palamar.
Risks include “bad trips,” which are marked by distorted thinking, putting oneself in physical danger, and intense feelings of fear, anxiety, and confusion. Users may also experience short-term side effects, such as raised blood pressure and heart rate, agitation, confusion, vomiting, or nausea, which may be severe and require medical attention.