Remove "medical use" criteria from Schedule 1 drugs to allow life-saving research

Remove "medical use" criteria from Schedule 1 drugs to allow life-saving research

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Micah Caldwell started this petition to U.S. House of Representatives and

Life-saving drugs are being held hostage. At this moment, there are several substances on the list of Schedule 1 drugs that have low abuse potential and actual medical uses for a wide array of physical and mental illnesses, yet the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has continued to list these substances as the "most dangerous" and claim that they have no accepted medical use. This classification effectively blocks research into these substances, keeping them as a Schedule 1 drug and limiting their ability to be prescribed or used clinically.

Here's the abreviated version of how this happened. In 1970, the Controlled Substances Act passed, which dramatically changed American drug policy. It established "drug scheduling", which is a system that sorts controlled substances into different categories from Schedule 1 to Schedule 5. Schedules are essentially categories to measure how "dangerous" a drug is, depending on two criteria:

  1. Its potential for abuse, addiction, or other dangerous outcomes.
  2. Whether it has a medical use or not.

The idea behind the drug scheduling system was to put restrictions on substances for the good of the public so that these drugs only get into the hands of qualified individuals.

In concept, that's great - in practice, it's harmful. Substances placed in Schedule 1 are the only drugs on that list deemed to have "no accepted medical use". As such, many substances, regardless of their actual risk levels, have been placed in this category. This is why cannabis is a Schedule 1 drug while other substances like cocaine and meth are lower on the list.

This is a problem. While Schedule 1 drugs are technically allowed to be used for research purposes, their legal production and distribution are so tightly controlled that there's an effective barrier or deterrent to conducting experiments. Researchers have to jump through hoops and have their studies approved by Health and Human Services (HHS), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in order to legally obtain supplies, which costs a lot of time and money. This has resulted in a Catch-22 where there’s not enough scientific evidence to change a drug’s Schedule 1 status because its Schedule 1 status limits its ability to be researched.

But there are at least a handful of Schedule 1 substances that already show amazing promise for treating serious mental illnesses when used in conjunction with therapy. These include the following:

  • Ayahuasca has shown promise for helping people with treatment-resistant depression.
  • LSD has had 10+ randomized controlled clinical trials showing significant potential as a treatment for alcoholism. Other research shows it decreases anxiety related to life-threatening diseases.
  • MDMA has been designated by the FDA as a "breakthrough therapy" for PTSD. It could also be effective in treating social anxiety in autistic adults and eating disorders.
  • Psilocybin has been designated by the FDA as a "breakthrough therapy" for depression. It has shown promise for treating alcohol and tobacco addictions. It is also indicated for relieving existential anxiety and depression in people with life-threatening diagnoses.

All of these substances have a low potential for abuse, addiction, or other dangerous outcomes when compared to other scheduled drugs. However, they remain in Schedule 1 due to not having a currently accepted medical use.

This is a real crisis. As a clinical therapist, I've witnessed firsthand how serious psychiatric disorders can ruin lives. The cost of mental illnesses to American society is $193.2 billion annually, which is more than any other medical condition. 1 in 5 adults in America experience a mental illness. The brain is an extremely difficult organ to treat, so if potentially-powerful medications are being unnecessarily held under lock and key, then that is a costly problem, both to the country and to the individual.

We need to demand action. With this petition, we are calling on the United States Congress and the President to take up this issue and remove the "medical use" criteria in order to have a common-sense drug scheduling system. This system would ensure that only the riskiest drugs would top the drug schedule tiers, which means that research and medical use opportunities would open up for lower-tier drugs.

These substances have been unnecessarily restricted for too long. It's time to make a change to DEA drug scheduling so that researchers can explore real, effective, life-affirming treatments that could revolutionize physical and mental health.

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