By NewsGram Staff Writer
Psychedelics were made illegal in 1967, when medical research suggested widespread concern about their psychological and social harms.
Today, a leading psychiatrist claims that psychedelic drugs, including LSD and magic mushrooms, are less harmful than projected and should be reclassified in order to promote research into their potential benefits.
“No evidence had ever shown the drugs to be habit-forming. There is also little evidence of harm when used in controlled settings, and a wealth of studies indicating that they have uses in the treatment of common psychiatric disorders”, writes Dr James Rucker, a psychiarist at King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience
According to one small Swiss study, LSD and psilocybin- the active compound in magic mushrooms–can be used to alleviate symptoms of anxiety in terminally ill patients.
Other researchers are starting to consider how such psychedelics can benefit addicts and those suffering from the obsessive compulsive disorder.
Dr Rucker, however, argues that larger trials are “almost impossible” because of the “practical, financial, and bureaucratic obstacles” imposed by the drugs’ legal status.
Magic mushrooms and LSD are classified as class A and schedule 1 drugs in the UK. Only four hospitals in the UK possess licenses to conduct research due to the exorbitant amount(£5,000) that one has to shell out for holding such a license.
Complying with international regulations also involves hefty charges for researchers who wish to acquire the drugs. According to Dr Rucker, a gram of psilocybin can cost up to £100,000.
“These restrictions, and the accompanying bureaucracy, mean that the cost of clinical research using psychedelics is five to 10 times that of research into less restricted (but more harmful) drugs such as heroin – with no prospect that the benefits can be translated into wider practice,” Rucker writes in BMJ
Rucker further argues that national and international bodies should reclassify psychedelics as a schedule 2 drugs, to enable a comprehensive, evidence-based assessment of their therapeutic potential.
Former chairman of the Advisory council on the misuse of drugs, Professor David Nutt was dismissed after saying that LSD and ecstasy are less harmful than alcohol.
An outspoken critic of the restrictions around studies of psychedelics, Professor Nutt is currently conducting research into psychedelics’ effects on the brain. His team at Imperial College London are the first in the world to conduct brain scans on people under the influence of LSD.
Nutt compares the repression of such research to the censorship of Galileo and the banning of the telescope. His team recently announced they would have to crowd-fund the next stages of their research, amid prospects of deteriorating funds.
Stating his opposition in no uncertain terms, Mike Penning, Minister for Policing, Crime, Criminal Justice and Victims said, “Drugs are illegal where scientific and medical analysis has shown they are harmful to human health. They destroy lives, cause misery to families and communities, and this Government has no intention of decriminalising them.”
“We have a clear licensing regime, supported by legislation, which allows legitimate research to take place in a secure environment while ensuring that harmful drugs are not misused and do not get into the hands of criminals”, Penning further added.