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17 January 2024 - 17 January 2024

2:00PM - 3:30PM

PCL048 - Hogan Lovells Lecture Theatre, Durham University

  • Free

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Durham CELLS welcomes Professor Muireann Quigley to Durham Law School for a seminar with the title 'The Drugs that Came in From the Cold: Confronting Legal, Ethical, and Other Challenges of the Psychedelic Renaissance'

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Durham Law School

17 January, 2024

2-3.30 pm

PCL048 - Hogan Lovells Lecture Theatre, Durham Law School


Following their near-blanket ban from the 1970s to the early 2000s, there has been an escalating resurgence of interest in research on, and use of, psychedelics to treat a range of psychological disorders. These include depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, eating disorders, substance abuse, and post-traumatic stress disorder (especially amongst veterans). The substances which have been the subject of this renewed focus include psilocybin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), and N,N-imethyltryptamine (DMT), ketamine, and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA or ecstasy). Clinical studies on these substances - for example, the use of psilocybin for the treatment of major depressive disorder and treatment-resistant depression and the use of MDMA-assisted therapy for war veterans with PTSD - are showing some very promising results.

Alongside the interest in psychedelics from the clinical sphere is also a burgeoning interest from, what one key philanthropic funder of psychedelic research has called, ‘healthy normals’. Whilst the motivations of those with a diagnosed clinical mood disorder are (at least on the face of it) easier to understand, the appeal of these substances to ‘healthy normals’ is more difficult to characterise precisely. However, we can broadly describe the attraction of psychedelics as lying in their potential consciousness-expanding aspects. Regardless of the exact motivations of ‘healthy normals’, however, what we will see is that psychedelics and psychedelic tourism are becoming big business.

In this paper, I set out these dual aspects of the psychedelic renaissance: use as part of clinically-assisted therapy and use by ‘healthy normals’. I track the fall and rise of psychedelics to better understand how this resurgence in interest in and use of these highly legally restricted substances has come about. I then ask what legal, ethical, and other challenges each of these realms present. My purpose is not to offer any particular conclusions at this stage, but to begin to map the terrain in respect of (hat we will see) are the manifold challenges that psychedelics in both the clinical and extra-clinical settings present. In so doing, what we will see is that the differing – and indeed changing – legal status of psychedelics around the world significantly impacts on its research and use.