Study: Police seizures of psilocybin up 369% since 2017

There’s been a surge in both the popularity and availability of magic mushrooms and their primary psychedelic compound, psilocybin, over most of the past decade, which has in turn driven police seizures of the drug to new heights, a new study reported.

Law enforcement agents across the United States in 2023 made 1,393 confiscations of psilocybin, up from just 402 in 2017, an eye-popping increase of 369%, according to the study, authored by researchers at NYU Grossman School of Medicine and other members of the National Drug Early Warning System.

The amount of psilocybin seized also quadrupled in the same seven-year period, the study found, to 844 kilograms last year from 226 kilograms in 2017, according to data from the federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program.

The highest percentage of psilocybin confiscations were concentrated in the American Midwest, with 36%, followed by the American West, with 33%, the study found.

But the biggest percentage of psilocybin confiscated, 43%, came from the American West, the study reported.

The seizures indicate that the “popularity and availability of this psychedelic may be increasing,” Dr. Joseph Palamar, the lead author of the study, said in a press release.

Palamar said that “heightened prevention efforts and harm-reduction education may be necessary” as psychedelics like magic mushrooms continue to gain ground with U.S. consumers, and advocated for more research on psilocybin effects and the impacts of decriminalization moves such as in Oregon and Colorado in recent years.

The study by Palamar and his colleagues was first published on Feb. 6 in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence. As part of the study, the team analyzed 4,526 psilocybin seizure reports from January 2017 through December 2022. They categorized the annual number of confiscations and the total weight of seized drugs by state. Then, they organized the data into four main census regions in the country: the Northeast, West, South, and Midwest.

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