In the past few weeks, two articles have come under my admittedly narrow radar about small clinical trials of psychedelic drugs. Now, it's only in the past decade that the FDA has finally begun to loosen the restrictions that are in place on these substances, and it's been a very slow and tentative process. Although a ton of restrictions are still in place, the little insight that has been gained in this time is very promising.
This article from the New York Times is about a study that was conducted in John Hopkins medical school about the possible effects of psilocybin on people suffering from chronic depression. While the study was very small, the results indicated that the drug could be useful for helping people get through depression, and many subjects listed the experience among the most positive of their lives.
Another article, this one from Scientific American, focuses on a study of MDMA, AKA street ecstasy, conducted by the non-profit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. This study was conducted on veterans suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and many subjects who had experienced no appreciable benefit from other methods of psychotherapy saw their symptoms disappear after a few trials with MDMA. The article also references the aforementioned psilocybin study, and goes into a very fair discussion of the FDA's loosening its heavy restrictions on these studies.
Really, I don't see why the FDA's been so sluggish in this arena. While I'm glad that they've finally loosened the restrictions to some extent, there still a long way to go, both time-wise and money-wise, before they will allow studies of the same scale as are given to other more "conventional" drugs. It would be so interesting to see what would come of larger scale studies. Also, veering away from the purely scientific, more studies on these "dangerous" narcotics, drugs which are placed in Schedule 1 in the United States (grouped together with heroin and the like) would go a long way in convincing the public that these drugs are not as dangerous as the politicians would like you to believe. It would be a fantastic little seed to plant in the mind of your average person, which could perhaps lead many to realize that the War on Drugs in general is just complete nonsense.
Unfortunately, this fantasy world of mine is currently just that - a fantasy. But I guess in the meantime, I can at least be thankful for the baby-steps we're making in that direction.