Q: Why did the mushroom get invited to all the parties?
A: Because he’s a fungi!
Whether you laughed at that joke or not, it’s one that is becoming more and more popular – not the joke, the mushroom. Over the last few years, more and more people have been using psychedelic drugs. One drug that falls into that category is psilocybin “magic” mushrooms which, according to the Global Drug Survey (GDS) in 2017, are the safest of all the recreational drugs people take. 
Last year’s GDS collected information from 120,000 people spanning 50 countries, approximately 10,000 of whom reported using magic mushrooms the year prior. Out of all those people, only 17 (13 men and 4 women) reported seeking emergency medical treatment… that’s 0.2 percent – or at least five times less than people who used cocaine, LSD, and MDMA.
Surprisingly, more people were finding their way into emergency rooms who used cannabis than magic mushrooms. Compared to the 0.2% of mushroom users, 0.6% of people who used natural marijuana and 3.2% of people who used synthetic cannabis sought emergency medical treatment. [1,2] In terms of marijuana, a drug that is being legalized almost everywhere it seems, it’s eye-opening that magic mushrooms still rank as the safest.
This statistic was so significant that authors of GDS 2017 wrote that “magic mushrooms were the safest drugs to take in terms of needing to see emergency medical treatment.” 
More About the Safest Recreational Drug
Moreover, compared to six other psychedelic drugs including LSD, peyote and ayahuasca, psilocybin mushrooms had the lowest percentage of people around the world who had difficult or negative experiences while under their influence.
“Magic mushrooms are one of the safest drugs in the world,” said Adam Winstock, an addiction psychiatrist and founder of the Global Drug Survey.  “Death from toxicity is almost unheard of with poisoning with more dangerous fungi being a much greater risk in terms of serious harms.”
Winstock acknowledges that using magic mushrooms is not entirely harmless and understandably so. Combining psilocybin with alcohol and/or unfamiliar environments can increase the risk of “accidental injury, panic and short-lived confusion, disorientation and fears of losing one’s mind.” 
Global Drug Survey 2018 Adds to the Proof
If you or someone you know is planning on trying magic mushrooms recreationally, Winstock’s gentle warning goes to show how important it is to do your research, know what mushrooms your getting, and surrounding yourself with familiar people and places. However, one year later, people using this drug continue to seem fairly sensible.
Published in May 2018, this years GDS collected data from approximately 130,000 people around the world. And, for the second year in a row, compared to 12 other drugs, “magic mushrooms” had the lowest number of people (0.3%) who sought emergency medical treatment. 
“There is no known lethal dose for LSD or pure psilocybin,” says Brad Burge from the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. 
Winston also maintains that psychedelics are not usually something that people abuse or become dependent on. In fact, the GDS 2017 revealed that 81.7% of people were simply looking for a “moderate psychedelic experience” and the “enhancement of environmental and social interactions.” [1,2]
Using Psilocybin Mushrooms for More Than Just Recreation
While some people use magic mushrooms out of curiosity, to expand their minds, to increase their spiritual understanding or just for fun, a growing number of researchers are exploring its use for serious health problems such as depression and anxiety.
In May 2016, researchers published a study in The Lancet that explored the effects of psilocybin on treatment-resistant depression. The clinical trial involved 12 volunteers (six men and six women) with depression who took two doses of psilocybin mushrooms (10mg and 25mg) seven days apart. 
Amazingly, researchers found that the “two doses of psilocybin… was sufficient to lift resistant depression in all 12 volunteers for three weeks, and to keep it away in five of them for three months.” 
Then in December 2016, a randomized, blinded study conducted by Johns Hopkins was published in The Journal of Psychopharmacology which looked at the effects of psilocybin on 51 cancer patients with anxiety and depression. 
Half of the participants received a low dose of psilocybin and then, after five weeks, a high dose. Researchers reversed the order for the rest of the participants. Again, they were blown away by how effectively psilocybin worked and how few side effects they saw in just six months. 
- 78% reported feeling less depressed than they were at the beginning of the study
- 83% reported feeling less anxious
- 65% of participants almost fully recovered from depression
- 57% of almost fully recovered from anxiety their anxiety
With results like that, it seems like a complete shame that people can’t use this drug easily and safely in a controlled environment. Of course, more studies are needed, but positive results like these are a step in the right direction.
A Major Problem Remains…
Psilocybin mushrooms are classified as a schedule 1 drug and, therefore, illegal to possess. However, as we’ve seen in both recreational and medicinal examples, this psychedelic drug in particular does not seem like one of the most dangerous substances. As Winstock says: 
“Drug laws need to balance the positives and problems they can create in society and well-crafted laws should nudge people to find the right balance for themselves.”
While it definitely needs to be done safely and ethically, more research like the Global Drug Survey and further medicinal studies should help shift the current perspective so many people have of psilocybin mushrooms. Maybe in the future, this natural drug will be a safe alternative to conventional medicine that many can benefit from.
 Winstock, A., Barratt, M., Ferris, J., & Maier, L. (2017, May). Global Drug Survey 2017 [PDF]. Global Drug Survey, https://www.globaldrugsurvey.com/wp-content/themes/globaldrugsurvey/results/GDS2017_key-findings-report_final.pdf
 Solon, O. (2017, May 24). Study finds mushrooms are the safest recreational drug. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/may/23/study-hallucinogenic-mushrooms-safest-recreational-drug-lsd
 Global Drug Survey. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.globaldrugsurvey.com/
 Psilocybin with psychological support for treatment-resistant depression: An open-label feasibility study. (2016, May 17). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2215036616300657
 Boseley, S. (2016, May 17). Magic mushrooms lift severe depression in clinical trial. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/may/17/magic-mushrooms-lift-severe-depression-in-clinical-trial
 Griffiths, R. R., Johnson, M. W., Carducci, M. A., Umbricht, A., Richards, W. A., Richards, B. D., . . . Klinedinst, M. A. (2016, December). Psilocybin produces substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer: A randomized double-blind trial. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5367557/
 Khazan, O. (2016, December 01). One Dose of This Illegal Drug Can Stop Depression for Months. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/12/the-life-changing-magic-of-mushrooms/509246/
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