Drug science, drug policy and drug laws

Professor Ilana Crome, Anne Lingford-Hughes, Niamh Eastwood

75 minutes


July 2023

Congress webinar 2023


In this session we explore how an understanding of neuroscience may help to improve the effectiveness and reduce the unintended side effects of contemporary drug policies and suggest some ways in which neuroscience may better assist in policy decisions. The science which has, or has not, formed the basis for policy, be delineated. We will cover the impact of current drug policy on psychiatric practice, the legacies of the laws and suggestions for changing policy. We will include the possibilities, enigmas and dilemmas surrounding psychedelic drugs, ecstasy, novel psychoactive drugs and cannabis, as well as research on psychedelic drugs which could revolutionise the treatment of some psychiatric disorders. We will discuss how advances in research for patient benefit are still being hampered because of the status of psychedelics in the Misuse of Drugs Act. The session will also cover how the Misuse of Drugs Act came to be enacted, the legacies of the laws, and critique the ongoing impact of the Misuse of Drugs Act on Black communities due to discriminatory enforcement. We will examine how the law could be reformed to create fair and appropriate drug policies to reduce the harms of drugs to the user and to society in general.

This session aims to provide you with:

- An update of some recent scientific developments addiction which have implications for policy.

- An appreciation of how policy influences treatment and research into psychiatric disorders.

- A discussion as to how science can promote policies relating to public health, human rights and social justice.

- An understanding of the negative effects and unforeseen consequences of policies especially into treatment and research of psychiatric disorders.

- An understanding of why the Misuse of Drugs Act is not fit for purpose because the society, technology, production and patterns of drug use have changed since it was enacted.

- An understanding of the possible alternatives to an inflexible system of prohibition and the options and opportunities for improvement in the regulatory system for illegal drugs i.e. drug laws.


Chair: Professor Ilana Crome, Drug Science Charity, London, United Kingdom

Professor Ilana Crome, Drug Science Charity, London, United Kingdom

Professor Anne Lingford-Hughes, Imperial College London, United Kingdom

Niamh Eastwood, Release, United Kingdom

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