Seizures of psychedelic mushrooms across the country by law enforcement have increased significantly in recent years as attitudes regarding their use have become more permissive, according to a report. government-funded study published Tuesday.

The researchers found that law enforcement confiscated 844 pounds of mushrooms containing psilocybin in 2022, a 273% increase from 2017. Psilocybin is the psychoactive component of mushrooms commonly known as magic mushrooms.

Officials at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which commissioned the study, said the increase in magic mushroom seizures reflected growing use of the drugs, rather than an indication that authorities The anti-narcotics authorities were tracking these substances more aggressively than before.

The market for magic mushrooms, which are illegal under federal law, has exploded in recent years as several clinical studies have shown they may be effective as therapies to treat depression and other serious illnesses. But many medical professionals worry that the hype around psychedelics has evolved faster than the science.

Dr Nora Volkow, the NIDA director, said preliminary clinical studies have shown that psychedelics could one day become an important tool for treating psychiatric disorders, including addiction to other drugs. But she said she worries that many people are self-medicating with psychedelics.

“Psychedelic drugs have been touted as a potential cure for many health conditions without adequate research to support these claims,” Dr. Volkow said. “There are people who desperately need mental health care, and there are companies who are very eager to make money by marketing substances as treatments or cures.”

In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration gave psilocybin a special designation to accelerate research into its effectiveness as a treatment for depression, which could lead to approval for clinical use.

The promising clinical studies have galvanized a movement to legalize psychedelics in some states and cities. In 2020, Oregon voters approved a measure legalizing the therapeutic use of psychedelic mushrooms, and Colorado voters supported a similar measure two years later. Several cities have designated psychedelics a low priority for law enforcement, often citing their therapeutic potential.

Experts say the changing legal landscape, as well as media coverage of clinical studies, have fueled demand for psychedelic treatments.

“All the positive coverage of psychedelics could introduce the idea of ​​their use to a new population who had never really considered using them before,” he said. Joseph J. Palamarprofessor of public health at New York University, principal investigator of the study on the increase in magic mushroom seizures.

Dr. Joshua S. Siegelpsychiatrist at Washington University in St. Louis, said patients with serious mental health problems are increasingly seeking advice from doctors about the value of drugs like magic mushrooms.

Although psychedelics are safer than other drugs in terms of their potential addiction And lethalityAccording to Dr. Siegel, they can also be destabilizing, especially for people with serious mental health problems.

“People can partially or completely lose touch with reality and behave in irrational and potentially dangerous ways,” he said.

As the country grapples with an epidemic of opioid overdoses, experts say psychedelics have become a relatively low priority for federal law enforcement. The latest report from the Biden administration report on its drug control strategy, published in 2022, has only one reference to psychedelics. Opioids are mentioned numerous times.

Companies selling psychedelics target people suffering from depression and anxiety and sell their products through websites and encrypted messaging platforms. Several have advertised on social media, promoting products like small doses of magic mushrooms in pill form as an alternative to antidepressants.

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