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Top Federal Drug Official Says There’s ‘Tremendous Excitement’ Around Psychedelic Medicine, But ‘It’s Not Magic’



A top federal drug official says there is “tremendous excitement” about the therapeutic potential of psychedelics. However, she cautioned that while the treatment option is “very promising,” people should understand that “it’s not magic” and needs more rigorous research.

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Director Nora Volkow shared her perspective on the status of psychedelics research during a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies on Thursday.

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), a strong supporter of psychedelics policy reform, asked Volkow where the country is at on a research level, noting that while he supports “liberalizing” drug laws in general, he wants evidence from agencies like NIDA before calling certain substances “medicine.”

“This is an area of tremendous excitement—from the very pharmacology to actually understanding how to optimally use it on patients,” Volkow replied. “Because the data is starting to translate into evidence that it could be beneficial, what has happened is that conditions are ahead of actually where the data is, so it’s being offered to a wide variety of patients without sufficient evidence.”

“How do you optimally give it without producing risk and ensuring that you’re having long term effects?” she said. “And that’s where we need to understand how that context that we are giving the psychedelic drug is going to influence your therapeutic response. It’s crucial.”

Watch the NIDA director discuss psychedelics research, starting at 1:37:04 into the video below:

“But, like anything else, when people get excited, they want to start sort of believing a little bit in fairy tales. It’s not a magic,” she said. “It’s a very promising, but we need to do much more research.”

The federal official has repeatedly discussed her interest in psychedelics therapy, acknowledging not only the potential but the societal impact of local and state reform potentially encouraging more people to use substances such as psilocybin outside of a clinical context.

She said in 2022 that the “train has left the station” on psychedelics amid the policy reform movement. Volkow discussed the issue in an earlier interview with Marijuana Moment as well.

Meanwhile, last week a top official with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) said there’s an “unstoppable narrative” in support of advancing psychedelic medicine, with a combination of compelling personal stories of recovery and robust clinical data from studies he’s hoping to expand upon. He also said bipartisan acceptance of psychedelics has “surpassed” that of marijuana in Congress.

In the background, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently considering a new drug application for MDMA-assisted therapy for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The review has been granted priority status.

Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,500 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

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Also, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee passed a bill at the beginning of the month to require VA to notify Congress if any psychedelics are added to its formulary of covered prescription drugs.

President Joe Biden also signed into law a bipartisan measure to provide funding to the Department of Defense (DOD) to conduct clinical trials into the therapeutic potential of certain psychedelics for active duty military members. That was enacted under the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

In March, congressional appropriations leaders also unveiled a spending package that contains language providing $10 million to facilitate the psychedelics studies.

In January, VA separately issued a request for applications to conduct in-depth research on the use of psychedelics to treat PTSD and depression.

In October, VA separately launched a new podcast about the future of veteran health care, and the first episode of the series focuses on the healing potential of psychedelics.

FDA officials also recently joined scientists at a public meeting on next steps for conducting research to develop psychedelic medicines.

New York Bill Would Legalize Psilocybin Service Centers Where Adults Could Have Supervised Psychedelic Sessions

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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based managing editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.


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