Drug policy without neuroscience

I’m reading Professor Blitz’s 2010 article “Freedom of Thought for the Extended Mind: Cognitive Enhancement and the Constitution” as part of my preparation for the Legal History of Psychedelics program at the NYC Bar Association next Wednesday.

The topic of his paper is not psychedelics per se. Instead it focuses on the legality of using “legal” drugs, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, e.g. Prozac, to enhance cognitive function in ‘healthy’ people. (Think Limitless?)

I’m reading the paper to become familiar with current legal thought on a Constitutional right to “freedom of thought” or, even better, a “freedom of consciousness.” However, my focus in this post is not Constitutional rights but on how drug policy can plausibly be designed without reference to neuroscience.

A recent news report announces the publication of a journal article by psychedelic researcher Robin Carhart-Harris discussing the significance of the serotonin 2A receptor versus the 1A receptor. Remember serotonin? (See above.) I mention this article and Professor Blitz’s article in the same breath because they point to an item that has been on my mind for years: how do you justify a drug control policy that classifies psychoactive substances as “dangerous” or “addictive” without referencing their action in the body?

News reports on cannabis often comment in wonder that cannabis is in the same legal classification as dangerous drugs like LSD and heroin. Schedule I classification of cannabis is indeed a wonder in and of itself but the bigger question is how is it that any psychoactive substances are classified with such amorphous terminology.

I appreciate the newsmedia’s bewilderment that cannabis is in the legal category as LSD and heroin but the time has come for the newsmedia to express bewilderment that LSD and heroin are in the same legal category. Is it not time for a drug classification system that categorizes psychoactive substances by function, e.g. interactions with cannabinoid receptors versus serotonin receptors versus dopamine receptors, and then assesses risk within those categories?

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