Medicinal use of Psilocybin: Reducing restrictions on research and treatment

This report from UK think tank the Adam Smith Institute makes the case for removing existing unnecessary blocks to research and drug development.

Even before the Covid-19 emergency, global rates of depression were staggeringly high. It would be surprising if they did not rise further still in response to the measures taken to contain the virus. Since the advent of modern antidepressants in the late 1980s, the use of these medications has become so widespread that they are almost ubiquitous in the treatment of depression. This is despite their often severe side effects, and the fact that they are so regularly ineffective; usually working to minimise the symptoms of depression rather than alleviate the disease itself. Psychedelic medicines such as psilocybin act in an entirely different way, being administered once or twice by a clinician in a clinical setting and getting to the root of the suffering. Patient access to this novel psychiatric intervention remains totally illegal in the UK, outside of the small sample sizes of the very few and hugely costly on-going clinical trials. The reports of those lucky enough to have received this treatment legally read as unequivocal endorsements, yet the possibility of scaling up the research necessary to roll out these treatments on the widespread scale so desperately needed remains at almost impossible reach. THE ADAM SMITH INSTITUTE 7 The Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 deems psilocybin, along with many other potentially revolutionary medicines, harmful and lacking medical potential. This results in psilocybin, along with many other substances vested with therapeutic potentials, being erroneously perceived as such. Coupled with the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, this absurd cross-hatching of prohibitive scheduling has led to a scientific blackout lasting nigh on fifty years, precluding new treatments and, with them, the prospect of a better life for millions of people. A move of psilocybin from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 of the 2001 Regulations, with restrictions strictly limiting its availability to registered clinical trials and experimental research studies, not only has the potential to deliver new treatments for patients, but also establish the UK as the world leader in psychedelic research, growing the UK drug development industry and advancing public health. Such a policy change also has the potential to significantly diminish the cost of research, reducing in turn the cost of the final product, which will no doubt translate into significant savings for the NHS later on. Thousands of men and women from the armed forces, policing and front line medical staff are suffering today from psychological injuries incurred through service to their country. They are unable to find effective treatment in the UK. For these individuals to gain legal access to psilocybin, a substance deemed safe in humans with the potential to provide them with lifesaving psychotherapeutic relief, they are forced to break the law or travel abroad. This report makes the case for removing existing unnecessary blocks to research and drug development so we can unlock the evidence and deliver for them.

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