Although the use of psychedelics has shown promising results in therapy, there is still a long way to go for its wider acceptance. In spite of their proven effectiveness in the treatment of psychological disorders, the use of psychedelics is limited by legal obstacles that can be overcome.
The need for wider acceptance of psychedelics
People all across the globe are suffering from mental health conditions. Owing to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many countries are now faced with national mental health crises. For example, the USA saw an exponential growth of drug-overdose cases and suicide rates owing to mental health conditions. Over the years, there has been very little investment of resources and time into preventive mental healthcare. In turn, this has led to a lack of motivation and innovation in the world of psychiatry.
Psychologists are investigating the therapeutic use of psychedelic substances as a possible strategy for addressing mental health problems in their hunt for more efficient treatments.
Meaning of psychedelics and their use
Psychedelics are a group of naturally occurring or synthetic compounds that are known to produce perceptional and behavioral changes in human beings. Some natural psychedelics have been used by indigenous communities for centuries while synthetic psychedelics were manufactured in labs in the early 20th century.
In the 1970s, psychedelics were categorized as Schedule I controlled substances. It was believed that they had no acceptable medical use and had a high potential for misuse. This suspended the research on the use of psychedelics in psychotherapy for decades until the middle of the 20th century. The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) authorized certain researchers to examine small doses of psychedelics in the late 1990s, which allowed researchers to pick up again. Leading academic institutions have now conducted clinical trials, and a growing body of research supports the use of psychedelics like psilocybin and MDMA in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Psychologists and scientists became aware of the beneficial effects of psychedelics and how they could be along with psychotherapy for the treatment of mental health conditions.
Major obstacles to the acceptance of psychedelics
Following are some of the major hurdles on the road to wider acceptance of psychedelics in the treatment of psychological disorders.
Lack of proper funding and research
Due to the labeling of psychedelics as Schedule I controlled substances for a long time, there was little to no funding for studying the effects of psychedelics or their possible use in therapy. Owing to a federal appropriations rider, the US government could not dedicate funds for the legalization or research on the use of any drug included in Schedule I.
The rider arguably forbids the use of federal funds to promote psychedelic research as long as they are under schedule I. This is because such a study could increase scientific knowledge and offer proof in favor of rescheduling, which is a kind of legalization.
Two bills for the elimination of this rider have failed in 2019 and 2021 respectively. According to current regulations, well-capitalized private corporations pay for the majority of research, and they largely set the agenda and influence federal drug laws. The objective should be to create a psychedelics industry where patients and underrepresented groups have a voice. More inclusive clinical trials and an objective FDA regulatory examination of psychedelics are necessary to reach this objective.
Limited access due to Patents
Many parties are aiming to patent psychedelic substances and procedures for making and using them because of promising clinical study outcomes.
For around 20 years, patent holders have had the right to prevent anyone from producing, utilizing, or selling their ideas. This incentivization of the production and distribution of psychedelics has prompted severe criticism from researchers and patient advocates. It has limited the access of patients to prescribed psychedelics. To support psychedelics’ role in the genuine improvement of mental healthcare, limiting patents on them may be important.
Need for proper training
Training is required for many doctors who want to use psychedelics in their practices, and developing evidence-based clinical-practice guidelines will be crucial. Standards may lessen some healthcare practitioners’ concerns about being held liable for medical negligence if patients experience negative effects while receiving these therapies. To define the boundaries in this case, however, litigation may be required.
It is critical that governments allocate funds for psychedelics research given the escalating mental health problem and a lack of advancement in psychopharmacology. Without a proper infrastructural and legal framework, such research can bear no fruit.