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Australia first country to approve psychedelics for mental health treatment

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Australia has made history by becoming the first country to permit psychiatrists to prescribe certain psychedelic substances as part of the treatment for patients suffering from depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Effective from 1  July, Australian physicians are now authorised to prescribe MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy, for PTSD, while psilocybin, the psychoactive component in psychedelic mushrooms, can be administered to individuals with treatment-resistant depression.

These psychedelic substances have been added to the approved medicines list by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

Related: Australia takes a bold step forward, approves psychedelic mushrooms for treatment-resistant depression

The decision, announced in February and implemented in July, has surprised many scientists in Australia, who acknowledge that it positions the country at the forefront of research in this field. Chris Langmead, Deputy Director of the Neuromedicine Discovery Centre at the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, emphasised the lack of significant advancements in the treatment of persistent mental health issues over the past five decades.

Australia’s progressive stance on psychedelic treatment mirrors the growing cultural acceptance observed in other regions.

Dr Paul Liknaitzky, the Head of Monash University’s Clinical Psychedelic Lab, expressed concerns about the premature transition to clinical services, inadequate evidence, potential flooding of the space by unqualified clinicians, limited affordability for most patients, and insufficient oversight of training, treatment, and patient outcomes.

Moreover, the cost of psychedelic treatment in Australia is expected to be significant, amounting to approximately $10,000 per patient.

Despite these concerns, there is considerable excitement within the Australian medical community about the progress in drug policy and the opportunity to provide more personalised and suitable treatments to patients without the constraints imposed by clinical trials and rigid protocols, as explained by Dr Liknaitzky.

Australia’s pioneering move to allow the prescription of psychedelics for specific mental health conditions reflects a shifting paradigm in the field of psychiatric medicine. While challenges and questions remain, it marks a significant step towards exploring alternative treatments for individuals battling depression and PTSD.

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