The new Conservative government laid out their legislation plans for the coming year in the Queen’s Speech to Parliament last month. These plans include the inception of the controversial Psychoactive Substances Bill; a blanket ban on the trade of any substance “capable of producing a psychoactive effect”.
Will The Bill Stop Beneficial Medical Research?
Professor David Nutt, who is the former government chief drugs adviser, has spoken out to say that he believes the bill could lead to pre-emptive bans of substances that could’ve otherwise proven to be useful in a research setting.
He told The Guardian that he believes the bill “will be disastrous”. He argued that previous bans on legal highs – such as the ban on cathinones like methadrone – “have been very destructive to research into Parkinson’s and into anti-smoking drugs”.
On the other side of the argument we have Parkinson’s UK who strongly oppose Nutt’s view. A spokesperson for the registered charity told The Guardian: “There are a number of Parkinson’s drugs of different classes. We have never heard of Parkinson’s drugs from the cathinone class.”
James Rucker, a lecturer in psychiatry at King’s College London, took to the British Medical Journal to air his opinion on the matter. Arguing that psychedelic drugs should be legally reclassified so that researchers can investigate their therapeutic potential, he said: “Hundreds of papers, involving tens of thousands of patients, presented evidence for their use as psychotherapeutic catalysts of mentally beneficial change.”
Will Everyday Items, Like Candles, Be Banned?
Any substance that causes a chemical reaction in the brain can be said to have a psychoactive component. This has lead to speculation that everyday items such as incense and candles – that arguably can be psychoactive – will be covered under the bill.
In order to clear this confusion up we had a chat with Home Office spokesperson Jennifer Nolan:
UNILAD: If you smell the perfume/aftershave your ex-partner used it could evoke some memories. If so, the memory recall would involve an electrochemical transfer of neurotransmitters. So, as perfume therefore can have a psychoactive component, will it be banned under the bill?
Home Office: “The legislation has been designed to avoid things like that, there is a list of exemptions. There is no suggestion that candles or incense will be banned. I can confirm pleasant odours are not included.”
How Will The New Bill Be Policed?
Dr Vaughan Bell, of the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, thinks that the bill will be difficult for the authorities to police. Writing in the popular Mindhacks blog, he said that new recreational drugs arrive in the UK at a rate of around one a day. If the police are confronted with an unknown white powder they have no way of finding out if it’s psychoactive – unless someone took it.
He wrote: “Interestingly, this means both the manufacturers of new psychoactive compounds and the UK government will have the same problem. Because you can’t do a chemical test on a new drug and say for sure it’s psychoactive, and animal tests won’t give you a definite answer, someone has to take it to find out. Grey market labs in China and Eastern Europe solve this problem by, well, getting someone to take the drugs. Christ knows what the Government are going to do.”