A psychiatrist in the United Kingdom is calling for the reclassification of psychedelic drugs to facilitate more research on their potential for treatment of psychiatric disorders.

In an opinion piece published in the BMJ, Dr. James J.H. Rucker asks that the U.K. Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs and the 2016 U.N. General Assembly Special Session on Drugs recommend that psychedelics be assigned the less stringent classification of schedule 2 compounds.

Among Dr. Rucker’s arguments in favor of this change is that there is little evidence showing that the use of these drugs is habit forming or harmful in controlled settings. He pointed out that various studies conducted prior to 1967 found that psychedelics served as “psychotherapeutic catalysts of mentally beneficial change in many psychiatric disorders, problems of personality development, recidivistic behavior, and existential anxiety.”

Studies had been demonstrating the positive outcomes of psychedelic drug use until a legal change to their classification brought research on them to halt after 1967, he said. At that time, psychedelics became classified as schedule 1 drugs under the U.K. Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and 1971 United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances. Assigning these drugs such a classification “denoted psychedelic drugs as having no accepted medical use and the greatest potential for harm, despite the existence of research evidence to the contrary,” wrote Dr. Rucker of the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Neuroscience at King’s College in London.

Another criticism made by Dr. Rucker is that the drugs’ classification has made using them in clinical studies “almost impossible throughout the Western world,” because of the “financial and bureaucratic obstacles” it imposes.

“[T]he cost of clinical research using psychedelics is 5-10 times that of research into less restricted (but more harmful) drugs such as heroin – with no prospect that the benefits can be translated into wider medical practice,” he explained.

Outside of the United Kingdom, recent studies showed that these drugs were effective at treating anxiety associated with advanced cancer, obsessive-compulsive disorder, tobacco addiction, alcohol addiction, and cluster headaches, Dr. Rucker noted.

Read the full opinion piece in the BMJ.


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