Ongoing studies into the effects of psychedelic drugs such as LSD are being hampered by the lack of funding on top of government restrictions. Researchers are trying to determine how LSD and other psychedelic drugs could be used to treat conditions such as alcoholism and depression. The regulations on research into drugs such as these though mean that patients are missing out on the possible benefits.
Promising Early Results
Scientists have admitted that so far results are ‘very promising’. The trial involves studying brain scans of twenty volunteers who have taken LSD. The study is being led by Professor David Nutt, the former government drugs advisor who says that the restrictions on research is negatively affecting potential patients from being treated with psychedelic drugs in their battle against negative or addictive thinking. He said that these restrictions equate to ‘the worst censorship in the history of science’.
Lack of Funding
Professor Nutt and his Imperial College London colleagues have failed to secure the funding necessary to complete the study, so are appealing to the public to help them raise the £25,000 needed. Imploring the public to help, Professor Nutt said, “These drugs offer the greatest opportunity we have in mental health. There’s little else on the horizon.”
Studies in the US have shown that drugs such as LSD and magic mushrooms can help conditions such as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and depression in terminally ill patients. The active ingredient in magic mushrooms, psilocybin, was also studied in 2006 in Arizona and found to relieve symptoms of OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder).
However, in the UK, research into the possible benefits of some recreational drugs is hampered by government restrictions and the unwillingness of funders to provide much-needed money. Professor Nutt is of the opinion that many years of research has been wasted because of these limitations. He has likened it to the Catholic Church censoring Galileo’s research in 1616, calling it a ‘truly appalling level of censorship’.
Quality of Research
The Medical Research Council has hit back at the claims and says that quality of research plays a significant role in how funding is allocated. A spokesperson said, “We’re certainly not cautious about funding studies just because they relate to an illegal drug.”
The same representative said that Professor Nutt was already receiving more £750,000 per year for research into psilocybin and that in 2013, more than £860,000 was spent on cannabis research studies.
Cardiff University Study
Twenty volunteers who have previously used LSD were involved in a recent study at Cardiff University whereby they were injected with 75 micrograms of LSD before undergoing a brain scan. Robin Carhart-Harris, one of the researchers, said that the dose administered had produced a number of effects in terms of mood, brain activity and the mental state of those participating. Three of the volunteers suffered from temporary paranoia and anxiety. Carhart-Harris said that this was a common side effect of LSD. The same team are planning to study how psilocybin can help patients suffering from depression; this will begin in May.
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