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Use of psychedelic drugs remains prevalent in the United States

April 23, 2013
by Shannon Brys, Associate Editor
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In a recent F1000Research article, Teri S. Krebs and Pål-Ørjan Johansen from the Department of Neuroscience at Norwegian University of Science and Technology, use data from a randomly-selected sample of over 57,000 individuals surveyed for the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), to estimate lifetime prevalence of psychedelic use. The authors of “Over 30 million psychedelic users in the United States” estimate that approximately 32 million people have used LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), psilocybin (“magic mushrooms”), or mescaline (peyote and other cacti) in their lifetime. This includes 17% of US adults aged 21 to 64 years. The highest rate of psychedelic use was in the 30 to 34 age group, with an overall rate of 20%, or 26% of males and 15% of females.

“Lifetime use of psychedelics doesn’t seem to have changed much since the sixties – psychedelics continue to be widely used in the US and worldwide,” the researchers said.

The mechanisms of action, subjective effects, and risk profile of the classical serotonergic psychedelics, distinguish them from other drugs, the authors wrote. “Psychedelics are different from other drugs, in that they are not known to be physically harmful or cause addiction or compulsive use. Experts agree that psychedelics are less harmful than alcohol and most other recreational drugs, although psychedelics can elicit anxiety and confusion during the drug effects,” the researchers said.

The authors estimated that older adults were more likely to have used LSD and mescaline, whereas younger adults were more likely to have used “magic mushrooms.” In addition, the authors note that use of “magic mushrooms” is known to have increased since the 1970s.

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