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Report: Use of Psychedelic Drugs Remains Prevalent in U.S.

Things haven’t changed much since the sixties, researchers say (Apr. 23)

An article published in F1000Research estimates that millions of Americans used psychedelic drugs in 2010.

To estimate the lifetime prevalence of psychedelic use, Norwegian researchers analyzed data from more than 57,000 individuals who had been interviewed for the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).

The authors estimated that approximately 32 million people in the U.S. had used LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), psilocybin (“magic mushrooms”), or mescaline (peyote and other cacti) during their lifetime. The highest rate of psychedelic use was in individuals aged 30 to 34 years, with an overall rate of 20% (26% of males and 15% of females).

“Lifetime use of psychedelics doesn’t seem to have changed much since the sixties — psychedelics continue to be widely used in the U.S. and worldwide,” the researchers said.

The mechanisms of action, subjective effects, and risk profile of the classical serotonergic psychedelic drugs distinguish them from other drugs, the authors wrote.

“Psychedelics are different from other drugs, in that they are not known to be physically harmful or to cause addiction or compulsive use. Experts agree that psychedelics are less harmful than alcohol and most other recreational drugs, although psychedelics can elicit anxiety and confusion during the drug effects,” the researchers observed.

They estimated that older adults were more likely to have used LSD and mescaline, whereas younger adults were more likely to have used “magic mushrooms.” In addition, the authors noted that the use of “magic mushrooms” is known to have increased since the 1970s.

“People often report mystical experiences as a major reason for using psychedelics,” the authors said. “Archaeological evidence shows that psychedelic plants have been used in the Americas for over 5,000 years, and currently around 300,000 people in the U.S. enjoy a recognized religious freedom right to use psychedelics.”

Source: F1000Research; April 23, 2013.

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