The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) has recommended changes to regulations to support research into the therapeutic potential of illegal drugs, including psychedelics. The ACMD proposes relaxing controls on trials involving Schedule 1 drugs like opium and LSD, following recent studies suggesting their effectiveness in treating severe depression. Labour MP Charlotte Nichols, who chairs the Centre for Evidence Based Drug Policy (CEBDP) forum, has expressed her support for further research into the medicinal uses of hallucinogenic mushrooms, citing her own experience with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Nichols believes that the report is a significant step towards improving mental health treatments.
This recommendation from the ACMD comes as research into the therapeutic uses of cannabis, another Schedule 1 drug, has led to the approval of two new drugs in the UK: Epidyolex for seizures and Sativex for neuropathic pain. Furthermore, there have been promising developments in the use of a compound derived from hallucinogenic mushrooms to alleviate symptoms of severe depression. Psilocybin, the active ingredient in these mushrooms, has shown a unique ability to impact the brains of individuals with severe depression in ways that traditional antidepressants do not. The CEBDP has been advocating for the reclassification of psilocybin to allow wider access for patients, as is the case in Australia and Canada.
The ACMD was tasked by the government to examine the barriers to research on controlled drugs. One of the main obstacles identified by the ACMD is the lengthy process of obtaining a license to conduct scientific trials using Schedule 1 drugs like psilocybin, which can take up to a year. The strict rules and extensive paperwork involved make it difficult for smaller studies to carry out clinical trials. Additionally, if granted, licenses are only valid for three months, often proving insufficient for the logistics of drug shipments and paperwork. The ACMD argues that relaxing these regulations would facilitate more research and enable a wider range of academic and medical studies. It also asserts that a revised regulatory framework would help identify the safest and most effective therapeutic uses of Schedule 1 drugs.
The report has been welcomed by the Home Office, which has stated that it will carefully consider its findings. Chris Philp, the Home Office minister responsible for drug policy, has previously emphasized the government’s commitment to making the UK a leading jurisdiction for medical research. However, in a letter to the ACMD prior to the report’s publication, Philp highlighted the need to strike a balance between facilitating legitimate research and minimizing the risks of harm, diversion, and misuse of controlled drugs. The government aims to explore ways to support research into the therapeutic potential of illegal drugs while ensuring the safety and integrity of the process.