Updated on February 6, 2024
4 min read

Hallucinogens Statistics and Usage Trends

Hallucinogens, also known as psychoactive drugs, are a class of substances that produce vivid mental and physical changes in users.

People have used them for centuries, including for religious, medicinal, and recreational purposes. But today, these drugs remain controversial despite growing evidence about their effects on the mind and body. 

How Many People Use Hallucinogens?

  • Over 5.5 million Americans experimented with hallucinogens in 2019, marking a 2.2% rise in usage among people aged 12+ compared to 2002's 1.7%.3
  • LSD use skyrocketed among all age groups from 2002 to 2019.3
  • The rate of LSD use for 18 to 25-year-olds jumped from 0.9% in 2002 to 4% in 2022.3
jump rate of LSD use for 18 to 25 year old
  • Since 2015, adults aged 26+ have seen an increase in hallucinogen use, while young adults between 12 to 17 years old showed a decrease.3
  • PCP use had a notable decline from 2002 to 2019. Similarly, the consumption of Ecstasy has demonstrated a downward trend since 2015.3
  • The level of risk associated with regular LSD use has significantly lessened across all age groups from 2002 to 2014.3
  • Young adults aged 19 to 30 reported a substantial increase in marijuana and hallucinogen use in 2021, reaching historic highs not seen in this age group since 1988.4 
  • Past-year hallucinogen use among young adults reached an all-time high of 8% in 2021, the highest reported percentage since data collection began in 1988. This marks a significant rise from 2016's 5% and 2011's mere 3%.4
past year hallucinogen use among young adults2011 2021
  • Young adults have reported using hallucinogens, including mescaline, PCP, peyote, LSD, psilocybin, and MDMA.4
  • MDMA is the only hallucinogen that has experienced a significant decrease in usage. Over the past five years, there has been a drop from 5% in 2016 and 2020 to 3% in 2021.4
DrugLifetime (2021)Past Year (2021)Past Month (2021)
Hallucinogens45,8267,4062,234
LSD29,5022,477524
PCP6,46418396
Ecstasy21,1222,199594

The Risks of Unsupervised Hallucinogen Use

Using psychedelics unsupervised can be risky and may lead to adverse effects, including anxious reactions, acute delusional states, paranoia, elevated blood pressure, persistent psychosis, hostile and violent behaviors, and increased risk of suicide.5,6

These user factors influence these adverse reactions:

  • Mental health status
  • Dosage
  • Duration of use
  • Environment

Potentially unsupervised hallucinogen use can also be hazardous for those predisposed to psychosis, as it may lead to a psychotic episode. Additionally, people with depression or other mental health disorders may experience worsened symptoms.5

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What are Hallucinogens?

Hallucinogenic drugs are controlled substances that alter perception and mood. Depending on the dosage, setting, and frame of mind, they can cause various distortions in sensory perceptions of colors and thought processes related to time and space.

The common street names for hallucinogens include:

  • Shrooms
  • Acid
  • STP
  • XTC
  • Blotter
  • Special K
  • Cubes
  • X
  • Mushrooms
  • Fry
  • Mind Candy

These psychoactive substances come in numerous forms. MDMA or ecstasy tablets are marketed in various colors with enticing logos to appeal to young people. Likewise, LSD is sold as blotter paper saturated with vibrant graphic designs.

The most frequently abused hallucinogens among junior and senior high school students are MDMA (Molly or Ecstasy), LSD, and hallucinogenic mushrooms. They’re usually ingested orally or smoked.1

Types of Hallucinogens

The most common hallucinogens are lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), psilocybin (mushrooms), phencyclidine (PCP), and hallucinogenic amphetamines.2 LSD is the most powerful and can cause significant psychological, physical, and emotional changes to those who engage in LSD use.

Certain hallucinogens, compared to traditional hallucinogens, are considered "safe." A study found mushroom consumption posed a lesser medical risk than MDMA, cocaine, and LSD use in 2016, making it a "safe hallucinogen" for recreational use.2 

Despite this, healthcare professionals recommend against the use of recreational hallucinogens.

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Public Health Concerns and Preventive Strategies

Hallucinogen use, while often associated with minimal risk, warrants preventive strategies. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), education should be emphasized, including informing people of the potential positive and negative effects.

The latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that hallucinogen use is rising, particularly among people aged 12+.7 So, with this growing public health concern and trend, public awareness about hallucinogen use and potential neurological adverse effects must increase.

Additionally, experts say research findings merit further investigation into the potential therapeutic benefits of hallucinogens and a closer look at the public perception of drug risk.5

Why are Hallucinogens Used in Therapy?

Hallucinogens are considered for their therapeutic benefits, and various studies and findings suggesting benefits have graced recent media coverage.5

Research indicates that psilocybin has shown promising results in treating depression, smoking addiction, and alcoholism. These disorders are all linked to the brain's difficulty breaking free from maladaptive thinking patterns.5

During a psychedelic experience, brain circuits contributing to these destructive processes are interrupted. This disruption allows some people to break free from their disorder.

Experts believe disorders involving locked-in, repetitive thinking patterns could benefit from psychedelic therapy, including heroin addiction, OCD, and anorexia.5 Unfortunately, they don't believe hallucinogens effectively treat mental health issues like:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • ADHD

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Updated on February 6, 2024
7 sources cited
Updated on February 6, 2024
  1. Drug Fact Sheet: Hallucinogens.” Drug Enforcement Administration, 2020.
  2.  “HALLUCINOGENS.” United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, n.d. 
  3. Shmulewitz, D. et al. “New Study Estimates Over 5.5 Million U.S. Adults Use Hallucinogens.” Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, 2022.
  4. National Institutes of Health. “Marijuana and hallucinogen use among young adults reached all time-high in 2021.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2022. 
  5. Mackenzie, R.J. “The Neuroscience of Psychedelic Drugs: Ending Psychedelic Myths With Professor David Nutt.” Neuroscience News and Research, 2019.
  6. Department of Health, State Government of Victoria, Australia. “Hallucinogens.” Better Health Channel, n.d.
  7. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “2021 National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) Releases.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2021.

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