This week the DEA announced it would withdraw its plan to schedule 5 research psychedelics. But we shouldn't celebrate just yet
In an unlikely and unexpected victory for psychedelic activists, the DEA has backed down from its contentious proposal to outlaw five psychedelic compounds —at least for now.
Personally, I do not believe this move should be celebrated, but more on that towards the end of this article. First, let’s walk through what exactly happened, and why.
In January, the US Drug Enforcement Agency announced plans to ban 4-OH-DiPT, 5-MeO-AMT, 5-MeO-MiPT, 5-MeO-DET and DiPT, five little-known psychedelic compounds of the tryptamine variety. By designating them as Schedule 1, these obscure drugs would not only have been made illegal to possess and sell, but research would’ve also been made much more difficult.
Due to the relative obscurity of the tryptamines, the DEA likely believed that their addition was a mere procedural move and would not inspire any backlash. This, however, underestimates the extent to which American citizens are tired of the drug war, and do not wish to see it expanded.
Led by psychedelic researcher and celebrity Hamilton Morris, a campaign was launched to convince the DEA that the public does not support this move. In the ensuing months, the agency received nearly 600 messages. In response, they originally planned on holding a rare public hearing in August, though now they have reversed course.
Instead, the DEA has announced they are backtracked on the idea of adding these five psychedelics to Schedule 1 —at least for now. In the meantime, the Drug Enforcement Agency is requesting from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) a scientific review of the tryptamines. Of particular interest is whether these compounds may offer any therapeutic value.
The largest problem with adding these substances to Schedule 1 —at least from a particular point of view— is that it would make scientific study much more difficult. Researchers would have to hop through many bureaucratic hoops before being allowed to study them. Even if I were to prescribe to the view that some drugs are so dangerous to society that their personal use must be illegal, the idea that they could be too dangerous to study is preposterous.
And by the way, there is very little evidence that these five tryptamines are particularly dangerous.
To be clear, this may just be a temporary victory. While we don’t know how long the scientific review conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services will take, it’s possible that when they are finished they will return with the same answer: these drugs are dangerous and should be banned. After all, it was on the recommendation of the HHS in the first place that the DEA decided to ban 4-OH-DiPT, 5-MeO-AMT, 5-MeO-MiPT, 5-MeO-DET and DiPT.
In fact, the DEA has even said that after further consideration they “may issue a new proposed rule in the future regarding these substances if warranted.” This could mean that the compounds could be scheduled at a level other than 1, allowing scientific research. On the other hand, they could decide they were right in the first place and designate them as Schedule 1 after the scientific review is finished.
Nevertheless, this reprieve will give scientists and researchers time to study these compounds. Hopefully, if they prove that they are relatively safe and maybe even have therapeutic potential, the DEA will permanently back down.
But to be crystal clear, even if the DEA acquiesces and decides not to schedule these drugs, it would be a very small victory. The fact of the matter is that these compounds are neither being consumed nor researched at anywhere near the level of other classical psychedelics such as psilocybin, LSD, or DMT. All of these tryptamines have been found to be relatively safe for consumption and early research on their medical potential is very promising.
Yet, all are Schedule 1 compounds.
The real victory will be convincing the DEA to reschedule these and other drugs, such as MDMA. We as a society should be outraged that despite all available scientific evidence, the USA and other countries continue to lock up people for their personal choices.
So, while I am personally happy at this unexpected victory —which may only be temporary— I find it hard to break out the champagne. Celebrating this feels like celebrating the Maple Leafs scoring their first goal of the game while losing to the Bruins 7-0. Oh, and the goal is under review. Sure, it’s better than nothing. But you’re still badly losing the game.
At a bare minimum, we should be demanding that LSD, psilocybin, DMT, and MDMA be rescheduled. Personally, I think magic mushrooms and LSD should be legalized and regulated to ensure quality control. But hey, some may call me a dreamer.