Aug 18, 2022 - Health

Over 5.5 million U.S. adults use hallucinogens, study finds

Illustration of a mushroom casting a light like a street lamp

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Hallucinogen use in the United States has increased among adults in the last two decades, a new study found.

Driving the news: In 2019, over 5.5 million people in the U.S. used hallucinogens, which are a broad range of psychoactive drugs, including psychedelics like LSD.

  • That's an increase from 1.7% of the population (12 years and older) in 2002 to 2.2% in 2019.

Why it matters: The study, published in peer-reviewed journal Addiction, is the first to provide formal statistical analyses of trends in hallucinogen use in the last 20 years, according to the researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and its Irving Medical Center.

By the numbers: Since 2002, hallucinogen use increased in adults 26 years and older.

Yes, but it decreased in adolescents aged 12–17.

  • Meanwhile, ecstasy use has decreased in both adolescents and adults.
  • Between 2002 and 2019, LSD use increased overall and in all age groups, the study found.
  • Conversely, PCP and ecstasy use in that same time frame decreased in both adolescents and young adults.

What they're saying: "Given the recent media coverage showing that an increasing number of adults may be reporting positive effects of ‘microdosing’ and expecting therapeutic benefits of hallucinogens without negative effects, our findings merit a comprehensive examination of time trends and motives for hallucinogen frequency and quantity of use," Dr. Ofir Livne, one of the authors of the study, said in a news release.

The big picture: MDMA, psilocybin and LSD — combined with psychotherapy — have shown promise for treating a range of addictions and mental health disorders, Axios' Alison Snyder writes.

  • The Food and Drug Administration granted breakthrough therapy status to MDMA and psilocybin, signaling a shift in the potential for incorporating psychedelics into the existing health care infrastructure.
  • More states are also passing laws to allow research or decriminalize its use.

Go deeper: The science of psychedelic therapy breaks on through

Go deeper