The use of psilocybin, a compound found in “magic mushrooms,” has been on the rise in the U.S. among adolescents and young adults. After the decriminalization and legalization of psilocybin in certain cities and states, calls to poison control centers have spiked. This trend is concerning and requires attention from public health officials to prevent further harm.

Psilocybin was decriminalized for the first time in Denver, Colorado, in 2019, and subsequently legalized in Oregon in 2020 and Colorado in 2022. However, despite decriminalization, psilocybin remains a Schedule 1 substance under the Controlled Substances Act in the U.S. This means that it is still illegal at the federal level and poses significant risks to public health.

A recent study analyzed data from 55 U.S. poison centers between 2013 and 2022 and found a significant increase in psilocybin-related exposures among young people aged 13 to 25. The number of cases spiked after 2019, coinciding with the decriminalization of psilocybin in Denver. Subsequently, other cities and states followed suit, leading to a surge in poison control calls related to psilocybin.

Psilocybin use can lead to a range of health risks, including psychosis, hallucinations, delusions, and agitation. These effects can be particularly harmful for adolescents and young adults, as their developing brains are more vulnerable to the negative consequences of substance abuse. The increase in calls to poison control centers highlights the need for greater awareness and education on the dangers of psilocybin use.

The rise in psilocybin exposures among adolescents and young adults poses a significant public health concern. Most of the reported cases required medical attention, with symptoms ranging from hallucinations to rapid heart rate. This trend mirrors the increase in cannabis poisoning among children and adolescents following marijuana legalization in 1996, indicating a pattern of substance abuse among young people after drug policy changes.

The increase in psilocybin exposures among adolescents and young adults in the U.S. is a cause for alarm. Public health officials must take action to address this issue and prevent further harm to young individuals. Greater education, stricter regulations, and increased access to mental health resources are essential in combatting the rise of psilocybin use among this vulnerable population.


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