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    mental health natural psychoactive drug users ICEERS study

    Mental Health of Natural Psychoactive Drug Users


    Patterns of use, desired effects, and mental health status of a sample of natural psychoactive drug users

    Marc Aixalá, Genís Oña, Òscar Parés, and José Carlos Bouso.

    Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy



    About the study

    In order to study the patterns of use, the desired effects and the mental health status of individuals who make use of natural psychoactive drugs, ICEERS conducted detailed research through an online questionnaire that collected responses from 564 NPD users from 52 different countries.

    This study, lead by psychologist Marc Aixalà with funding from the European Commission, was part of an European project called “New Approaches in Harm Reduction Policies and Practices,” implemented by the Transnational Institute, Diogenis Drug Policy Dialogue, Forum Droghe, Stichting, and ICEERS, between January 2017 and March 2019.

    The objective of the study was to increase knowledge about current consumers of natural psychoactive drugs, including frequency of use and related practices. The results can be used by social workers, health practitioners, and law and policy makers when considering the impact of NPDs on public health.



    Background: In recent years, the use of natural psychoactive drugs (NPDs) has grown rapidly. They are classified as new psychoactive substances (NPSs), despite the reality that they have been used for centuries. We are lacking information regarding patterns of use or characteristics of users, but some evidence suggests that NPDs substantially differ from NPSs in terms of both their safety profile and patterns of use.

    Methods: The aim of this study was to investigate patterns of use and user characteristics by collecting data from a sample of NPD users. We designed an online questionnaire that was shared through social media. A sample of 564 NPD users was recruited from 52 different countries, with the United States being the most common (19%), followed by Spain (14.9%). The typical user in our sample is a well-educated adult individual who uses NPDs sporadically.

    Results: The most used substances were Psilocybe mushrooms (88.5%) and ayahuasca (51%). Users reported that the use of NPDs positively influenced their lives, and they showed a good mental health status.

    Conclusions: Stakeholders should consider these results particularly when deciding on legal classifications for these substances, as the study findings suggest that NPDs should not be in the same class as NPSs.


    Link to the article


    Contact ICEERS Research team

    Photo by Sebastian Hages on Unsplash.

    Categories: Studies & papers , Psychedelics
    Tags: scientific research , study , drug , psychoactive , psychedelics , psychoactive plants , hallucinogens , mental health