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A top federal drug official says “the train has left the station” on psychedelics.

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) director Nora Volkow said people will continue to use substances like psilocybin – especially as the reform movement grows and increased attention is being paid to potential therapeutic benefits – and so researchers and regulators will need to continue at the top.

The comments came during a workshop on psychedelics that Volkow’s agency co-hosted with the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) last week.

The NIDA official said that to some extent it has been overwhelming tackling new drug trends in the psychedelic space. But at the same time, she sees in it “an incredible opportunity to also change the way we do things”.

” What is the [National Institutes of Health] can do to help accelerate research in this area so that we can truly understand the potentials, and ultimately the application, of purchased psychedelic drug interventions? Volkow said.

The director separately told Marijuana Moment Friday in an emailed statement that part of the challenge for the agency and researchers is the fact that psychedelics are strictly prohibited as Schedule I drugs under Federal Controlled Substances Act.

“Researchers need to obtain a Schedule I registration which, unlike obtaining registrations for Schedule II substances (which include fentanyl, methamphetamine and cocaine), is administratively difficult and takes time,” she said. “This process may deter some scientists from conducting research on Schedule I drugs.”

“In response to researchers’ concerns, NIDA is involved in interagency discussions to facilitate research on Schedule I substances,” Volkow said, adding that the agency is “pleased” that the Drug Enforcement Administration recently announced its intention to significantly increase the quota for certain psychedelic drugs. to be produced for use in research.

“Streamlining the process of obtaining Schedule I registrations will also be important to advance science on these substances, including consideration of their therapeutic potential,” she said.

At Thursday’s event, the official explained that recent federally-funded surveys have shown that fewer college-age adults are drinking alcohol and opting instead for psychedelics and marijuana. She also discussed the results in a previous interview with Marijuana Moment.

“Let’s learn from history,” she said. “Let’s see what we learned from the marijuana experiment.”

While studies have shown that marijuana use among young people has generally held steady or declined amid the legalization movement, there has been an increase in cannabis use among adults, she said. And “it’s likely to happen [with psychedelics] as more and more attention is paid to these psychedelic drugs.

“I think to some extent, with all the attention that psychedelic drugs have gotten, the train has left the station and people are going to start using it,” Volkow said. “People will start using it if [the Food and Drug Administration] approve or not.

There are many states and localities where psychedelic reform is being explored and pursued both legislatively and through campaign initiative processes.

On Wednesday, during the first part of the two-day federal event that saw nearly 4,000 registrants across 21 time zones, NIMH Director Joshua Gordon stressed that his agency “has been supporting psychedelic research for some time. time”.

“We can think of the NIMH’s interests in studying psychedelics both in terms of proving that they work and also in terms of demonstrating the mechanism by which they work,” he said. “The NIMH has a range of different funding opportunity announcements and other expressions that are priorities aimed at a mechanistic focus and a mechanistic approach to drug development.”

Meanwhile, Volkow also made connections between psychedelics and the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic. She said, for example, that survey data showing increased use of psychedelics “could be a way people use to try to escape” the situation.

But she also drew a metaphor, saying that much like how the pandemic has “forced” federal health officials to fast-track the development and approval of COVID-19 vaccines due to “the urgency of the situation “, one could affirm that “in fact, there is an urgency to provide treatments [such as emerging psychedelic medicines] for people with serious mental illness that can be devastating.

But as Volkow pointed out, classifying these substances on Schedule I under federal law inhibits such research and development.

The official also repeatedly pointed out and criticized racial disparities in the overall application of drug criminalization.

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