Bad Drugs Are Looking Good
Ketamine has sometimes been called the “date rape drug” because its sedative properties have enabled sexual assaults — but a groundbreaking study suggests it can also reduce symptoms of depression. Psychedelic drugs, such as psilocybin and LSD, can trigger a schizophrenic episode, but their potential to treat addiction, control post-traumatic stress disorder, and prepare terminally ill patients for death is intriguing. And while marijuana is a controlled substance under federal law, 33 states allow it to be sold for medical uses (and 11 say it’s okay for recreation). Researchers are taking a fresh look at the treatment value of drugs with a reputation for danger and making some surprising discoveries.
- 2019 Health
Moderator John Torres, medical correspondent for NBC news, wants to know if the categorization of some drugs as “bad” drugs is warranted, and the panel responds unanimously:
Drugs are never inherently bad, explains Rick Doblin, founder of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. It’s our relationship to drugs and the properties we choose to associate them with that can become problematic. These relationships are not fixed, says Doblin; they can evolve over time as science and society progress.
Marijuana is is undergoing a complete reinvention from the days of Reefer Madness, and it’s already showing compelling results as a medicine. Mallory Loflin, research scientist at the Department of Veteran Affairs, is pioneering research into how cannabinoids — the specific compounds found in marijuana — could profoundly change how we treat PTSD.
How it works
Rick Doblin follows up Loflin's explanation with a reminder of the difficulties faced by researchers like Loflin in studying “bad” drugs, marijuana included. Because of their dubious reputations, regulatory quagmires often impede the ability of researchers to effectively study these drugs even in controlled environments.
While it’s true that drugs like ketamine and MDMA have produced incredible results when used to treat some mental illnesses, Dennis Charney, dean of the Icahn School of Medicine, and Mallory Loflin want us to remember that they’re almost always used in conjunction with therapy and other treatments:
Somewhat ironically, some “bad” drugs are shedding their notorious reputations and gaining reputations that drastically overstate their safe and effective usage. The panel explains, using examples from their own research, how this can quickly become problematic: