Magic mushrooms safer than cannabis, study suggests

If you want to take illicit drugs but stay out of hospital, a new study suggests opting for magic mushrooms might be your safest bet.

The latest Global Drug Survey (GDS), out this week, says only 0.2 percent of magic mushroom users report seeking emergency medical treatment relating to their drug taking in the previous 12 months.

That compares to 0.6 percent for cannabis, 1 percent for LSD and cocaine, 1.2 percent for MDMA (ecstasy) and 1.3 percent for alcohol.

The three-year reigning champion - synthetic cannabis - has been toppled this year by methamphetamine. Meth users had a 4.8 percent chance of seeking emergency treatment, with synthetic cannabis on 3.2 percent.

More than 120,000 people from more than 50 countries took part in the 2017 GDS, including 3800 Kiwis.

Because the survey is opt-in it can't be used to determine overall rates of drug use, but GDS founder Dr Adam R Winstock says the data can be used to gain "in-depth understandings of stigmatised behaviours among hidden populations".

"Given that GDS recruits younger, more involved drug using populations we are able to spot emerging drug trends before they enter into the general population.

"If you ask a group of 25,000 MDMA users how often they need to seek emergency medical help, you can't dismiss the findings as irrelevant and inconsistent with more representative samples."

Rates of emergency medical treatment worldwide (Global Drug Survey)
Rates of emergency medical treatment worldwide (Global Drug Survey)

New Zealanders were far less likely to seek emergency medical treatment for meth-related problems than most, with only 3 percent of women and virtually no men reporting they'd done so in the previous 12 months.

Only 1.3 percent of all respondents reported using methamphetamine in the past year however, suggesting few of the 38000 Kiwis in the survey would have used it. Newshub has requested the full New Zealand data set for clarification.


About 19 percent of all cannabis users light up every day, according to the 2017 GDS. Men are more likely to get addicted, with 20.2 percent saying their smoking was a daily habit, compared to 15.3 percent of women.

Rates of cannabis use worldwide (Global Drug Survey)
Rates of cannabis use worldwide (Global Drug Survey)

Almost 10 percent of Kiwi cannabis smokers light up within an hour of waking up.

Rates of cannabis use one hour after waking up, worldwide (Global Drug Survey)
Rates of cannabis use one hour after waking up, worldwide (Global Drug Survey)

New Zealanders are atypical in how they prepare their joints, with only 23 percent mixing it with tobacco - compared to 45 percent in Australia and more than 90 percent in Italy, Greece, Hungary, Denmark and Switzerland. In the US, only 8 percent mix marijuana and tobacco.

Kiwis seem to get in trouble less as a result of smoking, with only 0.2 percent of cannabis users here reporting a medical emergency as a result - compared with 0.6 percent worldwide.

Other findings from the Global Drug Survey this year

  • Fifty percent of Kiwi magic mushroom eaters pick their own, behind only Columbia (74 percent).
  • Ecstasy users in New Zealand on average only consume it once every two months. In Scotland and Ireland, it's slightly more than once a month.
  • If cannabis was legalised, 45 percent of smokers worldwide want the market controlled by private companies and 38 percent by non-profits. Only 17 percent want it in the hands of the world's governments.
  • Joints are the world's preferred method for smoking weed, with 71.7 percent saying it's their favourite. Only 9.4 percent prefer a bong, 8.6 percent a pipe, 2 percent a blunt, 1.7 percent eating it and 0.06 percent medicinal spray.
  • You're more than twice as likely to need emergency medical treatment if you're a meth-smoking woman (8.2 percent) than a man (3.2 percent). This goes for almost all illicit drugs except synthetic cannabis, where the numbers are reversed, and LSD, which sex had no impact on.
  • Amongst all drug users - illicit or legal - cannabis (60 percent used in the last 12 months) is more popular than tobacco (47.6 percent).
  • New Zealand's rate of hospitalisation is much lower than Australia, the US and Canada - 0.9 percent compared to 4, 6.1 and 8.3 percent respectively. Whether that's down to safer use or a stigma against getting treatment isn't clear from the data.