Should governments allow exploration of a medical role for psychedelics?
With scholars showing renewed interest in psychedelic treatments that were abandoned decades ago, some suggest that these substances may have real theraputic value while others question whether these drugs are safe and effective.
Rise of the Issue
Psychedelics in the U.S. have long been associated with the hippie movement of the mid-to-late-20th century, even spurring an entire genre of music in the form of psychedelic rock. However, since the passing of the Controlled Substances Act in 1970, psychedelic drugs have been classified as highly illegal, receiving the most dangerous categorization of drugs available. Since its scheduling, drug enthusiasts and medical professionals alike have argued that the classification is too harsh, and that there are viable medical uses for psychedelics. In recent years, state legislatures have taken a softer approach towards psychedelics, with several states starting the process of decriminalization.
Regarding the exploration of a medical role for psychedelics, highly controlled experiments conducted in the past have shown some promising results. However, opponents of the use of psychedelics in the medical field say that more caution should be used when dealing with such dangerous and highly addictive substances.
Controlled Substances Act Passes
Congress passes the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), listing several psychedelics under the list of Schedule I drugs, indicating that they have high potential for abuse with no accepted medical use.
Federal Analogue Act Passes
Congress passes the Federal Analogue Act, banning any drugs that have a similar chemical composition to Schedule I or II drugs listed in the CSA, and categorizing them as Schedule I drugs under the CSA.
State of New Mexico v. David Ray Pratt
The Court of Appeals of New Mexico finds that growing psilocybin mushrooms is not considered to be manufacturing a controlled substance under state law if they are being grown for personal use.
Right to Try Act Passes
President Donald Trump signs into effect the Right to Try Act, which gives terminally ill patients access to experimental therapies, including drugs, after approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
While supporters say that many other legal medicines have severe side effects without being so severely restricted, opponents say that the side effects of psychedelics are far too dangerous for them to be used in a medical setting.
Addiction and Abuse
Supporters say that if used in a medical setting, patients will be less likely to abuse the drug and become addicted, while opponents say that psychedelics are addictive enough that patients may suffer from withdrawal after finishing their treatment.
Opponents agree with the scheduling of psychedelics under the CSA, saying that psychedelics are quite dangerous and have no medically-accepted use, while supporters say that the Schedule I classification of many psychedelics is far too restrictive, and that there is no basis for the claim that psychedelics have no medical use.
The exploration of medical roles for psychedelics can lead to discoveries and breakthroughs.
Experimentation and exploration is one of the best ways to discover new cures and treatments to previously difficult-to-treat or untreatable illnesses or health issues.
The exploration, if closely monitored and regulated, poses no threat to society.
Psychedelics, when used under proper supervision, are relatively safe, both to the user and to those around them.
The Schedule I class given to psychedelics is far too restrictive.
The original classification of psychedelics as a Schedule I drug was done without much research or evidence, and studies have shown that psychedelics are less harmful than other legal drugs such as tobacco and alcohol.
Psychedelics have been proven to relieve pain and stress in users.
Experiments have been conducted that have shown that psychedelics can help improve mental health, relieve anxiety, and contribute long-term psychological wellness in many patients.
Psychedelics are suitable for end-of-life treatment.
Even with the risks present, when used as an end-of-life treatment, psychedelics can improve the final part of a patient’s life without the fear of long-term effects that the drugs may have on the patient.
Experimenting with dangerous drugs can lead to irreparable damage.
The potential side effects of psychedelics, such as the persistence of hallucinogenic effects, can be psychologically harmful and lead to long term effects on a patient’s mental and physical health.
There is a high risk of addiction and abuse in the long term.
Even if used for medical treatment, there is the possibility for the patient to become addicted or reliant on the psychedelics, leading to a dangerous situation after they finish their treatment. If they are unable to get a prescription, they may resort to illegal methods to satisfy the addiction.
The drugs can cause users psychological distress.
Psychedelics can distract users from their current reality, leading to feelings of euphoria during use, however after the high, there is the potential for the user to sink lower than they were before, as the drug causes their brain to disassociate itself from reality.
Rescheduling psychedelics should not be done lightly.
Psychedelics are a Schedule I class drug because of its dangerous potential for users. Rescheduling it should only be done once it has been scientifically proven that its benefits are real and far outweigh its harmful consequences.
Psychedelics can be harmful to people with pre-existing psychological disorders.
Studies on the effects of psychedelics have shown that people with pre-existing disorders, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, i.e. disorders that a person might be unaware of having, are at a higher risk of suffering from psychosis after using the drugs.