Global Drug Survey 2017: Marijuana and mushrooms are the safest recreational drugs

Global Drug Survey 2017: Marijuana and mushrooms are the safest recreational drugs
"Magic" mushrooms being weighed and packaged
Source: Eight Studio/Shutterstock
"Magic" mushrooms being weighed and packaged
Source: Eight Studio/Shutterstock

According to the annual Global Drug Survey, psilocybin hallucinogenic mushrooms are the safest recreational drug — with marijuana a close second.

Out of 120,000 people surveyed in 50 countries, more than 12,000 reported that they had taken "magic" mushrooms in 2016 — and just 0.2% of that group needed medical attention as a result. By comparison, 0.6% of marijuana users had a medical problem as a result of the drug, the second-least dangerous according to the study. 

On the other side of the spectrum, the three most dangerous substances were alcohol (1.3% medical emergency rate), synthetic cannabis (3.2%) and methamphetamine (4.8%).

Results from the 2017 Global Drug Survey
Source: Global Drug Survey

"People don’t tend to abuse psychedelics" like mushrooms, marijuana or LSD, Adam Winstock, the addiction psychiatrist who founded of the Global Drug Survey, told the Guardian. Psychedelics don't create dependency or "rot every organ from head to toe, and many would cite their impact upon their life as profound and positive. But you need to know how to use them.”   

Winstock was referring to the fabled "bad trip," a deeply unpleasant experience sometimes brought about by psychotropic drugs; the negative feelings in these scenarios can range from fear to confusion to panic and all kinds of emotional distress. Yet in a 2016 paper, researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine found that people who had lived through a bad trip often saw it as meaningful, worthwhile or even life-changing.

Source: Giphy

Meanwhile, synthetic cannabinoids — potent chemical products designed to imitate the effects of THC, marijuana's psychoactive compound, bearing names like "K2," "spice" and "black mamba" — were shown to be far riskier to one's health than plain Mary Jane. The potential negative side effects include vomiting, kidney damage, heart problems, blackouts and psychosis. The driver who slammed into pedestrians in Times Square this month was under the influence of K2 at the time, and just days ago, a U.K. man was said to have cut his own nose off while high on black mamba.  

Cannabis itself, by comparison, sent just 0.6% of users to the emergency room. Such visits are not uncommon, especially in states with legal recreational marijuana — often the victim is having an anxiety attack, although marijuana can also trigger symptoms of underlying disorders like schizophrenia. Especially when compared to alcohol and other illicit drugs, however, the risk of death with cannabis is virtually nil

The same goes for magic mushrooms. Winstock told the Guardian that death from toxicity "is almost unheard of," with the real peril being accidentally picking and eating a different, poisonous mushroom. All of which is to say that while psychedelics can definitely ruin your day if consumed under the wrong circumstances, they're still way safer than stimulants, or even booze.

Just don't expect a mushroom bar to open in your city anytime soon.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Miles Klee

Author of the novel Ivyland and the story collection True False. Words in Electric Literature, Lapham's Quarterly, Vanity Fair, The Awl, Guernica, Motherboard, Vulture, McSweeney's and elsewhere. Probably eating tacos right now.

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