Discover more from The Microdose
UK Members of Parliament call for psilocybin rescheduling, a new psychedelics Action Group in the European Parliament, and was Australia’s psychedelic reform “too fast and too soon”?
Plus: Challenges for psychedelic trip-sitters and bills pass in Minnesota and Colorado
Happy Friday, and welcome back to The Microdose, an independent journalism newsletter brought to you by the U.C. Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics.
UK Members of Parliament call for psilocybin rescheduling
Last week, the UK Parliament held a debate on access to psilocybin treatments. MP Charlotte Nichols of the Labour party called for the government to review the existing evidence to reschedule psilocybin, which is a Schedule I drug. Conservative party MP Crispin Blunt agreed that there was an “immediate need to act on the evidence” around psilocybin, and blasted the UK’s Home Office department for delays in reevaluating psilocybin’s scheduling. Back in 2017, the UK Government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs was tasked with investigating “whether there was more the Home Office could do to facilitate legitimate research” involving Schedule I drugs, but the Council’s recommendations did not result in any substantive changes. Five other MPs spoke in favor of reforming drug policy. Home Office minister Robert Jenrick said that the government does support research, pointing to its funding of psilocybin clinical trials, and laid out the potential process for psilocybin being prescribed as medicine through the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. Nichols closed out the debate, noting her disappointment with the UK’s slow pace of psychedelic reform. “We cannot accept the government’s continued inertia any longer,” she said.
Members of European Parliament launch new psychedelics Action Group
Meanwhile, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are also asking for psychedelics reform. At a roundtable meeting on Wednesday, ten MEPs announced their new Action Group for the Medical Use of Psychedelics. The group includes MEPs from Czechia, Belgium, Malta, Portugal, Luxembourg, Finland, and Poland, who plan to issue policy recommendations, provide information about the latest in psychedelic science, organize meetings, and to “make Europe an innovation leader and a global regulatory benchmark” in psychedelics. “By bringing together MEPs across the political spectrum, we will promote the development of sound EU policies and regulations, paving the way for equitable access to affordable and safe novel psychedelic-assisted treatments in the EU," the group’s co-chair Sara Cerdas of Portugal said in a press release.
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Was Australia’s psychedelics reform “too fast and too soon”?
When Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) announced in February that it would begin allowing specially registered psychiatrists to prescribe MDMA and psilocybin to patients this July, some researchers and healthcare professionals were shocked. In a paper recently published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, University of Queensland psychiatrist Steve Kisely says the decision was premature.
Kisely explains the regulatory background of TGA’s decision: it was spurred by a petition to reschedule MDMA and psilocybin, which would allow the drugs to be prescribed for therapeutic use. The process of making that decision included commissioning an independent report on the risks and benefits of rescheduling the drugs, which Kisely contributed to. The certainty of evidence included in the report was low, Kisely writes, which led the TGA to initially reject the rescheduling petition — but the agency quickly reversed its decision and approved the therapeutic use of psilocybin and MDMA.
Kisely argues that the TGA’s approval “is ahead of the available scientific evidence especially as unresolved issues remain surrounding relapse, long-term safety, and the challenges of conducting randomized controlled trials in this area.” He also says the measures regulating drug supply may be “insufficient.” The ethics committees reviewing prospective prescribers’ applications may not have expertise to make informed decisions, Kisely said, and it’s unclear how psychedelic-assisted therapy will be monitored.
Challenges for psychedelic trip-sitters
As psychedelics become more popular, so has demand for facilitators, guides, trip-sitters, chaplains, and shamans, writer and researcher Jules Evans says in his newsletter, Ecstatic Integration. After interviewing people who facilitate trips, Evans lays out six primary challenges they face. Those include a lack of established norms to follow; navigating transference (when clients’ attachment to therapists leads to them projecting roles onto them); and legal and financial risks. They also experience burnout. “Entrepreneurs and media have massively hyped people’s expectations, and therapists and guides are the ones shouldering these expectations,” he writes. Evans goes on to suggest that psychedelics businesses are asking guides, who he claims are often young, naive, and altruistically-minded, to “clean the Augean stables of human suffering, without offering them proper support or pay.”
The State of Psychedelics: Bills pass in Minnesota, Colorado
Minnesota’s omnibus Health Budget Bill is headed to the governor’s desk for a signature. The bill establishes a psychedelics task force “to advise the legislature on the legal, medical, and policy issues associated with the legalization of psychedelic medicine in the state.” After passing the state house earlier this month, the Senate narrowly passed it on Monday in a 34-32 vote.
Colorado’s Governor Polis signed Senate Bill 290 on Tuesday. The bill amends the Natural Medicine Health Act (NMHA), which voters passed in November 2022, and allows the state licensing authority to request data on law enforcement incidents, adverse health effects, and psychedelic products and businesses.
Oregon’s Measure 109 established psilocybin services in the state — and the rules laid out by Oregon’s Psilocybin Advisory Board explicitly prohibit claiming that psilocybin has therapeutic effects. The measure also prohibits requiring clients to provide a diagnosis or a referral to seek services. But it’s a popular misconception that services provided within Oregon’s system equate to “therapy,” writes psychedelic advocate Regina Moore in Lucid News. She argues that the misinterpretation of the new law could lead to higher costs for services.
Willamette Week reports that Synaptic Institute, a Portland psychedelic facilitator training company, has decided not to open a psilocybin service center because the process is “too cumbersome.”
For Harper’s Bazaar, journalist Shayla Love writes about the aesthetics and upscale marketing of ketamine clinics. “Ketamine is a cheap drug—a dose costs pennies to make—and yet it’s been commodified into a product and experience that can cost patients thousands of dollars,” she writes. “There’s now an incentive for doctors to administer ketamine in a way that’s maximally lucrative.”
CBC reports on the use of psilocybin in Canada, and the “growing number of Canadians and health-care professionals calling on the federal government to decriminalize or legalize and regulate the substance as illegal retail shops continue to open.”
You’re all caught up! For our U.S. readers: we hope you have an enjoyable and meaningful long weekend. We’ll be back in your inbox next Friday with another issue of This Week in Psychedelics.
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