Organisations in Australia are currently campaigning to make it easier for doctors to prescribe MDMA and psilocybin (found in magic mushrooms). Clinicians and researchers have long been exploring the benefits of these substances for helping those with mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Despite their therapeutic properties, MDMA and psilocybin are banned in Australia, preventing much-needed treatment for people struggling with these illnesses.
In August, Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) opened submissions for the rescheduling of psilocybin and MDMA to provide better access to these psychoactive substances for clinical therapies. One organisation campaigning for the rescheduling is Mind Medicine, who lodged the nations first proposal to the TGA. With submissions recently reaching the cut off date - could psychoactive therapy soon be on the cards?
How would the rescheduling impact Australian healthcare?
The proposal seeks to allow psychiatrists and specialist addiction physicians to more easily access these medicines to provide treatment for patients suffering from depression, PTSD and other forms of depression and anxiety associated with a terminal illness diagnosis. If these treatments are successful, Mind Medicine hopes to see MDMA and psilocybin made available to assist with substance abuse, OCD, anorexia and early-stage dementia.
If the proposal goes ahead, it could mean that Aussies with certain mental illnesses can access treatment with medical-grade MDMA and be prescribed psilocybin. These drug-assisted psychotherapies involve limited doses over two or three sessions of eight to 10 hours - with the treatment rivalling the effectiveness of conventional therapies that take a number of years.
What’s the rest of the world doing?
The idea of MDMA-assisted therapy is not new. The U.S. Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) has made MDMA-assisted therapy one of its highest priorities in recent years with the view to assisting patients with PTSD. If everything goes to plan, the Food and Drug Administration will approve MDMA-assisted psychotherapy treatment in America by 2023.
MAPS is currently studying whether MDMA-assisted therapy can help heal patients who have experienced sexual assault, war, violent crime, and other psychological and emotional traumas. The organisation also supported studies for how this kind of treatment can assist autistic adults with social anxiety, as well as those who experience anxiety related to life-threatening illnesses.
With the TGA recently closing submissions for the rescheduling of MDMA and psilocybin, we look forward to an interim decision being published on 3 February 2021. The TGA will be inviting comments at this point from those who made a submission in the first round. We will also be keeping a keen eye on findings from the St Vincent’s Hospital trial for psilocybin-assisted therapy. So stay tuned!
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- Mind Medicine Australia. 2020. TGA RESCHEDULING SUBMISSIONS. [online] Available at: <https://mindmedicineaustralia.org/tga/> [Accessed September 2020].
- ABC. 2020. Treating Mental Illness With Mushies And MDMA: The Regulator Wants To Know What You Think. [online] Available at: <https://www.abc.net.au/triplej/programs/hack/proposal-to-treat-mental-illness-with-magic-mushrooms-and-mdma/12622680> [Accessed September 2020].
- Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. 2020. MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy. [online] Available at: <https://maps.org/research/mdma> [Accessed September 2020].