News, Opinion piece

Drugs: here to help, even if they are illegal?

Drugs: here to help even if they are illegal?

While the use of cannabis as a medication is being hotly debated, we look at the implications of the legalisation of marijuana for medicinal purposes on other schedule 1 substances.

You may have read the news recently and seen articles relating to the governments' dealings with patients (and their families) who rely on illegal medications, cannabis in many cases, to treat chronic conditions that are unresponsive to conventional therapies.

Before the start of the year, one could be forgiven for thinking that there would be no U.S style of legality for schedule 1 drugs. A change in public perception in part, due to the coverage of cases such as Alfie Dingley and Sophie Gibson, who have demonstrated the efficacy of the active components, (THC and CBD) found in the Marijuana plant. This comes at a time where the U.Ks own mini-war on drugs has failed to meet its rich promises, a thought echoed in the general consensus of policing, political and social experts. 

Perhaps these are two reasons that the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, considered when he announced a review of the scheduling of cannabis for medical use. What’s interesting is the emphasis on the word cannabis, rather than one of its active ingredients. The cannabis plant is known to contain over 483 active compounds and the legalisation of cannabis, even for medical use, would open them to research and effective isolation.
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The use of cannabis for the treatment of various disease isn’t the only schedule 1 drug that has shown promise. With the widespread adoption of cannabis by American states and the lucrative rewards in its research, production and sale have led to researchers revisiting other psychoactive substances such as DMT, psilocybin and LSD.

All three examples have shown effective results in the treatment of depression, alcoholism and chronic pain, 3 of arguably the hardest illnesses to treat effectively and reliably with conventional therapy. The landscape of modern times is set; change in public opinion and understanding, a current political attitude that has now become outdated and unfair and the powerful incentives of new research and rich rewards. In this current environment, there is an opportunity to make the exploration of new compounds and medications justifiable.

This article sets no agenda towards views on the use of such medications for recreational purposes, but for those reading who believe a model of full or partial decriminalisation of drugs (such as Portugal, Netherlands and America) for both medical and recreational use, should note that the rescheduling of Cannabis for medical use will be a pivotal step, not just as a symbolic event but also for it’s potential to change the views and attitudes to drugs as a whole.

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The rise of prescription drug abuse shows that the legality of a medication won’t change the desire to abuse a substance, but education will. Fewer adolescents are choosing to abuse drugs (including alcohol, tobacco and LSD) due to increased research into the effects of drug abuse on the body. There are quite literally thousands of papers written about the negative effects of alcohol and tobacco on the body while research into illegal substances remains sparse due to the difficulty in obtaining a license for research. 

Research leads experts who lead us to better, healthier lives so as the quest for new compounds in the areas of antibiotics, diabetes and mental health becoming increasingly hard to find, it may be prudent to look into why certain schedule 1 medications are continually heard to contain the answers for their treatment.

Change is coming to how we classify drugs and how we are allowed to use them, it needs to. After all, it’s ironic to think that a legal drug can take a life and an illegal one may contain the power to save it.