Psychedelics have a storied history. For many, they conjure images of long-haired, flare-wearing, peace-loving 1960s hippies. For others, it’s people hallucinating after popping a pill at a rave. Yet, things are changing. Experts predict growth in the Psychedelic Compound industry. Industry analysts have suggested this will see it shift from a $2.6bn market size to a $7.1bn industry by 2032. That’s a 10.9% compound annual growth rate.
This growth hinges on the emergence of new research. Studies have produced promising results in treating a range of issues like PTSD. Yet, despite these opportunities, obstacles remain. These include negative public perceptions and limited research on long-term effects. Therefore, in this Psychedelic Compound Industry report we analyse consumer interest. Without public approval, the industry will struggle to obtain its growth projections. Therefore, we investigate online data in this report. As a healthcare marketing firm, we analyse large quantities of online data. We outline what consumers think and outline the risks and opportunities for the Psychedelic Compound Industry.
What is the Psychedelic Compound Industry?
The Psychedelic Compound Industry is an exciting and rapidly evolving space focused on the therapeutic potential of certain hallucinogenic substances. The industry researches psychedelics like psilocybin (magic mushrooms), LSD and MDMA (ecstasy). Their goal is to understand their impact on treating mental health conditions. In return, the aim is to turn them into approved medicines.
The industry encompasses both synthetically produced psychedelics and naturally occurring ones. Examples of synthetically produced psychedelics, such as MDMA, originate from labs. On the other hand, naturally occurring psychedelics come from things like plants and fungi. Psilocybin in mushrooms is one such example.
UK searches for psychedelics rockets 163%. Is this a sign the Psychedelic Compound Industry is gaining consumer approval?
Over the last five years, there has been growing interest in psychedelics in both the UK and the US. As the graph below shows, people searching for psychedelics in the UK have risen by 163%. This is approximately the same as in the US where it has grown 161%. However, the significantly higher volume of US searches for psychedelics per month, makes that growth even more impressive.
Globally the increase has been slightly slower with a growth of 75% in interest. This would suggest many parts of the world are still yet to embrace the emerging research. However, the data indicates there has been a shift in consumer interest. So, does this mean the Psychedelic Compound Industry has obtained mainstream acceptance?
Whilst this data is promising, it doesn’t explain consumer intent. There are multiple reasons why people might be searching for psychedelics. These include recreational use and general interest. Therefore, we need to dig deeper.
Interest in psychedelics for therapy grows an astonishing 1233% in the US
When we dig deeper into specific search terms, we can see psychedelics for therapy has rapidly grown in the US. With a 1233% increase in interest in the US, it would appear the US market is embracing the new research. However, the UK does not appear to have responded. Over the last five years, interest has remained flat, suggesting the UK market is still lagging behind the US. This is perhaps no surprise. Our data indicates the US often drives health trends. For example, the popular longevity supplement NMN and the use of CGMs have both grown in popularity in the US before making inroads across the Atlantic. It is likely we will see a similar trend with psychedelics for therapy.
However, in the US, California appears to be driving the interest. This would suggest the Psychedelic Compound Industry still has some work to do for mainstream appeal. California of course is home to Silicon Valley. As the heartbeat of the US tech sector, it has become a haven for people using psychedelics to improve cognitive function and creativity.
Interestingly, there has also been a global surge in interest in psychedelics for therapy. Interest has grown 400% over five years. This would suggest the Psychedelic Compound Industry is having an impact. Consumers are becoming more aware of the potential use of psychedelics outside of recreational uses. They are now looking to see how it can help improve their mental wellbeing.
Does this indicate only a passing trend, and should the Psychedelic Compound Industry worry?
When we expand our data over 20 years, we see a more sustained level of interest in the US. In the 00’s there were spikes of interest. Yet, very little online interest followed these spikes. It is likely media attention was the cause. However, since 2021, we can see interest has been growing steadily. This is a sign that people wanting psychedelics for therapy is not a fad.
Globally, interest in psilocybin therapy has jumped 1400% in just five years
To further emphasize the point, we can also look at use cases for specific psychedelics. When looking at searches related to psilocybin therapy, we see a similar story. The UK has an 833% growth, although this requires context. The actual volume of searches remains relatively small, especially when compared to the US. Therefore, such an increase can be misleading.
However, in the US there has been a shocking 1300% growth. This would indicate that what was a relatively unheralded industry has started to get attention. Moreover, US searches form a large part of global searches. Therefore, it is no surprise to see psilocybin therapy has risen 1400% globally over five years.
Yet, the Psychedelic Compound Industry must treat this growth with caution. At first, the data can indicate a viral trend. However, whilst this is promising for the Psychedelic Industry, a large reason for it is the industry’s relative infancy. We need more time to determine if it appeals to the mass consumer.
Interest in the Psychedelic Compound Industry reflected in search volumes
To truly understand the level of interest, we must also look at the absolute search volumes. After all a growth from 3 searches to 30 searches is a 900% increase. However, 30 searches per month will not get anyone jumping for joy, even if they are under the influence of psychedelics themselves.
However, the numbers provide encouragement for the Psychedelic Compound Industry. As shown below, there are now 22,200 searches per month in the UK alone for psychedelics. In the US, where many states have decriminalised psychedelics, people conduct an incredible 135,000 searches per month. That’s without totalling all searches for individual psychedelic drugs.
Yet, it’s the therapy-related terms that provoke interest. In the UK, numbers remain small. However, 2,600 monthly searches for psychedelics and psilocybin therapy, while not industry-transforming, indicate promise. After all, psychedelics remain illegal in the UK. Therefore, it demonstrates that despite psychedelics not being available there is still a good, albeit small, volume of searches.
However, in the US things are different. There are 30,200 combined searches per month for psychedelics and psilocybin therapy. This does not include other specific therapies such as MDMA therapy, which has approx—18,000 searches per month in the US. In short, the US appears to be driving a new trend for psychedelic mental health therapies.
What is causing this growth?
This growth is arguably down to the rise in mental health-related psychedelic research. However, as we tell our clients, to really capture consumer interest you need to turn research into stories. Storytelling has a significant impact on people’s perception. It’s a form of marketing, which we help our clients with through search engine optimisation and social media. It’s feelings that drive behaviour.
Therefore, attributing this growth to research does not capture the full story. Search engine data shows that two Netflix documentaries released in 2020 and 2022 have further fueled the growth. Both shows saw psychedelics-related searches spike. Moreover, social media has played a significant part. On Instagram alone, the hashtag #psychedelic has received 10 million uses. Moreover, popular influencers have promoted its usage for mental health.
Are there any consequences of this online growth?
Interestingly, 53.8% of all UK-related searches for ‘psychedelics’ is from young people between 18-24. This is perhaps due to the role social media has played. Yet, it raises questions about how much young people understand about the consequences of taking psychedelics. Searches for psychedelic side effects are only 0.1% of the total volume of people searching for psychedelics in the UK. In the US, it’s 0.2%.
With psychedelics banned in the UK, a genuine concern arises that people may begin self-administering the drugs outside of proper clinical settings. Moreover, with such high volumes of searches for psychedelic drugs, a chief concern is whether it will lead to an explosion in the black market. This could have a significant impact on the Psychedelic Compound Industry.
An increase in the sale of illegal substances is likely to create negative publicity, undermining the industry.
The data indicates there has been a shift in consumer interest in psychedelic drugs. As a result, there appears to be a societal shift, with more people interested in the therapeutic benefits. This is great news for an industry that has been battling against a long-held stigma. However, this brings about its own unique issues.
There is a risk the black market simultaneously grows too as more people look to self-administer psychedelics. This is especially true in markets where psychedelics remain illegal. Therefore, it is imperative regulators take a proactive approach. They need to stay ahead of the research and ensure regulations reflect the latest insights. If they don’t wake up, the black market will.