National Drug Early Warning System (NDEWS) Weekly Briefing


Legal use of psilocybin begins in Oregon

A recent article from The New York Times details the changing policies surrounding psychedelics, focusing on the legalization of psilocybin. On January 1, 2023, Oregon became the first state to legalize the use of psilocybin among adults. Oregon will not allow the retail sale of psilocybin, and consumption must take place at a licensed service center. Other states, including Colorado, New York, and Washington, have moved to decriminalize psilocybin. Read the article here.

Report from the Web Monitoring Team: Online mentions of psilocybin

The Web Monitoring team examined trends in discussion of psilocybin over time in light of the changing policies surrounding the substance in the US.

What was found? This drug has experienced steady long term growth with a much larger increase in comments than posts. Psilocybin is also known as "shrooms" or "magic  mushrooms".

What is Psilocybin? Psilocybin is a naturally occurring psychedelic found in many species of fungus. The intensity and duration of psilocybin are highly variable depending on the source. The drug has experienced a significant decriminalization movement. Psilocybin has been formally decriminalized in eight U.S. cities and two U.S. states since 2019.

How is Psilocybin being discussed? Online discussion of psilocybin often revolves around using the psychedelic to quit other drugs which are supposedly more serious. There are also many discussions of using the drug as a means of mental and spiritual healing.

Drug Terms: Shrooms, Magic Mushrooms, Blue Meanies, Boomers, Golden Tops

Quote from Devika Bhatia, MD, Instructor, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Denver, CO, NDEWS Sentinel Site Director

"In Colorado, Proposition 122 passed, which allows the personal use of psilocybin mushrooms and other plant-based psilocybin products by adults over 21 years old; allows adults to grow, possess, and use mushrooms containing psilocybin and psilocin, decriminalizes three plant-based psychedelics: mescaline (excluding specifically peyote), ibogaine, and dimethyltryptamine (found in ayahuasca). The state will create regulations for facilities where adults 21 and older can buy and take the psychedelics under supervision. The regulatory processes will be complete and operational by 2024. In the meanwhile, I would be interested to see how risk perception related to psilocybin and psychedelics in general changes."

Q&A with Nathan Sackett, MD, MS, Director, Center for Novel Therapeutics in Addiction Psychiatry Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington

Q: What potential challenges do you see regarding the implementation of psychedelics to treat substance use disorder? 

A: I have three thoughts: The lack of placebo is a huge challenge. We need to find ways to explore active controls that better blind participants. Additionally, we need to better explore how to use psychedelics to treat comorbid conditions, including mood disorders and PTSD. It is rare that I see anyone with a substance use disorder who doesn’t also have some other condition. I’d also like to see a way where we can start to collect naturalistic data as states change laws, allowing us to rapidly look for trends as particular populations use psychedelics more.

Q: What do you hope to see for the future on a national level in regard to research, use, and trends surrounding psychedelics? 

A: I hope the cultural excitement doesn’t undermine the need for good research. I fear that the general interest could lead to over- exaggerated expectations and there could be a backlash, particularly for substance use disorders.

I think we need to think a lot more about durability of treatments and how to maintain the possible benefits psychedelic and psychedelic assisted psychotherapy may bring. I hope we can better understand which patient populations best respond and why, which will take a lot more data. I suspect, as with many of our current treatments, there are sub-populations who will respond very well and others who do not. We need larger data sets to begin to address these questions.


NDEWS Hotspot Alerts (n=25) January 12 – 18, 2023: Opioid, heroin, methamphetamine, and non-opioid 911 dispatches

This week's NDEWS Hotspot Alert​s ​report ​includes 25 counties with higher-than-expected drug-related 911 dispatch counts over the previous 7-day period. View the full report hereClick here to read more about NDEWS Hotspot Alerts.


NPS Discovery: Q4 2022 NPS Trend Reports and 2022 Year in Review

The Center for Forensic Science Research and Education (CFSRE) recently published its Q4 2022 NPS Trend Report and their Year in Review report for 2022. Trend reports are available for NPS benzodiazepines, NPS opioids, NPS stimulants and hallucinogens, and synthetic cannabinoids. The 2022 Year in Review report provides cumulative and updated statistics about the emergence and landscape of novel psychoactive substances in the US based on data developed by NPS Discovery at CFSRE. View the Trend Reports and Year in Review here.


Scientists discover a way to alter fentanyl, making the potent pain reliever safer

A study recently published in Nature by a team of scientists from the University of Florida, Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Southern California, and Stanford University, reporton how chemical properties of fentanyl were altered to maintain its pain-relieving properties while reducing harmful side effects. At UF, the altered fentanyl was tested in mice and found to provide pain relief without causing respiratory depression or other opioid side effects. Read the study here. Read the news release here.

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