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DEA Rescinds Proposal to Ban Five Psychedelic Drugs

Friday’s announcement by the Drug Enforcement Administration was made after it announced that it has canceled a plan to ban five psychedelic substances under federal drug laws. This decision came only weeks after an agency hearing had been scheduled on the proposal.

The DEA published a proposal to change the rule to prohibit the use of five psychedelic drugs called tryptamines. It would also place them under Schedule I (federal Controlled Substances Act) which will make research difficult. The proposed ban received swiftly a response. Nearly 600 comments were submitted, many of them strongly opposed, during a period for public comment. A DEA administrative judge issued an order directing that the agency hold public hearings about the ban.

Matthew X. Lowe, Ph.D. is research director for the psychedelic nonprofit organization Unlimited Sciences. Chronic NewsResearch should reveal that the DEA tried to ban psychedelic substances had therapeutic potential.

“The compounds 4-OH-DiPT, 5-MeO-AMT, 5-MeO-MiPT, 5-MeO-DET and DiPT are lesser-known psychedelic substances of the tryptamine class,” Lowe wrote in an email. “The effects of these psychedelic compounds on humans were first documented by Alexander and Ann Shulgin, who famously synthesized and studied the effects of these and hundreds of other psychoactive compounds.”

“Research is limited on these compounds, and little is known about their pharmacological properties, metabolism, toxicity and therapeutic potential, which is precisely why we must continue to support research endeavors,” Lowe continued. “The DEA’s reversal of its plan to ban these compounds will allow crucial research to better understand these compounds.”

Hearing Scheduled and Then Cancelled

The DEA issued a notice in July announcing it would host a hearing to discuss the proposed ban on drugs. The agency wrote that the proposed ban “was based primarily on the scientific and medical evaluations and recommendations provided by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to DEA. In those submissions to DEA, HHS concluded that these five substances meet the criteria for placement in schedule I as they all have a high potential for abuse, no currently medical use in treatment in the United States, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.”

Federal law enforcement agencies changed their course on July 22. They stated that a scheduled hearing was cancelled due to the DEA having withdrawn the proposal. Instead, HHS was to be notified by the federal agency that they would review the compounds. 

Advocates for psychedelic research believe that this review will result in a decision to lower the CSA’s schedule of tryptamines. HHS has not yet determined how long it will take to review the compounds.

“The decision to get an updated evaluation will allow important research and development to continue that could lead to lifesaving medicines and a better understanding of this drug class,” said Matt Zorn, an attorney representing a client with a research interest in the tryptamines. “I’m glad the Administrator and DEA took a hard look at the science and data before it.”

Lowe said that the DEA’s reversal of its proposal to place the psychedelic compounds under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances “is an unprecedented victory for the continued momentum of research exploring the therapeutic potential of psychedelic medicine.”

“Substances categorized with a Schedule I classification are considered to have ‘no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,’ and this classification would severely restrict research and building scientific knowledge of these compounds,” he said. “The therapeutic potential of psychedelics is now widely recognized and we must continue to advocate for research that could shed light on our understanding of both the risks and benefits associated with psychedelic medicine.”