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Poison Control Center Calls Increased Following Psilocybin Decriminalization

Recently, researchers Christopher P. Holstege and Rita Farah unveiled the results of their study on the increase in poison center calls for mushroom consumption. In “Psilocybin Exposures Reported to U.S. Poison Centers: National Trends Over a Decade,” the researchers explored the rising trend of accidental exposure to psilocybin between January 1, 2024-December 31, 2022. Holstege is a Professor of Emergency Medicine and Pediatrics and Farah is a Researcher of Epidemiology, both of which work at the University of Virginia.

Over a 10-year period, there were 4,055 exposure incidents recorded by the National Poison Data System, and 2,667 (65.8%) of those incidents involved adolescents or young adults between 13-25. From this number of people, 1,176 (75.3%) were adolescents, and 797 (72.1%) were young adults. One of researchers’ noteworthy observations was that cases didn’t rise between 2013-2018, but increased after 2019, and tripled in 2022.

Holstege and Farah co-wrote an analysis of their research, which was originally published in The Conversation.

Researchers noted that in May 2019, Denver, Colorado became the first city to decriminalize psilocybin, which was followed shortly after by Oakland, California, in June 2019. This trend continued with various other cities across the U.S., with Santa Cruz, California, in January 2020, Washington D.C. in November 2020, Sommerville, Massachusetts in January 2021, Seattle, Washington in October 2021, and Detroit, Michigan in November 2021. Additionally, Oregon was the first state to decriminalize psilocybin and introduce a legal therapy treatment program in November 2020. This was followed by the state of Colorado in November 2022.

Farah is an epidemiologist, and both of them worked together to identify potential harms. “Part of our job is to track public health risks related to poisons and to create efforts to prevent them,” the researchers wrote. “We are both concerned about the increase in calls to poison control centers related to psilocybin.”

However, the information collected by the National Poison Data System covers calls from across the country, making it impossible to know where exactly the poison calls came from.

The data shows that a majority of the reported calls between both adolescents and young adults resulted in the need for medical attention at a hospital or treatment facility. A majority of these cases included people who were experiencing “hallucinations, delusions, agitation, rapid heart rate, and confusion.”

Holstege and Farah expressed their overall concern for youth based on their observations. “Our findings correspond with a review of more than 30 studies that demonstrates a similar rise in acute cannabis poisoning among children and adolescents beginning after marijuana was legalized in 1996,” the researchers concluded. “We find this particularly alarming, since the states that legalized and cities that decriminalized psilocybin don’t allow anyone under 21 to use it or buy it. This suggests young people are getting it illegally.”

A study recently published in the Drug and Alcohol Dependence journal shows that there has also been an increase in law enforcement seizures of psilocybin over the past few years as well. “We found that the number of shroom seizures and the total weight of shrooms seized annually increased through 2022, and the greatest weight of shrooms seized was in the West,” said study co-author Joseph J. Palamar told High Times. Out of 4,526 seizure reports between 2017-2022, the numbers increased from 402 in 2017, to 1,396 in 2022.

While it’s clear that illegal mushroom cultivation and sales needs to be reduced in order to reduce access for adolescents and young adults, the legal psilocybin industry is struggling. Oregon’s psilocybin therapy treatment service program just passed its one-year mark, but has encountered challenges such as limited customers, partially due to high prices and advertising restrictions. Less than a year into its business, one psilocybin treatment center called The Journey has already closed up shop.

Across the U.S., researchers continue to study psilocybin to determine its effectiveness as a treatment for many medical conditions. One study that was published in Clinical Case Reports earlier in June showed that both psilocybin and MDMA can be beneficial in treating symptoms of long-COVID, also called longhauler’s. Sufferers of this condition usually experience anxiety, depression, headaches, and struggles with cognition.

Also in June, University of California, Berkeley announced that it will be embarking on a study to observe how psilocybin affects human perception. It’s the first psilocybin study that UC Berkeley is conducting using human subjects. “We have this incredible opportunity to characterize the psychedelic experience in real time—while it’s happening—using modern neuroimaging methods,” said UC Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics director, Michael Silver. “Understanding the actions of psychedelics at a neuroscientific level will generate insights into how they’re working as medicines and will hopefully help us develop more effective treatments for mental health disorders. It will also shed light on some of the fundamental mysteries of the human brain, mind and consciousness and how they relate to each other.”

The post Poison Control Center Calls Increased Following Psilocybin Decriminalization first appeared on High Times.

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