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.
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.