Critics say the Schedule I category is burdensome, based on fear rather than evidence. “It goes beyond science,” says Maritza Perez, director of the Drug Policy Alliance, a nonprofit organization focused on drug policy reform. Frustrated by this empty ban, and eager to develop new ways to treat addiction, many scientists, doctors, and other researchers are pushing back.
“A class-wide ban based on drug design alone would prevent much research that could lead to life-saving drugs,” says West Virginia University chemistry professor Gregory Dudley, one of the co-authors of the open letter to Biden. In the letter, Dudley and other scientists argue that permanent Schedule I status could “unwittingly destroy” important tools to combat the problem of substance abuse.
Dudley supports the decision of US senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), which was introduced last week, the TEST Act, which would temporarily expand the Schedule I category, but which would also require the government to review fentalogs, banning those who have drugs. with or without the risk of abuse. Booker believes he can introduce his bill as a popular solution to the issue. “This bill hits the ground running to make sure we’re doing everything we can to save lives,” he told WIRED via email.
Even some experts who support the fixed schedule recognize that the current situation is not working well. “I believe that fentanyl-related substances should be permanently placed on Schedule I. But I also strongly believe that the investigation of Schedule I drugs—and this is more than fentanyl-related substances—should be easier,” the law enforcement officer. medical expert and George Washington University professor Victor Weedn says. In addition to fentalogs, drugs such as cannabis and psilocybin are also classified as Schedule I, which has also hindered research on those substances.
The discovery of new drugs for addiction can be a major breakthrough for public health. Naloxone—often called by its brand name, Narcan—is currently the only drug available to treat opioid overdose. Molecularly similar to the opioid oxymorphone, naloxone works by binding to opioid receptors, blocking the effects of other opioids. It is not a silver bullet, but it has become a vital life-saving tool. It’s often rare, though—and it’s expensive.
“Anything we can do that increases the flexibility of the market can help to address the supply chain problem and lower prices,” said Stacy McKenna, harm reduction fellow at the liberal think tank R Street Institute. “And there may be something that works better to help reverse fentanyl overdose.”
Although naloxone can reverse a fentanyl overdose, it is not always as effective as it is with weaker opioids. “One problem is drug addiction,” says Traynor. A dose of naloxone that would revive a heroin overdose may run out for someone who has taken fentanyl, causing their withdrawal symptoms to return. This means that multiple doses of naloxone may be necessary to stop a fentanyl overdose—bad news for people who can have a single effective dose. If there’s an alternative out there that’s more effective in reversing fentanyl overdoses, it might be a life-saving earthquake.