Among all recreational substances, mushrooms appear to be the safest, a new survey released Wednesday said.
The annual Global Drug Survey, conducted in 50 countries and involving around 120,000 participants, found that only 0.2 percent of nearly 10,000 people who reported taking hallucinogenic mushrooms in 2016 needed emergency medical treatment.
Rates of emergency treatment for substances such as LSD, MDMA, alcohol and cocaine were almost five times higher.
“Magic mushrooms,” as they are commonly called, can be one of several different types of fungus. Over 100 different species of mushroom contain psilocybin, psilocin and baeocystin, the compounds responsible for the fungi’s hallucinogenic effects.
“Magic mushrooms are one of the safest drugs in the world,” Adam Winstock, a consultant addiction psychiatrist and founder of the Global Drug Survey, told the Guardian. Winstock said the bigger risk came from people eating the wrong kind of mushroom.
“Death from toxicity is almost unheard of with poisoning with more dangerous fungi being a much greater risk in terms of serious harms,” Winstock said.
People in Colombia, New Zealand, Mexico and Norway are the most likely to pick natural psychedelic mushrooms themselves, the survey found.
Twenty-eight thousand people overall said they had used mind-altering mushrooms at some point in their lives, with nearly 82 percent seeking a “moderate psychedelic experience” and the “enhancement of environment and social interactions.”
The survey found that for LSD, another hallucinogen, 1 percent of 10,000 people needed medical treatment after use of the substance, five times higher than mushrooms users.
“LSD is such a potent drug,” Winstock said. “It’s so difficult to dose accurately when tabs you buy vary so widely. It’s easy to take too much and have an experience beyond the one you were expecting.”
But psychedelics such as mushrooms and LSD in general tend to be safer substances compared to street drugs like heroin and cocaine.
“There is no known lethal dose for LSD or pure psilocybin,” said Brad Burge, a researcher from the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).
“People don’t tend to abuse psychedelics, they don’t get dependent, they don’t rot every organ from head to toe, and many would cite their impact upon their life as profound and positive,” Winstock said. “But you need to know how to use them.”
Winstock was quick to note that psilocybin mushrooms aren’t entirely harmless, however.
“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,” Winstock said.
To avoid a negative experience, Winstock suggested people plain their “trip carefully with trusted company in a safe place and always know what mushrooms you are using.”
According to other research carried out by Roland Griffiths and Robert Jesse at Johns Hopkins Medicine, even bad trips can have some positive outcomes. The researchers surveyed around 2,000 people for a 2016 paper and found that 84 percent of participants said they benefited from a bad trip.
According to the survey, synthetic cannabis ranks among the most dangerous drugs, with one in 30 users seeking medical treatment, the highest of any drug studied with the exception of crystal meth.
The Global Drug Survey is the world’s largest annual survey on drugs and drug use.
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