Health

The World's Safest and Most Dangerous Recreational Drugs

May 26th 2017

By:
Kyle Jaeger

Contrary to popular belief, marijuana isn't the safest drug in the world. It's the second safest drug in the world, according to the 2017 Global Drug Survey, a comprehensive annual report that documents international drug use trends.

According to this year's report which included responses from more than 115,000 people from over 50 countries, the recreational drug that's least likely to cause users to seek emergency medical treatment is actually psilocybin mushrooms (aka "magic mushrooms"). Just .2 percent of people who reported taking magic mushrooms in 2016 wound up in the emergency room due to adverse effects.

Similarly, less than one percent of marijuana users (.6 percent) sought emergency medical treatment. But the low incident rate for magic mushrooms might come as a surprise, as drug reform advocacy has predominantly focused attention on the relative safety and medical value of cannabis. That's starting to shift, though. Recent studies highlighting the potential therapeutic benefits of psilocybin have also generated public interest.

shroom

"Magic mushrooms are one of the safest drugs in the world," Adam Winstock, an addiction psychiatrist who founded the Global Drug Survey, told The Guardian. "Death from toxicity is almost unheard of with poisoning with more dangerous fungi being a much greater risk in terms of serious harms."

On the flip side...

Unsurprisingly, methamphetamine proved to be the most dangerous drug in the world, with nearly 5 percent of users reporting that they received emergency medical treatment after taking the stimulant.

meth

Synthetic cannabis — a misleading term used to describe a wide range of products containing dried plant material sprayed with chemicals — led about 3 percent of users to the emergency room. These products, which provide so-called "legal highs" have grown in popularity in recent years, troubling public health officials and law enforcement.

And, as soon as one synthetic product is banned, manufacturers can slightly alter the molecular composition of its main psychoactive ingredient and put it back on the market. That makes it difficult to enforce bans and increases the risk for consumers, who never really know what they're putting in their bodies when it comes to these products.

Here's are the percentages of users who sought emergency room treatments for all nine drugs — from safest to least safe.

GDS

1. Magic mushrooms

magic-mushrooms-in-hand

0.2%

2. Cannabis

marijuana

0.6%

3. LSD

lsd-tab-on-tongue

1%

4. Cocaine

coke

1%

5. Amphetamine

Adderall

1.1%

6. MDMA

mdma

1.2%

7. Alcohol

alcohol

1.3%

8. Synthetic cannabis

Blister pack of synthetic marijuana

3.2%

9. Methamphetamine

meth

4.8%

The authors of the study said that while the amount of data they utilize makes theirs one of the largest surveys to explore drug trends globally, there are limitations to keep in mind: not all drugs were included in the section about emergency treatment and the survey targeted younger populations (the average age was 29) and skewed male (68 percent), which means the results do not necessarily reflect a perfect representative sample of each country.