Reclassification Recommendations for Psilocybin From Schedule I to Schedule IV

 In Naturopathic News
Press Release: John Hopkins Press Release (9/28/2018)

If phase III clinical trials are successful, researchers suggest categorizing the drug as schedule IV

In an evaluation of the safety and abuse research on the drug in hallucinogenic mushrooms, Johns Hopkins researchers suggest that if it clears phase III clinical trials, psilocybin should be re-categorized from a schedule I drug—one with no known medical potential—to a schedule IV drug such as prescription sleep aids, but with tighter control.

The researchers summarize their analysis in the October print issue of Neuropharmacology.

“We want to initiate the conversation now as to how to classify psilocybin to facilitate its path to the clinic and minimize logistical hurdles in the future,” says Matthew W. Johnson, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “We expect these final clearance trials to take place in the next five years or so.”

Controlled Substances Act of 1970

Following the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, any drug with the potential for abuse is categorized based on criteria that considers whether the drug has accepted medical use, and its safety and the potential for abuse. Although preliminary research studies suggest that psilocybin may be effective for smoking cessation and for disorders such as cancer-specific depression and anxiety, it must clear phase III clinical trials before the Food and Drug Administration can be petitioned to reclassify it.

Studies in animals and humans

Studies in animals and humans both show low potential for abuse, the researchers say. When rats push a lever to receive psilocybin, they don’t keep pushing the lever like they do for drugs such as cocaine, alcohol or heroin. When it comes to human studies, people who have used psilocybin typically report using it a few times across their lifetime.

As for safety, studies show it frequently falls at the end of the scales with the least harm to users and society, say the researchers. Psilocybin also is lowest in the potential for lethal overdose as there is no known overdose level.

Psilocybin is not without risks of harm

“We should be clear that psilocybin is not without risks of harm, which are greater in recreational than medical settings, but relatively speaking, looking at other drugs both legal and illegal, it comes off as being the least harmful in different surveys and across different countries,” says Johnson.


Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Portland, OR and associate editor for NDNR. He has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine among the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend camp-out where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Four years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.

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