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At a luxury resort in British Columbia, guests swim in a saltwater pool and trip on magic mushrooms. It might not be entirely legal, but as Journeymen Collective co-founder Rob Grover tells the Wall Street Journal, “we don’t give it any energy.” Use of psilocybin, the psychoactive chemical in magic mushrooms, has increased in recent years following research on the drug’s therapeutic benefits. Some have even made microdosing psilocybin a part of daily life. As a venture capitalist in Manhattan tells the Journal, psilocybin is “the new glass of wine.” But it’s classified as an illegal substance under federal law and in most states. And according to a new study, law enforcement seizures are on the rise.
Seizures of psychedelic mushrooms across the US increased 273% from 2017 to 2022, while the amount of drug seized tripled to more than 1,800 pounds, per NPR and the New York Times. It’s not that law enforcement is pursuing magic mushrooms more aggressively. Rather, “shroom availability has likely been increasing,” NYU Langone Health epidemiologist Joseph Palamar, lead author of the study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and published Tuesday in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, tells NPR. Given “breakthrough therapy” designations by the FDA in treatment-resistant depression (2018) and major depressive disorder (2019), the drug is often promoted as a cure for a host of conditions, including ADHD and alcohol use disorder.
But even scientists who believe in the drug’s therapeutic benefits cite the need for more research and caution, given the potential for misuse and the relatively unknown effects of mixing psilocybin with other drugs or medications. The FDA says it hasn’t evaluated the effectiveness or safety of psilocybin as a drug “for any therapeutic indication.” Still, “there are people who are very desperate for mental health care, and there are businesses that are very eager to make money by marketing substances as treatments or cures,” NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow tells the Times. Even as busts increase, “proprietors of magic-mushroom businesses say they aren’t worried about law enforcement” and “are banking on police finding bigger fish to fry,” per the Journal. (More magic mushrooms stories.)