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Supply problems hamper ‘magic mushroom’ drug research

The president of the British Neuroscience Association has warned that work on potentially useful drugs for problems such as depression are being stymied by the plethora of bureaucracy surrounding clinical trials.

In a talk at his association’s biennial meeting – covered by news outlets across the world – pharmacologist David Nutt complained that his plans to test psilocybin, the active ingredient in ‘magic mushrooms’ has foundered.

Nutt, who was previously sacked from a government advisory role in a clash over illegal drug policy, says it has “proved impossible” to find a manufacturer prepared to “go through the regulatory hoops” to supply psilocybin.

Much of the coverage has focused on the fact that the proposed trial is of a component of an illegal drug. But the situation is even more complicated and bureaucratic than it might first appear.

There are heavy restrictions placed on drugs on ‘schedule 1’ of the act that governs illegal substances in the United Kingdom. Researchers wishing to work with these must obtain a licence from the Home Office. Nutt has previously written that “Schedule 1 regulation, a dustbin category for controlling drugs with no medical use, may prevent medical advances that could help relieve depression and pain”.

A totally separate issue is that any drugs used in a clinical trial must come from a factory compliant with ‘good manufacturing practice’ (GMP). This means that trials must obtain substances produced under expensive ‘GMP’ conditions, even when there are off the shelf versions. The Academy of Medical Sciences outlined this problem in its 2011 report, noting that a trial of fish oil had similar problems.

In the case of psilocybin, it seems, this double whammy has proven too much. “We have not given up but it is proving very difficult,” the Guardian quotes Nutt as saying.


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    Abed Peerally said:

    I am not quite sympathetic with David Nutt. The British Govt. is amongst the most democratic in the world and I dont see them obstructing the course of technolgical progress. The drug Psilocybin, related to LSD which has caused havoc to the younger people for long, is a dangerous one and a powerful hallucinogenic drug. The Govt simply wishes I think to be cautious. Scientists themselves are not beyond reproach and we hear more and more stories about some of them. However let us have clear messages from those who wish to produce Psilocybin on a commercial scale, in places where this is not allowed, on the use and misuse of this drug. A country like India would I am sure find this drug too dangerous for commercialisation in all towns and villages.

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    Miguel Dayles said:

    I guess further research and study should be done in order to discover how it (magic mushroom) may affect everybody’s health in case it is being used as an ingredient in developing a cure for a particular depression. As a support for the research, psychotherapeutic drugs could be costly to produce and rather unstable. One study, however, has discovered that the normal narcotic in magic mushrooms could be used to treat some psychological problems. The research found that spiritual participants that took psilocybin, the active narcotic in magic mushrooms, noted mystical experiences and better life fulfillment 14 months later. Controlled magic mushroom doses could have psychotherapeutic uses. Article resource:

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