When you see the headline –

“Psychedelic drugs ‘as safe as riding a bike or playing soccer’ and could help solve addiction”

– you tend to take notice. That’s the headline from an article published by The Independent a couple days ago. The part about “riding a bike or playing soccer” is an obvious attempt at clickbait, but the part about solving addiction could be true.

Teri Krebs and husband Pål-Ørjan Johansen, founders of the non-profit EmmaSofia, want to “help expand access to MDMA and other psychedelics that have been subjected to quality control whilst promoting human rights for users of psychedelics.” The “human rights” argument is nothing new to the issue of psychedelics. For a substance that allows a user to delve within their own consciousness, it presents very little risk to others and can have a lot of benefits, as well. However, the long standing ban on these substances has created a drug climate where a majority of substances are impure and potentially harmful. This cycle continues as drug enforcement and legislation sees the danger and further prioritizes prohibition over regulation.

Johansen says that through the use of MDMA and magic mushrooms he was able to treat his own alcohol addiction and, in an interview with Newsweek, highlights a study in the American Journal of Psychiatry which supports the idea that psychedelics could be useful in the treatment of heroin addiction.

According to the pair, over 30 million adults in the US alone have tried psychedelic substances with little to no risk to themselves or others. This is in direct contrast to tobacco or alcohol which kills hundreds of thousands per year. The possibility that psychedelic substances could be used to treat other addictions makes them even more appealing for regulation, but it will be difficult to sway the opinions of those with the legal ability to set us on the right path.

A spokesman for the British governmental organisation Public Health England told Newsweek that it was unethical to treat addiction to one drug with another illegal substance and say that such an initiative would not find support in the UK.

Methadone is a synthetic opioid commonly used to treat narcotic addictions, and it has proven effective. So essentially, the British government (via this spokesman) is taking the position that one drug can be used to treat addiction to another drug, but only if it’s legal. And since they control what drugs are legal, they control which drugs are used in treatment. This creates a rather inhospitable climate to those trying to demonstrate that drugs like psylocybin, MDMA, or LSD can provide beneficial results.

It might be a while before popular psychedelic drugs are legalized, regulated, and made safe for all. However, strides are already being taken with regards to MDMA, proving that change is possible. Before legalization can proceed, we have to play by the rules, even if that means relinquishing our “human rights” for just a little while longer.