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Magic mushrooms are the most popular psychedelic drug

Magic mushrooms have become the most popular psychedelic substance in the United States, surpassing others like ecstasy, according to a new report by the RAND Corporation

A national survey revealed that approximately 12% of respondents have used psilocybin at some point, with 3.1% using it in the past year, equating to about eight million American adults in 2023. 

The study highlights the growing interest in psychedelics for mental health treatments and the evolving policy landscape surrounding their use.

Shifting policies and the future of psychedelics 

Psychedelics have shown promise in treating mental health conditions, sparking increased enthusiasm over the past decade. However, there has been less focus on the shifting policies concerning these substances. 

The report suggests that as state and local regulations ease, federal policymakers must decide whether to follow a for-profit cannabis model or explore alternative paths.

“The current situation with psychedelics reminds me of where we were with cannabis policy 12 years ago. Now is the time for federal policymakers to decide if they want to shape these policy changes or stay on the sidelines,” said study lead author Beau Kilmer, a senior policy researcher at RAND.

Data from thousands of Americans 

The RAND report draws from a survey of 3,791 American adults, as well as data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health and the National Incident-Based Reporting System. It also includes interviews with legal experts, policy advocates, researchers, and Indigenous community members regarding their traditional spiritual medicines.

Co-author Michelle Priest, an assistant policy researcher at RAND, emphasized the importance of engaging with Indigenous communities. 

“Policy changes may affect Indigenous people who have longstanding traditions with certain spiritual medicines that are commonly referred to as psychedelics. Engaging respectfully with Indigenous community members who are authorized to speak on these topics can help craft policies that benefit from generations of wisdom while protecting Indigenous rights.”

Lenient approaches to psychedelics 

Despite federal prohibitions, some state and local governments are adopting more lenient approaches to psychedelics. 

The report highlights alternative models to the for-profit cannabis approach, such as allowing personal cultivation, non-profit collectives, or supervised use models like those in Oregon and soon in Colorado.

Cannabis versus psychedelics 

One key difference between cannabis and psychedelics policy debates is the role of supervision. Even in areas not adopting the supervision model, policymakers will need to address regulation of facilitators and supervision settings.

Unlike frequent cannabis users, psychedelic users tend to use these substances infrequently. The survey found that only 0.9% of respondents used psilocybin in the past month, compared to 20% for cannabis. 

The total number of use days in the past month was significantly lower for psychedelics (around seven million) compared to cannabis (about 650 million).

Infrequent use of magic mushrooms

A notable finding is that infrequent users dominate the psychedelics market. For cannabis, infrequent users account for about 5% of total use days, while for psychedelics, they represent closer to 60%.

“While price is a major policy lever when we think about regulating cannabis and alcohol, it will likely play a much smaller role for psychedelics since infrequent users currently drive the market and they tend to spend relatively little on these substances,” said co-author Rajeev Ramchand, a senior behavioral scientist at RAND.

Further research is needed 

The report indicates a significant gap in published research on psychedelic markets and usage patterns, especially for psilocybin. The authors recommend improving existing surveys and conducting qualitative, longitudinal research with users and producers of psychedelics.

The RAND report underscores the need for informed policymaking as the landscape for psychedelic substances evolves, highlighting the importance of protecting both public health and the rights of Indigenous communities.

Magic mushrooms have become popular due to their perceived therapeutic benefits and the growing acceptance of psychedelic substances in mental health treatment. 

Studies suggest that compounds like psilocybin can help alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety, and PTSD, leading to increased interest from both the medical community and the public. 

Additionally, cultural shifts towards holistic and alternative therapies, along with the destigmatization of drug use, have contributed to their popularity. 

Personal testimonials and media coverage highlighting positive experiences have further fueled curiosity and acceptance. As research continues to support their potential benefits, the interest in magic mushrooms is likely to grow.

The report can be found here.


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