Johns Hopkins Scientists Recommend Rescheduling Psilocybin

Scientists at Johns Hopkins Medical School Recommend Rescheduling Psilocybin

Since 1970, psilocybin has been categorized as a Schedule I drug by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).  Schedule I is reserved for drugs that have a high potential for abuse and no known medical potential. But, according to researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, this scheduling is entirely inconsistent with facts and logic.

An increasing amount of scientific data shows that psilocybin has a low potential for abuse and many potential medical benefits.  Subject to the results of ongoing studies, Johns Hopkins researchers now recommend that psilocybin be re-categorized from a Schedule I drug–one with no known medical potential–to a Schedule IV drug like prescription sleep aids.

The Science Behind The Johns Hopkins Recommendation

The scientific basis for the Hopkins rescheduling recommendation can be found in the Journal of Neuropharmacology.  This is a thorough, well-written paper. It rigorously applies the 8-factor test for scheduling drugs to the known facts about psilocybin.  It is well worth reading.  For those with a little less time, here are some key takeaways from the paper:

  • All available data indicate that psilocybin is a substance with low overall abuse potential.
  • Psilocybin poses “no apparent physiological dependence as evidenced by withdrawal symptoms,” a fact that has been documented in human and animal studies.
  • Psilocybin poses a negligible risk of overdose. “The doses [of psilocybin] that pose a risk of acute poisoning death (‘overdose”) appear to be approximately 1000 times the likely highest clinical dose….”
  • Empirical evidence indicates that psilocybin is one of the least harmful drugs to society. Rates of abuse, emergency department reports, and treatment-seeking in youth and adults are “substantially lower than [those] evident for many Schedule IV drugs.
Harm potential of drugs as rated by experts pursuant to a multidimensional scale. The drugs are organized from most harmful (left) to least harmful (right). For more information about these data see the book Drugs Without the Hot Air by David Nutt, 2012.

Why is there any question about Rescheduling Psilocybin?

Based on the facts, it is hard to synthesize a logical argument for why psilocybin is a Schedule I drug.  What’s the other side of this issue? Here, the authors suggest that the current views on psilocybin’s safety may have nothing to do with logic or facts. “There remains a legacy of fear regarding psychedelics since the 1960s” when these drugs were first targeted as a threat to people and society.  They further note that “…it is the opinion of the authors of this review that the original placement of psilocybin was the result of a substantial overestimation of the risk of harm and abuse potential.”

The Future of Psilocybin Medicine – Precise Doses of Known Molecules

The Hopkins scientists conclude that psilocybin should be re-categorized from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule IV drug.  This recommendation is contingent upon completing phase III trials for psilocybin. This is because removal from Schedule I can only occur if a medicinal product containing a Schedule I substance is approved for therapeutic use as a drug by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The authors further recommend that future psilocybin products should be “a formulation that assures precision in dosing, which is rarely the case for illicitly consumed mushrooms.”  In other words, they recommend a general movement away from mushrooms towards psilocybin formulations.

5 thoughts on “Johns Hopkins Scientists Recommend Rescheduling Psilocybin

  1. Tim Hagney Reply

    Hopefully this re-scheduling can be accomplished quickly, as the potential for helping people with addictions, various forms of anxiety and depression are great. As well, people who just want periodic insight into their psyche and beyond, into more transcendental experiencing should also be allowed to consider use of this and other entheogens.

  2. Heather Bradley Reply

    I have suffered from major treatment resistant depression since childhood. I am now a 70 year old woman in good physical health. I would give anything to be in a trial. Please contact me if one becomes available.

    • Staff Scientist Post authorReply

      Hi Heather – Have you reached out companies like COMPASS or CaaMTech to ask about whether they are recruiting for trials. We will also try to put together some information. Stay tuned.

    • Staff Scientist Post authorReply

      This would probably depend on the new schedule and the new regulations in place. Cannabis probably provides the best analogy. Different states have pursued different mechanisms for handling the changing legal climate in that space. It’s not an all-or-nothing situation anywhere. For example, 21+ rules still apply in the US. Likewise for public use, intoxication, operating motor vehicles, etc.. The good news is that the re-scheduling would probably ease the criminal status and resulting penalties that are currently on the books for simple possession of mushroom material today.

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