Blog post

The unexpected truth about drugs

Our job at DrugScience is bringing you the scientific truth about drugs. But the scientific truth isn’t a completed body of knowledge like a bible. When scientists talk about ‘facts’ or ‘truths’ they mean the consensus supported by the evidence. Some of these facts are pretty rock solid; we’re not going to find out next week that the melting point of heroin has changed;- , whereas some of our theories will continue to change and evolve as the evidence is collected and reviewed. This uncertainty and incompleteness is a strength of the scientific method,  not a weakness, in comparison to the false certainties about drugs offered by certain ideologies.

The truth about drugs? The truth is – we know a huge amount, yet in some areas, we’re only scraping the surface. I’ve worked in the field for decades and there have been some incredible discoveries but we are frustratingly far from knowing everything we can and should about recreational drug use as well as how those drugs might be used medically.

 The truth about the effects drugs have is that they can work in completely unexpected ways – I carried out a study looking at how magic mushrooms work in the brain and it turns out that hallucinations happen when brain activity dampens down rather than lighting up as we were expecting. This had significance for how the active ingredient in magic mushrooms might be used to help people with depression.

There are unexpected truths about drug use as well – some harms are massively overplayed (like LSD and flashbacks) whilst other important harms are only just coming to our attention, (such as the damage ketamine can do to the bladder, brought to the public’s attention through our 2011 review). The truth about drug control is that what we do know about drugs doesn’t much affect policy and if does, it’s generally because it fits with existing policy or aims.

It’s well known that I think that globally, governments need to radically rethink how they approach drugs. I’m glad to say there are more glimmers of progress than ever before in my lifetime. However, we don’t need to wait for them to get their act together. The truth about drug harms is that we have the power to reduce them now – without changing the law, without lobbying about policy and without the need for a complicated campaign. We can do it through promoting the evidence, anywhere and everywhere. We need to disseminate good information and challenge bad. We need to question the media’s portrayals of drugs issues and research and call them to account when they get things wrong. We need you to get involved in creating a safer world for everyone and we need you to help us continue telling the truth about drugs. Please donate now. We can't do it without you.


  1. Jak

    Jak on 04/28/2014 6:31 a.m. #

    Difficult to add to this, except to say 'Thank You'. The recent pharma companies 'all trials' process, has indicated how those in power are not necessarily acting transparently nor in the best interests of the people [who are not their shareholders].

  2. Derek Williams

    Derek Williams on 04/29/2014 3:43 a.m. #

    No, it can't be done without legalisation and proper control of the trade in drugs. Simply, if we don't know what people are taking, we can't possibly learn what the effects of drugs really are.

  3. Eva

    Eva on 09/12/2014 6:25 p.m. #

    Hello, I am a student of medical chemistry, please I have some questions for you and I have very important information for you about drugs. Please If you may, i will be like, when you will be contact me via my email

    Thank you very much

  4. Eddie V

    Eddie V on 01/06/2015 4:36 a.m. #

    Isn't it the case that drug companies have become so powerful that they are no longer accountable for their actions. Take the recent Ebola crisis,the major pharmaceuticals stated that it wasn't viable for them to manufacture vaccines until governments committed to purchase in massive volumes. Is that beneficial for society in general?

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