Using psychedelics in mental health treatment ‘not hippy movement’, says expert

The use of psychedelic drugs to treat mental health conditions is not “a weird hippy movement”, an expert has said.

Professor David Nutt will speak to the Scottish Parliament next month about a “more rational drugs policy”, before he gives a talk at the University of Edinburgh on his latest book, called Psychedelics, on September 28.

Prof Nutt told the PA news agency he believes members of the public will be shocked by his belief that psychedelic drugs such as magic mushrooms and MDMA can help treat mental health conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder.

He said: “This isn’t a weird hippy movement. The truth is, they are (life-changing) and that is why we should use them. They can change people’s lives for the better.”

Prof Nutt, who is a professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London, was sacked as a government adviser in 2009 after he argued the drug MDMA, known as Ecstasy, could be no more harmful than riding a horse.

Figures published last week showed that while drug deaths in Scotland have fallen, they are still the highest in Europe.

On Thursday, the Commons Home Affairs Committee suggested drug consumption rooms could be trialled in Scotland.

Professor David Nutt press conference
Professor David Nutt will appear before the Scottish Parliament to discuss drugs policy (Tim Ireland/PA)

Such a facility has been mooted in Glasgow for years, but requires an exemption to the Misuse of Drugs Act from the Home Office to go forward.

If the UK Government is not willing to support such a move, the committee said, the relevant powers should be devolved to Holyrood.

Prof Nutt agreed that it seems the public are coming round to the idea of drug consumption rooms.

He said: “This isn’t remarkable. Drug treatment rooms have been around for 30 years. They get people off the drugs because they engage with social workers.

“The only opposition to this is political and people who really cannot think beyond the law.

“When the population realises they haven’t had any real innovation in mental health treatment, sensible people realise we need to do something different.

“These drugs can give huge value and can be used safely in a medical setting.

“The Department of Health really should be involved in this. It cannot just be the Home Office making these decisions.”

Prof Nutt has spent around 15 years researching psychedelic drugs. His book also looks at how other countries such as Australia and some US states including Oregon and Colorado are using psychedelic drugs in the treatment of mental health issues.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “There is no safe way to take illegal drugs, which devastate lives, ruin families and damage communities, and we have no plans to consider this.

“We continue to share learning from Project Adder with the Scottish Government and exchange insights from initiatives aimed at addressing drug use and harms at ministerial and official level. We welcome these ongoing discussions.”