The decriminalization and legalization of psilocybin, the compound found in “magic mushrooms,” has led to a concerning spike in calls to poison control centers across the United States. After psilocybin was decriminalized in Denver, Colorado in 2019, followed by legalization in several cities and states, the number of cases involving psilocybin exposures among adolescents and young adults started to increase significantly.

Psilocybin is known for its psychedelic effects, causing euphoria and altering perceptions of space and time when ingested. However, it can also trigger psychosis, hallucinations, delusions, and agitation. Classified as a Schedule 1 substance under the Controlled Substances Act, psilocybin is considered to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.

A study conducted by an emergency medicine physician and epidemiologist revealed a steady rise in psilocybin-related exposures among adolescents since 2019. The data showed a significant increase in cases among 13- to 18-year-olds and 19- to 25-year-olds after the decriminalization and legalization of psilocybin. In just two years, the number of reported psilocybin cases to poison centers tripled among adolescents and doubled among young adults compared to when the drug was illegal.

The majority of reported cases, 75.3% for adolescents and 72.1% for young adults, required medical attention, including hospital admissions or psychiatric care. Common effects of psilocybin exposure included hallucinations, delusions, agitation, rapid heart rate, and confusion. These findings are alarming, especially considering that individuals under the age of 21 are not legally allowed to use or purchase psilocybin in states and cities where it has been decriminalized or legalized.

Illegal Use Among Young People

Despite age restrictions prohibiting individuals under 21 from using psilocybin, there is evidence to suggest that young people are obtaining the substance illegally. This raises concerns about the accessibility of psilocybin to underage individuals and the potential health risks associated with its misuse.

The increase in psilocybin-related poison control calls among adolescents and young adults underscores the need for further education, regulation, and prevention efforts to address the growing public health concerns surrounding the use of hallucinogenic substances. It is essential to raise awareness about the risks of psilocybin use, particularly among vulnerable age groups, and to implement strategies to reduce the prevalence of psilocybin-related poisonings in the future.


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