Why would a government outlaw the most successful psychological treatments in the world?
Psilocybin, ayahuasca, LSD, MDMA and mescaline all fall under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act in the United States, defined as drugs of abuse with no medical value that cannot be used safely even under the supervision of a physician. They are banned under a similar blanket prohibition in Great Britain as well as many other countries.
The classification is absurd on its face, since all of those substances have proven medical value in combating mental disorders, and most are perfectly safe to use. And while any substance can be abused if it is not treated with care and moderation, reports of psychedelic use being helpful and even life changing outweigh instances of harm by an overwhelming degree.
Now a British psychiatrist is leading a charge for sanity and rationalization in our controlled substance laws. “No evidence indicates that psychedelic drugs are habit forming; little evidence indicates that they are harmful in controlled settings; and much historical evidence shows that they could have use in common psychiatric disorders,” James Rucker, a researcher at King’s College in London, wrote in the British Medical Journal.
Psychedelics have been shown to help people who struggle with addiction, PTSD, anxiety, depression, autism, OCD, cluster headaches and more, relieving people of their suffering when every other type of treatment has failed. Many psychedelics were used openly and successfully as treatments in the ‘50s and ’60s before governments started outlawing them, Rucker points out.
Not only do draconian drug laws block people who suffer from mental disorders from getting the help they need, they also prevent researchers from studying the substances to learn more about how they work and can benefit humanity. Permits to work with psychedelics are extremely difficult to obtain, and acquiring legal trial samples of the substances is prohibitively expensive.
Legal bans in conjunction with hysterical government propaganda on “drugs” contributes to an ongoing social stigma as well. “This means that research funding bodies are uncomfortable funding the research that might challenge the prevailing stigma, and generate the evidence that will confirm or deny the theory that they could help people suffering from depression and anxiety problems and drug and alcohol dependence problems,” Rucker wrote.
He’s not the first researcher to sound the alarm. Two years ago Professor David Nutt of the Imperial College London published a paper in Nature Reviews Neuroscience that made the case that prohibition does more harm than good.
“The decision to outlaw these drugs was based on their perceived dangers, but in many cases the harms have been overstated and are actually less than many legal drugs such as alcohol,” Nutt wrote. “The laws have never been updated despite scientific advances and growing evidence that many of these drugs are relatively safe.”
And the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies is working on research with MDMA and other psychedelics, which they hope can be used to lobby the U.S. government to move the substances to a less restrictive classification.
For now, people who suffer from mental disorders and other ailments which psychedelics can successfully treat are left with the choice to either live with their pain or break the law.
“This hindering of research and therapy is motivated by politics, not science,” Nutt wrote. “It’s one of the most scandalous examples of scientific censorship in modern times.”