This week’s Psychedelic news roundup covers a surprising policy shift at the United Nations. Other news includes new psychedelic studies, increased pressure from Veteran groups to legalize MDMA-assisted therapy, and more.

UN Health Expert Advocates for Shift From War on Drugs to Harm Reduction and Human Rights

UN member nations

As reported by Marijuana Moment, Tlaleng Mofokeng, the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to health, calls on member nations to move away from punitive drug policies and toward a more humane approach that prioritizes harm reduction and human rights. In a recent report, Mofokeng criticizes the criminalization of drug use and suggests alternative regulatory frameworks based on scientific evidence and equity considerations.

Key recommendations from the report include:
  • Decriminalizing the use, possession, purchase, and cultivation of drugs for personal use.
  • Implementing harm reduction strategies such as supervised consumption sites, drug checking services, and the widespread distribution of naloxone to prevent overdoses.
  • Establishing less restrictive regulatory models for controlled substances to reduce overall harm.

The report emphasizes that current drug policies often exacerbate human rights violations, including the overuse of incarceration and the disproportionate impact on marginalized communities. It also highlights the importance of non-coercive services and support, such as housing and healthcare, which should not be contingent upon individuals ceasing drug use.

Global funding for harm reduction is described as inadequate, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, with a noted 95% funding gap. Mofokeng urges increased support for community-led harm reduction initiatives and stresses the need for international drug control to improve access to essential medicines.

Amnesty International has supported the UN’s call, advocating for a global shift towards drug policy reform that is grounded in harm reduction and human rights. The organization also released its report advocating for the legalization and regulation of all drugs to better uphold human rights.

This push for reform comes as various international and national bodies reconsider their approaches to drug policy, recognizing the failures of the global war on drugs and its devastating impact on society and the environment.(1)

Urgent Call to Reevaluate FDA’s Approach on MDMA-Assisted Therapy Amid Alleged Bias and Misinformation

Heroic Hearts x FDA

Heroic Heart’s Project released a statement calling for a reconsideration of the FDA Advisory Committee’s recent decision against approving MDMA-assisted therapy (MDMA-AT), a treatment showing substantial promise in treating PTSD. Despite years of positive clinical trials and widespread support, including an FDA “Breakthrough Therapy” designation, the Committee’s June 2024 meeting diverged into criticisms not directly relevant to the therapy’s efficacy or safety, such as the diversity of trial participants and unrelated drug use concerns.

Key Points Raised:
  1. Clinical Success: MAPS-sponsored phase III trials of MDMA-assisted therapy showed remarkable results, with 71% of participants no longer qualifying for PTSD after treatment and 86.5% seeing significant symptom improvement.(2)
  2. Political and Media Influence: The narrative surrounding MDMA-assisted therapy shifted this spring with media articles and an FDA Advisory Committee meeting that critics argue focused on peripheral issues. This shift occurred alongside a report from ICER, known for its ties to the pharmaceutical industry, which was critical of MDMA-assisted therapy.
  3. Alleged Conflicts of Interest: ICER, which has connections to the insurance and pharmaceutical sectors, published a critical study of MDMA-assisted therapy potentially influenced by financial interests in maintaining current PTSD treatments, predominantly antidepressants.
  4. Impact on Veterans: Advocates emphasize the potential life-saving benefits of MDMA-assisted therapy for veterans, a group disproportionately affected by PTSD and associated suicides, which current treatments fail to adequately address.
  5. Calls for Action: Veterans and researchers are pressing the FDA to overlook the Advisory Committee’s recommendations, which they argue were swayed by biased and misinformed viewpoints rather than solid scientific evidence.

Critics of the FDA’s decision are advocating for a reevaluation based on the overwhelming clinical support for MDMA-assisted therapy and its potential to improve the lives of those struggling with PTSD significantly.(3)

Urgent Warning Issued for High-Strength MDMA Pills at UK Festivals

MDMA Pills at UK Festivals

As detailed by the BBC, a recent surge in super-strength MDMA pills at UK festivals has prompted warnings from the drug testing charity The Loop. The Bristol-based organization discovered pills containing up to “double doses” of MDMA, posing significant overdose risks, particularly amid the current heatwave. This comes from findings at Manchester’s Parklife festival and other local testing, revealing the highest potency of MDMA recorded since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Key Details:
  • Increased Potency: The average strength of MDMA pills tested by The Loop has jumped from last year’s 140 mg to 180 mg this year, with some pills exceeding 250mg.
  • Variability in Pills: Despite similar appearances, the content of MDMA pills can vary greatly, increasing the risk for festival-goers, especially inexperienced ones.
  • Harm Reduction Efforts: The Loop advocates for harm reduction at festivals, including on-site drug testing to inform attendees about the drugs’ contents and potential dangers.
  • Regulatory Challenges: Despite controversies and governmental hesitance regarding drug-checking services at festivals, The Loop continues to push for their widespread availability to enhance safety.

The organization stresses the importance of not assuming one pill equals one dose, educating especially younger users on the dangers of high-dosage MDMA consumption during festival season.

Additional Harm Reduction Tips:
  • Stay Hydrated: MDMA can cause dehydration, especially when dancing or in hot weather. Drink water regularly, but avoid excessive consumption, which can also be dangerous.(4)
  • Cool Down: Take regular breaks from dancing to cool down, and seek shaded or air-conditioned areas to prevent heat exhaustion.
  • Know Your Source: Knowing where your substances came from can help avoid unknown and potentially more dangerous compounds.
  • Use Testing Kits: If on-site testing is unavailable, consider purchasing a drug testing kit from a reliable source such as DanceSafe to check substances for harmful adulterants.
  • Plan with Friends: Stay with a group and look out for each other. Make a plan for responding to an emergency.
  • Recognize Overdose Symptoms: Learn the signs of an overdose, such as high body temperature, agitation, confusion, and seizures, and seek medical help immediately if symptoms appear.
  • Avoid Mixing Substances: Combining MDMA with other substances, including alcohol, can increase the risk of negative effects or overdose.

By following these tips and staying informed, festival-goers have the potential to significantly reduce their risk of harm and enjoy their experiences more safely.(5)

Older Adults Report Benefits from Psychedelic Use: Fewer Depressive Symptoms and Higher Cognitive Performance

psychedelic use among older adults

Recent findings published in the journal Southern Gerontological Society spotlight the potential benefits of psychedelic use among older adults. Researchers Kallol Kumar Bhattacharyya and Kaeleigh Fearn, from Utah State University and the University of South Florida, respectively, delved into how substances like LSD and other hallucinogens impact cognitive functions and mental health in this demographic.

Study Insights:
  • Study Basis: The analysis involved 3,294 participants from the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) study, focusing on individuals aged 42 to 92.
  • Psychedelic Usage: About 205 participants reported using psychedelics in the past year. These individuals generally had fewer depressive symptoms and showcased better performance in cognitive function tests.
  • Cognitive Assessments: Tests included the Brief Test of Adult Cognition by Telephone (BTACT) and other memory and executive function evaluations.
  • Mental Health Correlation: Notably, those using psychedelics reported fewer depressive symptoms, which is critical as depression in older adults can lead to further complications like dementia.

Despite the promising outcomes, the study underscores that most psychedelic use among participants was recreational, highlighting the necessity for more controlled research to understand optimal forms, frequencies, and dosages for therapeutic benefits. The research calls for the decriminalization of psychedelic studies to foster further understanding of their potential to enhance late-life cognitive functions and overall mental health.(6)

University of Colorado Launches Psychedelic Research Center in Denver

Psychedelic Research Center in University of Colorado

As detailed by Westword, the University of Colorado Denver has officially established a Psychedelic Research Center, significantly advancing the study of psychedelic substances and their implications. Located in downtown Denver on the Auraria campus, the center aims to explore a broad range of impacts stemming from psychedelic use, particularly in light of Colorado’s recent legislative changes regarding magic mushrooms and other psychedelics.

Key Developments and Goals:
  • Research Initiatives: The center will investigate these substances’ mental and physical effects and their societal and economic impacts, especially those emerging from the Natural Medicine Health Act.
  • Collaborative Efforts: Collaborations are planned with CU Boulder and the CU Anschutz Medical Campus to research the effectiveness and therapeutic mechanisms of psychedelics. These efforts are supported by existing research at CU Boulder, which includes studies on terminally ill patients and the impact of psilocybin on depression.
Educational and Legislative Impact:
  • Training and Education: The center is set to develop educational curricula to train individuals who wish to provide psychedelic therapies in clinical settings, as well as those seeking state credentials in this field.
  • Policy Influence: The center’s findings are expected to inform policy decisions, assisting lawmakers, local and state agencies, and other stakeholders in understanding the benefits and considerations associated with psychedelic therapies.

Furthermore, the center will focus on enhancing life quality, particularly for marginalized and underserved groups. CU Denver believes establishing the new research center will place it at the forefront of a significant shift toward exploring alternative mental health treatments.(7)

This material is not intended as a replacement or substitute for any legal or medical advice. Always consult a medical professional about your health needs. Psychedelics are widely illegal in the United States, and readers should always be informed about local, state, and federal regulations regarding psychedelics or other drugs.

  1. Adlin, B. (2024, June 24). Top United Nations Health Official Calls On Countries To Replace War On Drugs With “Alternative Regulatory Approaches.” Marijuana Moment. 
  2. Mitchell, J. M., Ot’alora G. , M., van der Kolk, B., Shannon, S., Bogenschutz, M., Gelfand, Y., Paleos, C., Nicholas, C. R., Quevedo, S., Balliett, B., Hamilton, S., Mithoefer, M., Kleiman, S., Parker-Guilbert, K., Tzarfaty, K., Harrison, C., de Boer, A., Doblin, R., & Yazar-Klosinski, B. (2023). MDMA-assisted Therapy for Moderate to Severe PTSD: a randomized, placebo-controlled Phase 3 Trial. Nature Medicine, 29(29), 1–8. 
  3. Exposing ICER’s Anti-Veteran Campaign Against MDMA-Assisted Therapy. (n.d.). Heroic Hearts Project. Retrieved June 26, 2024, from 
  4. Festival drug testing: Warning over “double dose” ecstasy pills. (2024, June 25). BBC News. 
  5. Baggott, M. J., Garrison, K. J., Coyle, J. R., Galloway, G. P., Barnes, A. J., Huestis, M. A., & Mendelson, J. E. (2016). MDMA Impairs Response to Water Intake in Healthy Volunteers. Advances in Pharmacological Sciences, 2016, 1–11. 
  6. Fearn, K., & Kallol Kumar Bhattacharyya. (2024). Is Use of Psychedelic Drugs a Risk or Protective Factor for Late-Life Cognitive Decline? Gerontology & Geriatric Medicine, 10. 
  7. Mitchell, T. (n.d.). CU Opens Psychedelic Research Center in Downtown Denver. Westword. Retrieved June 26, 2024, from