Police Seizures of Psychedelic Drugs Increasing in the US, Study Shows

Police Seizures of Psychedelic Drugs Increasing in the US, Study Shows


A recent study conducted by researchers at NYU Grossman School of Medicine and the National Drug Early Warning System has revealed a significant increase in the seizures of psilocybin, a compound found in psychedelic mushrooms, by law enforcement officials in the United States. The findings indicate a potential rise in the availability and public awareness of the hallucinogenic drug, along with potential risks associated with its recreational and unsupervised use.

According to the study, seizures of psilocybin have increased by 369% since 2017, with the number of confiscations rising from 402 in 2017 to 1,393 in 2022. Additionally, the quantity of seized drugs nearly quadrupled during the same time frame, from 226 kilograms to 844 kilograms.

Joseph Palamar, lead author of the study and an associate professor in the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone Health, cautions that while psilocybin is not considered the most dangerous drug, it is not without its adverse effects. Therefore, he suggests that prevention efforts and harm-reduction education may be necessary to mitigate potential risks associated with its increased popularity.

Psilocybin is a naturally occurring compound derived from fungi, known for its mind-altering effects similar to LSD and mescaline. It has gained attention in recent years due to its potential therapeutic applications in the treatment of conditions such as alcohol use disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression related to cancer. However, despite these potential benefits, the drug remains a controlled substance under federal law.

The study also highlights the loosening of restrictions on psilocybin in several American cities, particularly in the Midwest and West. However, there is limited knowledge about its recreational use and how these factors contribute to its increasing popularity.

This research, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, is believed to be the first of its kind to examine trends in psilocybin seizures across the United States. The team analyzed data from the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program, which monitors and reduces illegal drug trafficking and production. They examined 4,526 psilocybin seizure reports between January 2017 and December 2022, categorizing confiscations and drug weight by state and region.

The analysis revealed that the highest number of psilocybin seizures occurred in the Midwest (36% of confiscations), followed closely by the West (33% of confiscations). In terms of the overall weight of seized drugs, the majority (43%) came from the West. Palamar suggests that the environmental conditions in the West, which are conducive to the growth of mushrooms containing the compound, may explain this finding.

As the popularity and availability of psilocybin continue to rise, it is crucial for policymakers and healthcare professionals to stay informed about the potential risks and benefits associated with its recreational use. Further research and education efforts are essential to ensure the safe and responsible use of psychedelic drugs in the future.

1.      Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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