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The Making of Medicine

Poison Calls About ‘Magic Mushrooms’ Spike After Decriminalization

There was a sharp uptick in the number of calls to U.S. poison centers involving psilocybin, or "magic mushrooms," among teens and young adults after several cities and states decriminalized the drug, School of Medicine researchers have determined.

Between 2018 and 2022, calls involving teens ages 13-19 more than tripled, from 152 to 464, while calls more than doubled for adults ages 20-25, from 125 to 294, according to anonymized data gathered from the National Poison Data System. Decriminalization began in May 2019.

Oregon and Colorado have decriminalized the hallucinogen, as have several cities, including Detroit, Seattle and, closest to us, Washington, D.C.

Approximately three-quarters of the teens and more than 70% of the young adults required medical attention. The researchers found that the most common effects were hallucinations or delusions (36.6% of calls), agitation (27.6%), abnormally fast heart rate (20.2%) and confusion (16%).

The researchers are particularly concerned that minors are getting access to the drug. Magic mushrooms are off-limits for those under 21 even in the areas where they have been decriminalized.

“It is markedly concerning to me that children are gaining access to these products,” said Christopher Holstege, MD, director of UVA Health’s Blue Ridge Poison Center and chief of the Division of Medical Toxicology at the School of Medicine. “We have limited data on the potential long-term consequences on the developing brains of children when exposed to such compounds that impact the brain’s neurotransmission. We also do not understand fully why some individuals have markedly adverse complications to psilocybin, known as bad trips, that can lead to harm to the individual taking or others who may be victims of violent behavior.”

Anyone has a bad reaction to psilocybin or any other substance can call the Blue Ridge Poison Center at 1.800.222.1222. The hotline is available 24 hours a day and is a wonderful resource. 

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