2023, A Great Year for Drug Research

Liz Filmer
16 Mar 2023

Drug policy struggles from a Catch-22 situation: we don't know how hazardous or advantageous some drugs are because they aren't investigated enough. And we can't review them quickly because many transnational administrations consider them too dangerous. Hence, any research becomes bogged down by red tape.

Defining cannabis like this is irrational because cannabis-derived drugs like Epidiolex and Dronabinol are globally endorsed medications. Cannabis has widespread medical use. However, due to further barriers specific to cannabis, the plant is even more complicated to study than other schedule 1 drug, including heroin.

Science and public health supporters have criticised this approach for as long as it has existed. However, in 2022, the United States saw a marked shift in drug research, with 2023 promising to be even better. In December 2022, President Biden signed a research bill into law to remove obstacles to research that could lead to the blossoming of more compelling cannabis-based medicines. As a result, in 2022, more than 4,300 scientific articles about weed were published worldwide, breaking 2021's record of over 4,200 papers.

Biden has also recently requested Attorney General Eric Garland and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to reevaluate how cannabis is scheduled and why. "We classify marijuana at the same level as heroin – and more serious than fentanyl. It makes no sense," said Joe Biden in a tweet in October 2022

Other drugs will also become easier to study in 2023. For example, the DEA can decide the volume of certain medicines manufactured in the U.S.A., whether for study or medical practice.

However, the DEA has just announced its drug production quotas for 2023, which have seen a significant increase compared to previous years. Cannabis production for the study is predicted to double, from 3.2 million grams in 2022 to 6.7 million grams in 2023. Numerous psychedelics will also be boosted, including unfamiliar substances like MDA and 2-CB. In addition, the production of 5-MeO-DMT, which is a drug that is derived from toad venom, is expected to more than quadruple.

This is promising news for investigators who want to understand more about how these drugs function and how they might be of medicinal use. It can also help to illustrate any potential hazards or side effects. 

Much research suggests that psychedelics can relieve multiple mental health disorders, including anxiety, depression and PTSD. But unfortunately, there is still much to learn about these incredibly complex substances. Some drug policy specialists view the federal government's regulations as outdated and guilty of holding back any potential scientific progress.

Drugs play an essential role in our society, and whether it's for better or worse, it's critical that we comprehend what they can and cannot do. But unfortunately, an outdated drug policy has made scientific research on drugs costly and tiresome for decades. Finally, however, in 2023, it looks like it will get easier for science to break down some more barriers.

Liz Filmer