UK start-up to test psilocybin effectiveness in treating depression: where does that leave the psychonauts?

From the Financial Times: a UK start-up is preparing (presumably “funding”) a clinical trial of psilocybin in treating depression! Great news! Progress on another front!

Just one little quirk: “The widespread recreational use of magic mushrooms has given regulators reassurance that psilocybin is safe….” Hmm. Sounds like “anecdotal evidence.” Can the regulators really look to anecdotal evidence for…anything? Not in the US they can’t. We know that from the forty-year – and still unsuccessful – attempt to move cannabis out of Schedule I. (Actually since 1994 it’s a struggle just to hold an evidentiary hearing.)

However, the Financial Times suggests that things may be different in the UK.
If so, blessings upon the regulators and their progeny.

Still, this little quirk is a manifestation of a bigger-picture quirk in psychedelics: these substances are not coming to light for the first time. No, there is extensive “lay person” anecdotal experience with the substances such that the psychonauts are probably in a place to tell the researchers a thing or two because we are not dealing with “normal” drugs. Let’s say one or another set of regulators in one or another jurisdiction authorizes marketing of psilocybin in pharmacies upon a prescription by medical personnel – does that mean the psychonauts are going to jail for unauthorized possession and their suppliers are going to jail for unauthorized manufacture/distribution of prescription meds?

A reader of the signs may say that psilocybin will be the “news cannabis”. (Indeed that sentiment is already zipping around cyberspace.) If so, perhaps the cannabis paradigm provides a partial model. In the United States state-level legalization of cannabis has created a two-track system of (a) “general use” or “adult use” (AKA “recreational use,” a term I loathe) and (b) medical use. I believe it would be a great wrong were the medical model to leave non-medical use of psychedelics criminal. It makes no sense not to recognize that users have created their own norms – indeed, a subculture.

If so, then I suggest we need a hybrid paradigm, one that provides for supervision over the source of the psychedelic substance, e.g. cultivator/manufacturer and distributor licensing on the supply side and, for the demand side, intake that will screen for physiological and psychological health risks to a particular individual (e.g. psychiatric diagnoses that should go not wandering into psychedelic-land, at least not unsupervised). I for one would like to know about possible dangerous drug interactions, e.g. with my other, less-exciting prescription meds. It may be that people who can demonstrate a history of familiarity with the substance will be authorized to continue use but newcomers will be required to undergoing standardized education before being permitted to proceed. Of course, these types of assessments pre-suppose research. I don’t believe that there should be any period, even to allow research, in which the supply and demand sides of the psychedelic market are subject to criminal penalties except for obviously bad things, like lying to the consumer about the origin or nature of the merchandise or allowing access by children or people with known problematic pre-existing conditions.

Not original ideas but a little quasi-legalese is useful every once in a while as practice for legislative hearings.

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