Commentary warns against peril of setting off new prohibition on psychedelics

Authors urge scientific rigour as way to keep the psychedelics renaissance from going off the rails.

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A commentary cautions against repeating mistakes of the past to avoid inviting a new era of prohibition on psychedelics.

“If psychedelic research is going to avoid another period of prohibition, we must learn from the lessons of the past,” the authors wrote.

Specifically, they pointed to “cultural forces such as those that occurred in the 1960s”.

According to them, these “may threaten contemporary research progress and the clinical application of psychedelics”.

“It is critically important that the medical and scientific communities be vigilant in opposing the conflation of science with larger cultural agendas…,” the authors wrote.

To illustrate, they recalled that this “occurred in the 1960s with the blending of psychedelics into the antiwar and other antiestablishment movements”.

The hippie movement best represented the counterculture trend at the time. And like rock ‘n’ roll, mind-blowing stuff like cannabis and pyschedelics helped define the nature of this cultural phenomenon.

Moreover, the “enthusiasms that attend such agendas should not be allowed to supersede the scientific and regulatory processes”.

Additionally, these same processes are “meant to carefully vet these substances and their application in a variety of mood and behavioral disorders”.

Psychedelics hold promise for wellness

The commentary carries the title Psychedelics in Psychiatry—Keeping the Renaissance From Going Off the Rails. The Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry published the piece online on December 2, 2020.

David Yaden principally authored the commentary. He works at the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research of John Hopkins University in Baltimore.

According to the piece, ongoing studies suggest the potential of psychedelics for many psychiatric conditions. However, “cultural forces such as those that occurred in the 1960s may threaten contemporary research progress and the clinical application of psychedelics”.

As an example, it pointed to wide claims that “uncritically” promote the benefits of psychedelics.

Not a quick fix or panacea

Expectations could outpace what the scientific community knows about these mind-altering substances.

“Psychedelics are neither a cure for mental disorders nor a quick fix for an unfulfilled life” the commentary stated. The authors also cautioned against viewing psychedelics as a panacea.

Mary Yaden, a medical doctor, and Roland Griffiths of Johns Hopkins, co-authored the piece with Yaden.

According to the authors, current research about psychedelics faces a “fork in the road to clinical applications”.

One way “allows for the same kinds of exuberance, utopian thinking, and uneven clinical approaches that contributed to ending the previous period of research”.

Clinical research on psychedelics ground to a halt during the late 1960s. The authors explained why this occurred. The dead end came as a result of things like “burdensome governmental regulations”.

In addition, there was a “perceived association of the substances with an antiestablishment counterculture”.

Likewise, they recalled a “misperception of risk resulting from negatively biased media coverage”.

Finally, there were “lapses in research ethics”.

But the other path for current pyschedelics research leads to a “more careful and systematic one”.

And this could result in the “appropriate integration of psychedelic treatments into existing evidence-based psychiatric paradigms”.

Specifically, these involve psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy.

At the height of the hippie movement, the U.S. government passed the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.

“Whether this era of psychedelic research will conclude with another scientific and clinical dead-end period of prohibition or move ahead into a productive time of mainstream research and clinical application remains to be seen,” Yaden and his co-authors wrote.

For psychedelics to fulfill its promise, “no exceptions [should] be made in the standards of research or clinical application for psychedelics, regardless of their seemingly exceptional potential”.

Follow Carlito Pablo on Twitter @carlitopablo

Read more about psychedelics on CannCentral.

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