The data is conclusive. Tripping is up, most notably among young people. US government statistics show 1.31 million 18- to 25-year-olds admitted taking LSD in 2017 compared with 317,000 in 2004—almost a fourfold increase since the mid 2000s. And it’s not just in the US. Even among 12th graders, the use of LSD is edging up.
I wanted to know why Amber and hundreds of thousands of young people like her around the world are using psychedelics such as LSD, magic mushrooms, ketamine, and DMT in greater numbers than we’ve seen in decades. “People today are like robots,” Amber told me. “Everything and everyone is online, all the time. But on drugs, especially… [LSD], you live in the moment; you don’t care about what’s going on with your phone. I don’t even use mine when I’m out… [in that state].” Consider the friction… social media meltdowns, claustrophobic commutes, unobtainable housing, insecure jobs, and overcrowded cities with too many lonely people. [Prescription drugs]… and coffee to rush you through the day… Offices where your colleagues message you instead of turning their heads to talk. Where a Netflix binge is… [a] best friend, where… [some] politicians tell us that global warming will fix itself, where anxiety and pain are at epidemic levels, and going to university leaves… [those without privilege and wealth] in debt for the rest of your life … Perhaps the drug divide will reflect increasing social divides. The rich and middle classes remain even freer to indulge their every chemical whim, insulated from the law thanks to their privilege, while poor drug users, exposed to heightened security and police patrols, are jailed for the same offenses. Maybe life will continue on its dystopian trajectory, with legal clinical or recreational use of MDMA or LSD granted only to the upper classes, to the well-insured and the wealthy … The chances of any [“wealthy”] being caught… let alone flung behind bars, is near zero. Meanwhile, in the real world, harsh sentences are handed down to… [those in poverty who] are caught daring to gain some [psychedelic]… respite… For the general public, liable as they are to suffer police shakedowns, sniffer-dog searches, and drug tests, the use of psychedelics for [in a similar, but distinct, and statistically safer way] fun or for self-medication [can have]… dire legal consequences [under the scientifically inaccurate Controlled Substance Act scheduling system].