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People in the US are using psychedelic drug more than ever before, study finds

Scientists believe this is due to the new, "less risky", reputation of drugs like LSD

  • Words: Aneesa Ahmed | Image: Mathew Schwartz
  • 23 August 2022
People in the US are using psychedelic drug more than ever before, study finds

More adolescents and adults than ever before are taking psychedelic drugs in the USA, a study of the past 18 years has found.

According to a recently published study by Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, there are currently an estimated 5.5 million people aged 12 and older who take hallucinogenic substances, up from 1.7% in 2002 to 2.2% in 2019.

Within certain age and drug categories, the increase was considerably more evident. One of the key findings was that 4% of people aged 18-25 had used LSD in 2019, a huge increase from the 0.9 percent of people in 2002.

Read this next: The magic mushroom renaissance

However, there has been a significant decline in the overall usage of hallucinogenic substances among teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17. The usage of MDMA (ecstasy) and PCP (angel dust) has allegedly decreased across all age categories.

However, across all age categories and over the years 2002–14, the prevalence of negative views about frequent LSD use considerably declined.

Deborah Hasin, PhD, professor of epidemiology and senior author of the study said “Our finding of an upward trend in 12-month LSD use, overall and by age, matches our finding of a downward trend in perception of LSD as risky.

“Factors such as changes in risk perception, in the specific types of drugs available and in expectations of beneficial effects of ‘microdosing’ may all have led to increased use of certain hallucinogens in recent years.”

Read this next: LSD could help people overcome alcohol dependency

Adding to this, first author Ofir Livne says: “Given the recent media coverage showing that an increasing number of adults may be reporting positive effects of 'microdosing' and expecting therapeutic benefits of hallucinogens without negative effects, our findings merit a comprehensive examination of time trends and motives for hallucinogen frequency and quantity of use.”

Both scientists warn of the dangers of unsupervised hallucinogen use and advocate for harm reduction strategies to be put in place.

The study, which is published in the academic journal Addiction, was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Read this next: Buchla's LSD time trip

Recently, there has been an increase in psychedelic drug trials and studies in clinical settings and to treat mental health conditions.

According to a group of physicians in Scotland, MDMA could be used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) "within three years."

Last August, a first-of-its-kind research centre for psychedelic drug therapy opened in Melbourne, Australia. The firm will be responsible for developing psychedelic medicines to treat mental health disorders and other medical conditions.

Read the full academic study about the increase of psychedelic drug use amongst people in the USA here.

Aneesa Ahmed is Mixmag's Digital Intern, follow her on Twitter

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