A new study pegs the current political climate as one of several causes for a 50% spike in LSD use between 2015-2018.
“When the going gets weird, the weird turn professional,” Hunter S. Thompson used to say. They also drop acid, according to a new study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
Researchers found that past-year LSD use jumped 56.4% between 2015 and 2018, mainly due to the 2016 presidential election, which caused a fractious split in American politics and culture, as well as the microdosing trend.
“LSD is used primarily to escape. And given that the world’s on fire, people might be using it as a therapeutic mechanism,” Andrew Yockey, the study’s lead author, told Scientific American. “Now that COVID’s hit, I’d guess that use has probably tripled.”
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Yockey’s team utilized data collected by the annual National Survey on Drug use and Health, a nationally representative survey and analyzed responses from more than 168,000 American adults.
Millennials and those with college degrees accounted for the most dramatic rises in LSD use. Acid consumption increased 70% among those with a college degree, about 59% for the 26-34 age group, 223% among the 35-49 age group, and 45% for people age 50 and older. Gen Z, however, did not follow this trend. People between the ages 18 to 25 saw a 24% drop in past-year LSD use.
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Researchers do believe the 2016 presidential election and current political climate did contribute to these rising trends. Music festivals and microdosing could also contribute to more people using LSD, however, researchers don’t expect another drug-fueled counterculture revolution like the 1960s and 70s to happen. Less than 1% of Americans use LSD in a given year, despite the new rising trends.
“LSD is a lot less popular today than it was in the late 1960s and 1970s,” Joseph Palamar, a drug researcher at NYU Langone Health, told Scientific American. He explained that newer drugs available, like the psychedelic 2C-B, also factored into this national decline, but that “LSD is perhaps the most popular psychedelic of all time, and it’s never going away.”