Psilocybin mushrooms are having a moment. While the psychedelic drug, known also as “psychedelic” or “magic” mushrooms, was vilified for decades as a substance for tripped-up hippies, recent research is rebranding it as a revolutionary drug more capable of alleviating depression, anxiety, and substance use disorder than traditional psychiatric therapies. On Tuesday, results from the 2017 Global Drug Survey gave magic mushroom advocates another cause to celebrate: The substance caused less emergency room visits than any other drug in the past year.
The Global Drug Survey is the world’s largest drug survey, and in the past year, it collected information about the drug habits of 120,000 people from 50 countries, anonymously and online. Of this group, 10,000 respondents said they had tried magic mushrooms over the past year. Only 0.2 percent of them reported that they needed to seek emergency treatment afterward.
In a statement addressing the survey, the Beckley Foundation, a think tank and NGO that supports psychedelic drug research, is careful to note that one of the reasons that magic mushrooms may have resulted in less emergency room visits is that “drug users may be more responsible when taking psychedelics than when consuming alcohol, cocaine, or other drugs.”
The survey results also reveal that 28,000 of the participants had tried magic mushrooms at least once in their lives. The vast majority of people — 81.7 percent — consumed the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, psilocybin, because they were in search of a “moderate psychedelic experience” and the “enhancement of environment and social interactions.” Within that group, 30 percent also tried microdosing with psychoactive substances such as magic mushrooms, and 94 percent of those people said that the experience was a positive one.
While magic mushrooms proved to be safer than all other drugs this year and are poised to be a psychotherapy treatment of the future, it doesn’t mean that using the drug doesn’t have negative consequences. A 2011 study published in Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology concluded that magic mushrooms were “relatively safe” but that the unpredictability of mushroom-induced panic attacks and negative flashbacks should give potential users pause. The National Drug Institute also points out that the desire to try magic mushrooms can sometimes lead to other negative consequences — such as accidentally eating poisonous rather than psychedelic varieties — noting that some “psilocybin users risk poisoning and possibly death from using a poisonous mushroom by mistake.”