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Outlawing Psychoactive Drugs is “Scientific Censorship,” Researchers Say

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Outlawing psychoactive drugs such as marijuana and “magic mushrooms” impedes research and amounts to scientific censorship, according to three researchers. The harms of these drugs have been overstated in many cases, according to David Nutt, a professor of Neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London.

In Nature Reviews Neuroscience, Nutt and Leslie King, also from Imperial College, and David Nichols of the University of North Carolina, argue the decision to outlaw these drugs was based on their perceived dangers at the time. “The laws have never been updated despite scientific advances and growing evidence that many of these drugs are relatively safe. And there appears to be no way for the international community to make such changes,” Nutt said.

According to Nature World News, Nutt said the outlawing of psychoactive drugs amounts to “the worst case of scientific censorship since the Catholic Church banned the works of Copernicus and Galileo.”

Nutt said if researchers were allowed to study the effects of psychoactive drugs, they could make advances in the study of consciousness and brain mechanisms of psychosis, potentially leading to new treatments for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Last year, Nutt published two small studies on psilocybin, also known as magic mushrooms. He said the findings may help scientists develop treatments for depression. Reuters reports Nutt announced in April he was stymied in his attempt to conduct a full clinical trial of psilocybin for depression because of the stringent rules on the use of illegal drugs in research.

4 Responses to this article

  1. Joe Miller / June 15, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    I wonder if Michael Shore has given any consideration as to the long term physical and mental health effects of incarceration (however temporary) on adults and children for what amounts to a medical problem.

  2. Jerry Epstein / June 13, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    Schedule 1 is an inherently unscientific category. It’s a living nightmare of Catch 22s with the unqualified DEA at it’s head.

    We want to study the medical value of a schedule 1 drug.

    You can’t.

    Why not.

    Because we already told you it didn’t have any medical value in 1970.

    etc., etc. ad nauseum

    Nutt was the chief scientific advisor on drugs to parliament until he had the temerity to point out that marijuana was safer than alcohol and tobacco. When he was fired (2009) his scientific colleagues leapt to his defense. Politics and science are wretched bed fellows.

    Until we establish an INDEPENDENT national commission of experts to give more reliable information to the public and evaluate possible alternatives, our policy will continue to be absurd.
    The complete review of the CSA schedules should be one of their mandates. Hopefully they would conclude that Schedule 1 should not exist. Or at least make it easily challenged by researchers

  3. Michael W Shore, M.D. / June 13, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    Alluding to “Scientific Censorship” is pure poppycock. Ask any Addiction professional, of which I am one, and the overwhelming consensus is that these seemingly innocuous drugs do indeed cause harm. I would refer any interested individual to the article “An Evidence Based Review of Acute and Long Term Effects of Cannibis Use on Executive Cognitive Functions” in Journal of Addiction Medicine, Volume 5, Number 1, March 2011. Dr. Michael Shore, M.D.

  4. Joshua / June 20, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    it is of course not as simple as whether or not the drugs “cause harm”. antibiotics cause harm if you take them inappropriately, and can anyone reasonable argue that opioids don’t cause harm? the question is rather, is there any benefit? having them as a schedule 1 drug indicates that the government thinks that there is none, when all of the studies which have been allowed so far indicate that there are some beneficial uses. so how then is prohibition on research not “Scientific censorship” or are you using a different dictionary than the rest of us? maybe one where “Poppycock” means “a factually accurate description”?

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