Magic mushroom seizures on the rise in the US

Mar 7, 2024

According to the results of a new study funded by the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), law enforcement seizures of mushrooms containing the psychoactive component psilocybin increased dramatically in the United States between January 2017 and December 2022.

Specifically, the study found that the number of law enforcement seizures increased from 402 seizures in 2017 to 1,396 in 2022. Moreover, the total weight of psilocybin mushrooms seized by law enforcement increased from 498 lbs seized in 2017 to 1,861 lbs in 2022, which corresponds to an increase of 273% from 2017.

Psilocybin is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for medicinal use; however,  research has shown that psychedelic drugs have potential therapeutic applications in the treatment of certain mental health disorders.

“Psychedelic drugs have been promoted as a potential cure for many health conditions without adequate research to support these claims,” said Dr. Nora Volkov, the director of NIDA, in her interview with The New York Times. “There are people who are very desperate for mental health care, and there are businesses that are very eager to make money by marketing substances as treatments or cures.”

The study results also revealed that most seizures occurred in the U.S. Midwest (36.0%), followed by the West (33.5%). Moreover, the greatest total weight in seizures came from the West (4,109 lbs, representing 42.6% of all seizures), followed by the South (4,039 lbs, representing 41.8%). While there was a significant increase in the total weight of psilocybin mushrooms seized between 2017 and 2022 overall, the total weight seized was the highest in 2021 (3,400 lbs).

“Most national surveys and studies don’t capture self-reported data on psilocybin use specifically, so these findings help shed important light on an area where we’ve been largely left in the dark,” said Dr. Linda B. Cottler, said Linda B. Cottler, principal investigator of the National Drug Early Warning System (NDEWS), University of Florida, and author of the study. 

In addition, the study’s authors noted that the increase in seizures of psilocybin-containing mushrooms reflected the rising use of the drugs, rather than an indication that officials increased their efforts for detecting and seizing them.

“While psilocybin is by no means the most dangerous drug, recreational use can come with unforeseen risks such as bad trips,” said Dr. Joseph J. Palamar, associate professor at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine and co-investigator of NDEWS, and lead author on the study. “Research studies suggesting its effectiveness in treating mental health issues and extensive positive media coverage may lead some people to seek shrooms outside of medical contexts. People who use psilocybin outside of medical supervision need to be educated about risks associated with use.”