Usually when we think of MDMA, Molly’s, Ecstasy, or Methamphetamine in the context of toxicology, we think of poisoning and overdose. This blog is about the opposite, the treatment of depression and anxiety with very low doses of these methamphetamine-derived substances. And the results have been surprising good.The federal government has announced it will pour millions of dollars into clinical trials using psychedelics like magic mushrooms and MDMA to see if they can help treat debilitating mental illnesses.
The government is investing $15 million in grants to support Australian-led research into the use of magic mushrooms, ecstasy and ketamine to combat illnesses like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depressive disorder, addiction disorders and eating disorders.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said it was vital the government continued to search for new and better treatments for mental illness.
“The early results of trials in Australia and internationally are extremely encouraging,” he said.
“But more research is desperately needed before these approaches can be used by psychiatrists outside of controlled clinical trials.
“This grant opportunity will boost local research into potentially life-saving therapies and offers hope to all those suffering from mental illness, including our veterans and emergency service personnel dealing with the devastating effects of PTSD.”
It’s estimated 4 million Australians experience a mental health disorder every year, and almost half of all Australians will be affected at some point in their lifetime.
Many of the standard treatments for these illnesses vary greatly in how effective they are, and there haven’t been many major pharmaceutical discoveries in this area in recent years.
At the same time, once dismissed as dangerous party drugs, psychedelics are gaining mainstream acceptance in the medical world as ways to treat mental illnesses such as depression and PTSD.
The idea of treating mental illness with psychedelics has been around for a while (even centuries in some cultures), but there’s been a gap in the research into their potential use as a treatment for mental illnesses because they were declared prohibited substances in the 1960s.
Australia’s national medical regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, currently doesn’t recognise MDMA and psilocybin as legitimate medicines to treat psychiatric conditions.
But that could change, depending on these trial results.
Worldwide, there are currently about 100 psychedelic trials for the treatment of depression, anxiety, alcohol and drug-use disorders, dementia, anorexia and chronic pain.
Psilocybin-assisted therapy for depression and MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD have been given “breakthrough therapy” designation from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States.
That means the FDA believes the therapies may offer substantial advantages over current therapies, and have therefore been expedited in their transition to prescribed medicines (although it hinges on the results from clinical trials).
RANZCP president John Allan said while further research was required to assess the safety and effectiveness of psychedelics, preliminary studies showed positive results.
“We are seeing limited but emerging evidence that psychedelic therapies may have therapeutic benefits in the treatment of a range of mental illnesses, such as PTSD substance abuse and depression,” he said.