A psychedelic advocacy group are calling on the Government to change the regulations on psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) so that it can be made available to millions of people suffering from mental health problems.
Psilocybin is a non-addictive, non-toxic and naturally-occurring compound found in hundreds of species of mushrooms across the world. Currently it is a Schedule 1 substance, meaning that it is considered to have ‘no medicinal value’ despite the growing body of scientific evidence to the contrary. The Psychedelics for Mental Health campaign was launched by the Psychedelic Society, a group that, amongst other things, run psychedelic experience weekends to the Netherlands for people seeking to use psychedelics in a safe and legal environment. The petition and campaign aims to get psilocybin placed in the same bracket as cocaine and opiates like heroin and oxycodone, which are all Schedule 2 substances under UK law.
As a Schedule 1 substance, psilocybin cannot be prescribed by doctors and conducting research with it is extremely time-consuming and expensive. Rescheduling means that it would be easier for researchers to study psilocybin without requiring special permission from the Home Office.
The petition has already been signed by Caroline Lucas MP, who says, “our drug laws will only start to keep people safe when they start taking account of the evidence rather than being based on dogma and scaremongering.”
Mental health problems are not only a significant financial burden on the NHS, but inadequate treatments are preventing millions of people from being able to live full and happy lives. Studies carried out at Imperial College London and Johns Hopkins in the US have shown that psilocybin can enable a transformative ‘rewiring’ of the brain, a phenomenon which has been described as ‘brain rebooting’. Psilocybin has also been shown to ease end-of-life anxiety in cancer patients, with two-thirds of participants rating their experience to be one of the top five most meaningful of their lives. As a treatment option, patients typically only require one or two day-long sessions, compared to a lifetime of daily medication. This solution seems better for everyone, except for Big Pharma of course, who are already looking into ways to monetise this new treatment.
Last year it was announced that tech-magnate Peter Thiel, founder of PayPal and one of Trump’s most vocal supporters in Silicon Valley, had created a for-profit company to push through Phase 3 clinical trials on magic mushrooms for depression. This prompted the release of a statement from members of the psychedelic science community who are concerned that commercial incentives will take psychedelics in a direction that is counterproductive to public health.
Those trials are currently underway at Imperial College London, but studying a Schedule 1 substance means that researchers are reliant on US investors to navigate the expensive regulatory landscape - something that should ring a few alarm bells for anyone hoping that this natural medication might one day be freely available on the NHS.
Click here to sign the petition.