The classification of magic mushrooms and MDMA as class A drugs is “absurd” when the potential risk of harm and abuse is significantly lower than legal or less strictly controlled substances, MPs have been told.

Magic mushrooms have some of the lowest rates of harm of any drug and studies have indicated they possess great potential for treating serious depression, but they’re classified alongside crack cocaine and heroin under the Drugs Act since 2005. 

Professor Matthew Hickman, an expert on drug deaths from Bristol University and a previous chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), said that politics, not evidence of harm, had been behind this classification.

We’ll tell you what’s true. You can form your own view.

From 15p €0.18 $0.18 USD 0.27 a day, more exclusives, analysis and extras.

“When I was on the ACMD, my first meeting was regrading magic mushrooms as class A solely because, chemically, it was like LSD,” he told MPs on the told the Health Select Committee after being asked for his view on the UK’s drug classification system.

“Because the committee never downgraded a drug, or took a drug off, it just had to be the same.

“If it’s pharmacologically the same it should get the same [classification]. It is absurd.”

“MDMA shouldn’t be a class A,” he added. “That’s also been used for treatment resistant depression and PTSD as well.”

MPs are reviewing the state of UK drug policy at a time when drug overdose deaths are rising but addiction and treatment services have been repeatedly cut.

Experts blamed the short sighted decision to remove responsibility for drug treatment from the NHS as part of the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, and give it to local authorities whose budgets have been repeatedly cut.

Office of National Statistics data show there were 3,756 deaths from all types of drugs in England and Wales in 2017.  

This is the fifth year in a row where a new record has been set, with a record 432 deaths due to cocaine but some of the biggest increases relating to powerful opioid drugs such as the painkiller fentanyl.

In an upcoming editorial in the Lancet Psychiatry medical journal, Professor Hickman, and co-author Professor Sir John Strang, of King’s College London will argue there is a need “to call for a public health crisis around opioid related deaths.”

“It’s the highest it’s ever been, it’s gone up annually, the services aren’t working,” Professor Hickman added.

He said opioid addiction treatment is not being offered for long enough, and coupled with a lack of support in prisons it means sufferers who leave these services are at much higher risk of overdose if they relapse.

These deaths have risen much faster than the increasing age of drug users, and experts said it should not be assumed that they were inevitable.

“On the face of it, every drug death is avoidable,” Josie Smith, the head of substance misuse at Public Health Wales told the committee.

Comments

Share your thoughts and debate the big issues

Learn more
Please be respectful when making a comment and adhere to our Community Guidelines.
  • You may not agree with our views, or other users’, but please respond to them respectfully
  • Swearing, personal abuse, racism, sexism, homophobia and other discriminatory or inciteful language is not acceptable
  • Do not impersonate other users or reveal private information about third parties
  • We reserve the right to delete inappropriate posts and ban offending users without notification

You can find our Community Guidelines in full here.

Create a commenting name to join the debate

Please try again, the name must be unique
Loading comments...
Loading comments...
Please be respectful when making a comment and adhere to our Community Guidelines.
  • You may not agree with our views, or other users’, but please respond to them respectfully
  • Swearing, personal abuse, racism, sexism, homophobia and other discriminatory or inciteful language is not acceptable
  • Do not impersonate other users or reveal private information about third parties
  • We reserve the right to delete inappropriate posts and ban offending users without notification

You can find our Community Guidelines in full here.

Loading comments...
Loading comments...