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Psilocybin: Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001

Volume 701: debated on Monday 18 October 2021

4. Whether her Department plans to take steps to reschedule psilocybin to schedule 2 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001. [R] (903757)

We currently have no plans to reschedule psilocybin to schedule 2 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs has recently published stage 1 of its advice on reducing barriers to research on controlled drugs. We will consider the advice, including its implications for psilocybin, carefully before responding.

Does my right hon. Friend understand the emerging potential of the psychedelic class of drugs, with psilocybin to the fore, to treat depression, trauma and addiction? Some of this science was emerging in the 1960s, before our current drugs laws closed it down. In 2019, 90,503 of our fellow citizens were driven to suicide by their depression or trauma, or their rock-bottom in addiction has been death. If there is any scale of potential for these drugs, and it appears that there is, any further delay in getting the science and research going is not defensible—in fact, it is a morally disgraceful abrogation of our duty to the public good.

As a founder of the all-party group on life sciences, I am well aware of the potential of any number of compounds to assist us in the constant battle against mental and physical illness, and of the need for this country to lead in research that might alleviate the problem, not just here, but in the rest of the world. My hon. Friend will know that we reschedule particular compounds where medicines are approved on the advice of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and of the ACMD. He will know that, for example, in June last year we placed Epidyolex, a cannabis-based medicine used to treat certain forms of epilepsy, in schedule 5 to the Misuse of Drugs Regulations, following exactly that sort of advice. There are ongoing trials and research studies into psilocybin taking place in the UK; a medicine has yet to be licensed by the MHRA, but if and when one is, we will consider rescheduling.

To catch up on what was said there, can the Minister tell me on what research the UK Government are basing this current policy on psilocybin? Can that research be made available?

The research is being undertaken in a number of academic institutions, as far as I am aware. I am happy to dig out the detail of where specifically this is being researched—I do not have it to hand. It is worth reinforcing the point that the process for the rescheduling of compounds is that approval is given for a medicine by the MHRA, and advice is then taken from the ACMD as to the rescheduling, as we did with Epidyolex. As soon as those medicines are approved by the MHRA for use, I would be happy to consider rescheduling.