When it comes to recreational drugs, magic mushrooms appear to be the “safest” substance, a new survey found.
Hallucinogenic mushrooms were far less likely to send people to the emergency room than alcohol, cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy, LSD, and a handful of other drugs, according to this year’s Global Drug Survey.
Among 12,000 mushroom consumers, about 0.2 percent said they sought emergency medical treatment in 2016 — the lowest rate for any drug tracked by the survey. By comparison, rates for LSD and ecstasy use were five times higher.
Methamphetamine carried the greatest risk for seeking emergency medical treatment, followed by synthetic cannabinoids, which are sold under brand names like K2 and Spice, the survey found.
But let’s be clear: magic mushrooms are still risky. They’re just less risky than some other drugs.
High doses of the illegal substance can cause panic attacks and dangerous hallucinations, which have led some people to plunge to their death in extreme cases. And while ‘shrooms themselves are not poisonous, it’s easy to accidentally eat a poisonous genus, which can cause severe vomiting, diarrhea, and other effects.
“Combined use with alcohol and use within risky or unfamiliar settings increase the risks of harm — most commonly accidental injury, panic and short-lived confusion, disorientation, and fears of losing one’s mind,” Adam Winstock, a consultant addiction psychiatrist and founder of the Global Drug Survey, told the Guardian.
Yet hallucinogenic mushrooms aren’t limited to recreational drug use. In fact, they’re increasingly being viewed as potential medical treatments for certain ailments, albeit at different dosages.
Two recent studies at New York University and Johns Hopkins University found that psilocybin — a key compound in the mushrooms — has promising therapeutic benefits for people with depression. Proponents are seeking to legalize mushrooms for use in controlled, medical settings.
The Global Drug Survey is an independent research company based in London. The 2017 survey included more than 120,000 participants in 50 countries.