Safer than riding a bike? Scientists promote medicinal use of psychedelic drugs

(Reuters/U.S. DEA/Handout via Reuters)
The therapeutic or experimental use of psychedelic drugs is safer than taking legal substances such as nicotine or alcohol, two leading members of a drug research organization have said.

The two Norwegian scientists penned a letter in the Lancet journal claiming the ban on drugs like MDMA (ecstasy) and magic mushrooms are “inconsistent with human rights.” They add that there is “not much evidence of health problems” associated with the hallucinogens.

Tony Krebs and her husband, Pål-Ørjan Johansen, who founded EmmaSofia, a group looking to expand the controlled use of MDMA, wrote that some psychedelic drugs could be used to effectively wean addicts off other damaging substances.

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Based on extensive human experience, it is generally acknowledged that psychedelics do not elicit addiction or compulsive use and that there is little evidence for an association between psychedelic use and birth defects, chromosome damage, lasting mental illness, or toxic effects to the brain or other organs,” they wrote.

They added that although psychedelics can cause temporary confusion and emotional anxiety, “hospitalizations and serious injuries are extremely rare. Overall psychedelics are not particularly dangerous when compared with other common activities.”

National and international policies should respect the human rights of individuals who choose to use psychedelics as a spiritual, personal development, or cultural activity.”

Johansen, who worked to provide treatments for anxiety disorders, even claimed that taking psychedelic drugs was as safe as riding a bike.

“Psychedelics often produce profound experiences while at the same time having a safety risk profile comparable to many activities of daily life, such as riding a bike or playing soccer.”

He claims he was able to treat his own alcohol addiction through the medicinal use of MDMA. In an interview with Newsweek he said he believed the drug could also be useful in the treatment of heroin addiction.

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“The commonality is that addiction and drug abuse have a function which is to escape from stress and difficult emotions like shame, loneliness, fear, guilt or shyness,” he said.

“Recently our colleague, Matthew Johnson, completed a pilot study which with psilocybin for smoking cessation, also with encouraging results.”

The couple set up EmmaSofia to promote access to therapeutic MDMA and continue to campaign for the human rights of people using psychedelic drugs.

Their crowdfunding appeal raised $30,000 for their campaign to legalize such drugs. They believe certain psychedelics could be used not only to treat people battling addictions, but other medical conditions like Parkinson’s disease.

EmmaSofia’s campaign has found support among a number of academics, including Professor David Nutt, a former drugs adviser to the UK government.

However, a spokesperson for Public Health England told Newsweek it was unethical to treat addiction to illegal substances with other illegal substances, adding such a program would not have support in the UK.