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Police seizures of psilocybin ‘magic’ mushrooms have increased dramatically

In recent years, psilocybin — the psychoactive compound found in certain mushrooms — has seen a remarkable uptick in both interest, scrutiny, and now law enforcement seizures.

A study spearheaded by researchers at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, alongside the National Drug Early Warning System, highlights a significant increase in law enforcement seizures of psilocybin mushrooms, suggesting a rise in its availability and use.

Growing presence of psilocybin mushrooms

From 2017 to 2022, seizures surged by 369%, jumping from 402 to 1,393 instances, while the quantity of psilocybin confiscated quadrupled from 226 to 844 kilograms.

Joseph Palamar, PhD, MPH, the lead author of the study and an associate professor in the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone Health, emphasized the implications of their findings.

“Our findings, which uncover an increase in confiscations of psilocybin mushrooms, suggest that popularity and availability of this psychedelic may be increasing,” said Palamar.

He further highlighted the necessity for enhanced prevention and harm-reduction education, acknowledging the potential adverse effects of unsupervised psilocybin use.

“Although psilocybin is by no means the most dangerous drug, adverse effects do happen, so heightened prevention efforts and harm-reduction education may be necessary,” he added.

Psilocybin mushrooms: A therapeutic enigma

The resurgence of interest in psilocybin mushrooms can be attributed to its potential therapeutic benefits.

Recent research trials have delved into its efficacy in treating conditions such as alcohol use disorder, post-traumatic stress, and depression related to cancer, within controlled clinical settings.

These studies are crucial for understanding psilocybin’s broader impacts, particularly as societal and legal attitudes towards it begin to shift.

Palamar points out that several American cities, especially in the Midwest and West, have started to relax restrictions on psilocybin mushrooms, reflecting a changing landscape of drug policy and public perception.

Despite this, the recreational use of psilocybin and its implications remain underexplored areas that warrant further investigation.

The study is pioneering in its examination of psilocybin mushroom seizure trends across the United States.

Utilizing data from the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program, the research team analyzed over 4,500 psilocybin seizure reports spanning from January 2017 through December 2022.

This comprehensive analysis not only quantified the seizures but also categorized them by state and main census regions, offering a detailed overview of psilocybin’s presence across the country.

Interestingly, the Midwest and West emerged as hotspots for psilocybin seizures, with the environmental conditions in the West potentially facilitating the cultivation of psilocybin-producing mushrooms.

This geographic distribution underscores the varied landscape of psilocybin use and enforcement across regions, highlighting the complexity of addressing its rise.

Understanding and responding to psilocybin’s rise

Palamar’s research emphasizes the importance of understanding the dynamics behind the growing availability and use of psilocybin.

“These results highlight the need to better understand not only how the availability and popularity of psilocybin is changing and why, but also how the drug affects those who use it recreationally,” he remarked.

The study also raises questions about the impact of decriminalization efforts on psilocybin use and seizures, suggesting a need for more targeted research in this area.

Moreover, Palamar cautions against over-relying on law enforcement seizures as a sole indicator of drug availability or use, noting the limitations of such data in reflecting the nuances of drug trafficking and consumption patterns.

In summary, the rise in psilocybin seizures signals a pivotal moment in the discourse surrounding psychedelic substances.

As society grapples with changing perceptions and the potential therapeutic uses of psilocybin, these findings offer a crucial foundation for future discussions, policies, and research aimed at navigating the complexities of psychedelic drug use in a rapidly evolving landscape.

The full study was published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.


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