Drug investigator David Nutt, a longtime thorn in the side of U.K. officials, is back at his favorite pastime. Nutt was kicked out of his post as an official adviser to the government on therapeutics after adopting a controversial stance in favor of testing illicit drugs like magic mushrooms for depression. And now he says "insane" government rules have blocked manufacturers from signing on to supply psilocybin for an approved clinical study.
Nutt, a professor at the prestigious Imperial College in London, has the money for the trial. The Medical Research Council came up with a £550,000 grant to test the active ingredient in magic mushrooms for depression. But manufacturers have refused to jump through the regulatory hoops required to make the treatment. "It hasn't started yet because the big problem is getting hold of the drug," said Professor Nutt, according to a report from the BBC. And the same barrier is being thrown up against cannabis and ecstasy.
"So we are between a rock and a hard place, which is very unfortunate, because if this is an effective treatment for patients then they're obviously being denied that possibility so one of the things we have to do now is have a more rational debate about the way the drugs laws are being implemented," adds Nutt.
There was some experimentation involving magic mushrooms back in the late '60s, but it swiftly vanished in the wake of official disapproval on both sides of the Atlantic. Now Nutt is leading the charge to get back to the clinic, armed with scientific studies which have shown that psilocybin can have a positive effect on parts of the brain associated with chronic depression.
Nutt doesn't lack for public attention. U.K. newspapers have eagerly picked up every accusation. But the British government refuses to engage, saying that there's no reason to believe that there's anything wrong with the process as it exists today.
"Our licensing regime enables legitimate research to take place while ensuring that harmful drugs don't get into the hands of criminals," is the official line. "We have no evidence to suggest that the current listing of psilocybin as a schedule one substance is a barrier to attracting funding for legitimate research."
- here's the BBC story
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