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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UAB: The Abuse Potential of Medical Psilocybin According to the Eight Factors of the Controlled Substances Act

Dr. Peter Hendricks, an associate professor in the department of health behavior at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health collaborated with a team in a review to assess the abuse potential of medically-administered psilocybin, following the structure of the eight factors of the U.S. Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

[Photo: Dr. Peter Hendricks]

Research suggests the potential safety and efficacy of psilocybin in treating cancer-related psychiatric distress and substance use disorders, setting the occasion for this review. A more extensive assessment of abuse potential according to an eight factor analysis would eventually be required to guide appropriate schedule placement. Psilocybin, like other 5-HT2A agonist classic psychedelics, has limited reinforcing effects, supporting marginal, transient non-human self-administration. Nonetheless, mushrooms with variable psilocybin content are used illicitly, with a few lifetime use occasions being normative among users.

Potential harms include dangerous behavior in unprepared, unsupervised users, and exacerbation of mental illness in those with or predisposed to psychotic disorders. However, scope of use and associated harms are low compared to prototypical abused drugs, and the medical model addresses these concerns, with dose control, patient screening, preparation and follow-up, and session supervision in a medical facility.

The research team concluded the following: (1) psilocybin has an abuse potential appropriate for CSA scheduling if approved as medicine; (2) psilocybin can provide therapeutic benefits that may support the development of an approvable New Drug Application (NDA) but further studies are required which this review describes; (3) adverse effects of medical psilocybin are relatively low and manageable when administered according to risk management approaches; and (4) although further study is required, this review suggests that placement in Schedule IV may be appropriate if a psilocybin-containing medicine is approved.

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