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Emergency Calls by Youth Rose After States Decriminalized 'Magic Mushroom' Drug
  • Posted February 26, 2024

Emergency Calls by Youth Rose After States Decriminalized 'Magic Mushroom' Drug

U.S. poison center calls related to psilocybin “magic mushrooms” among youth skyrocketed after U.S. cities and states began decriminalizing the hallucinogen, a new study shows.

Psilocybin-related calls among teens ages 13 to 19 more than tripled between 2018 and 2022, rising from 152 to 464 calls annually, according to data from the National Poison Data System.

Calls among young adults ages 20 to 25 more than doubled during the same time period, rising from 125 to 294, data show.

Local and state efforts to decriminalize psilocybin began in May 2019, researchers said in background notes. Oregon and Colorado have decriminalized magic mushrooms, along with the cities of Detroit, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

By comparison, psilocybin-related calls for patients ages 13 to 25 remained largely unchanged in the years prior to the movement, between 2013 and 2018, researchers said.

The increase is particularly troubling because psilocybin remains banned for those under 21 even in cities and states where it has been decriminalized, researchers said.

“It is markedly concerning to me that children are gaining access to these products,” said researcher Dr. Christopher Holstege, director of University of Virginia Health's Blue Ridge Poison Center.

“We have limited data on the potential long-term consequences on the developing brains of children when exposed to such compounds that impact the brain's neurotransmission,” Holstege added in a university news release. “We also do not understand fully why some individuals have markedly adverse complications to psilocybin, known as ‘bad trips,' that can lead to harm to the individual taking or others who may be victims of violent behavior.”

Psilocybin poisoning most often requires medical treatment, with 75% of teenagers and 72% of young adults needing some sort of health care attention, poison center numbers show.

The most common effects were hallucinations or delusions (37% of calls), agitation (28%), abnormally fast heart rate (20%), and confusion (16%), researchers said.

Powerful psychological effects of psilocybin can include anxiety, disorientation, fear, grief, paranoia and panic attacks -- even in moderate doses, researchers said.

The new study was published Feb. 26 in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

“As psilocybin may become more widely available, it is important for parents to be aware that psilocybin is also available in edible forms such as chocolate and gummies,” said researcher Rita Farah, an epidemiologist with the Blue Ridge Poison Center. “And we learned from our experience with edible cannabis that young children can mistake edibles for candy.”

More information

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about psilocybin.

SOURCE: University of Virginia, news release, Feb. 26, 2024

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