After a brief spurt of interest in the late '60s, scientists in the drug development field abandoned research work on illicit drugs like LSD and "magic" mushrooms. But over the past few years a few bold investigators have been stepping back up to the plate, convinced that some outlawed active ingredients could offer new pathways to treating some common ailments.
Enter Professor David Nutt, a prominent and controversial researcher in the U.K. who has just published a new paper asserting that psilocybin--the active ingredient in magic mushrooms--could help treat major depression. And he believes that LSD, ecstasy, mephedrone and cannabis are also worthy of legitimate scientific research, advocating that the time has come for the government to lift restrictions placed on the field.
"I feel quite passionately that these drugs are profound drugs; they change the brain in a way that no other drugs do. And I find it bizarre that no-one has studied them before and they haven't because it's hard and illegal," he said, according to a report in the BBC.
In his new research, Nutt and his colleagues found that psilocybin shuts down various regions of the brain, altering consciousness and specifically shutting a section of the brain associated with depression. Some research suggests that such brain-altering activity isn't temporary, but rather can last for years.
Nutt has been an outspoken advocate of certain illicit drugs for years, a position which caused him to be sacked from his post as a government adviser several years ago. But with this new paper Nutt has made it clear that he plans to keep the issue front and center as he proceeds with new research.