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182 – Psychedelics & Recreational Drugs

Read full show notes here: https://bit.ly/3EwSJ2y

David Nutt is a psychiatrist, neuroscientist, and the Director of the Neuropsychopharmacology Unit in the Division of Brain Sciences at the Imperial College London. His research focuses on illicit drugs—their harm, classification, and potential for therapeutic use in psychiatry. In this episode, David discusses his framework for assessing the potential harm caused by common recreational drugs and explains how they are regulated, which is oftentimes misaligned with actual risk. He describes in detail the neurobiology, mechanisms of action, and addiction potential of alcohol, opiates, cocaine, and methamphetamine and contrasts those with psychedelics, which have been given a similar regulatory classification despite their relatively low risk of harm and their numerous potential therapeutic uses. Additionally, David explains the promise of psychedelics like ketamine, MDMA, and psilocybin for treating drug addiction and depression and discusses how political pressures have created roadblocks to future necessary research.

We discuss:
00:00:00 – intro
00:00:10 – David’s early interest in the brain and experience in psychiatry
00:08:00 – David’s brief work on government drug policy in the UK
00:11:20 – A scale for rating the relative harm of certain drugs
00:17:44 – The contrast in regulation between cannabis vs. alcohol and why research on potential benefits of cannabis is lacking
00:23:35 – The opiate crisis and rise of fentanyl: the cause and potential solution
00:33:11 – The science of addiction and the potential use of psychedelics for treating drug addiction
00:41:32 – Cocaine: mechanisms of action and risks
00:48:38 – Methamphetamine and crystal meth: mechanisms of action and neurotoxicity
00:53:12 – How psychedelics came to be classified as schedule I drugs despite their numerous therapeutic uses
01:09:45 – The history of MDMA and the bad science and political forces leading to its demonization
01:14:26 – History of ketamine, medical use of esketamine, and the waning effects of psychedelics with increasing usage
01:21:28 – Psilocybin for depression: David’s promising research and the roadblocks to more robust experiments


The Peter Attia Drive is a weekly, ultra-deep-dive podcast focusing on maximizing health, longevity, critical thinking…and a few other things. With over 35 million episodes downloaded, it features topics including fasting, ketosis, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, mental health, and much more.

Peter is a physician focusing on the applied science of longevity. His practice deals extensively with nutritional interventions, exercise physiology, sleep physiology, emotional and mental health, and pharmacology to increase lifespan (delay the onset of chronic disease), while simultaneously improving healthspan (quality of life).

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