What's the Safest Party Drug?

Researchers find the drug least likely to send you to emergency room.


A large new study claims that among recreational drugs, magic mushrooms seem to be the safest to use. This was based on the statistic that only .2% of nearly 10,000 people who used psilocybin-containing mushrooms in 2016 went to emergency room.

The annual Global Drug Survey involved over 120,000 participants from 50 countries and concluded that as far as ending up in emergency rooms afterwards, taking MDMA, LSD, alcohol and cocaine made that five times more likely. The drug causing the most emergency visits - methamphetamine, followed by synthetic cannabis. 

“Magic mushrooms are one of the safest drugs in the world,” said Adam Winstock, a consultant addiction psychiatrist and the founder of the Global Drug Survey in an interview with The Guardian

Winstock thinks the biggest danger with shrooms is eating the wrong ones. 

“Death from toxicity is almost unheard of with poisoning with more dangerous fungi being a much greater risk in terms of serious harms,” warned the psychiatrist.

He pointed out the need to be in a controlled safe environment and have “trusted company” to ensure a good, panic-free trip. He also warned of other dangers like taking psychedelic mushrooms with alcohol and possible confusion.

“Combined use with alcohol and use within risky or unfamiliar settings increase the risks of harm most commonly accidental injury, panic and short lived confusion, disorientation and fears of losing one’s mind,” said Winstock to The Guardian. 

28,000 of the survey people admitted to taking magic mushrooms at some time in their lives. 81.7% of these did it in hopes of having a “moderate psychedelic experience” as well the “enhancement of environment and social interactions”.

Interestingly, MDMA beat out the other drugs in previous surveys when compared using the Net Pleasure Index, designed to balance out the perceived positive effects of the drug with the negative. 

It should also be noted that all these drugs are currently illegal in the U.S.

Previous studies also found the possible effectiveness of magic mushrooms in the treatment of depression.

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The competition between forces from protons and neutrons inside a neutron star create super-dense shapes that look like long cylinders or flat planes, referred to as "spaghetti" and "lasagna," respectively. That's also where we get the overall name of nuclear pasta.

Caplan & Horowitz/arXiv

Diagrams illustrating the different types of so-called nuclear pasta.

The researchers' computer simulations needed 2 million hours of processor time before completion, which would be, according to a press release from McGill University, "the equivalent of 250 years on a laptop with a single good GPU." Fortunately, the researchers had access to a supercomputer, although it still took a couple of years. The scientists' simulations consisted of stretching and deforming the nuclear pasta to see how it behaved and what it would take to break it.

While they were able to discover just how strong nuclear pasta seems to be, no one is holding their breath that we'll be sending out missions to mine this substance any time soon. Instead, the discovery has other significant applications.

One of the study's co-authors, Matthew Caplan, a postdoctoral research fellow at McGill University, said the neutron stars would be "a hundred trillion times denser than anything on earth." Understanding what's inside them would be valuable for astronomers because now only the outer layer of such starts can be observed.

"A lot of interesting physics is going on here under extreme conditions and so understanding the physical properties of a neutron star is a way for scientists to test their theories and models," Caplan added. "With this result, many problems need to be revisited. How large a mountain can you build on a neutron star before the crust breaks and it collapses? What will it look like? And most importantly, how can astronomers observe it?"

Another possibility worth studying is that, due to its instability, nuclear pasta might generate gravitational waves. It may be possible to observe them at some point here on Earth by utilizing very sensitive equipment.

The team of scientists also included A. S. Schneider from California Institute of Technology and C. J. Horowitz from Indiana University.

Check out the study "The elasticity of nuclear pasta," published in Physical Review Letters.