Last week, Australia made headlines around the world for being the first country ever that legally allowed MDMA and magic mushrooms to be prescribed by licensed psychiatrists for the treatment of mental health conditions. This is surprisingly good news albeit controversial, considering that medical marijuana laws are still lagging behind Down Under.
Psilocybin magic mushrooms and MDMA have both been approved as medications by the Therapeutic Goods Administration; the former for certain kinds of treatment-resistant depression and MDMA for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These regulations became law effective July 1, 2023.
However, treatment and therapy is not cheap. According to BBC, experts have said one course of treatment will easily cost several thousand dollars. Patients would have to take the medications under supervision, and according to University of South Australia’s Dr. Mike Musker, not involving telling patients to just take a pill and go home. Musker disclosed to the AFP that as an example, an MDMA patient would need 3 courses of treatment over 5-8 weeks. The sessions could last up to 8 hours, and a therapist will be supervising the patient entirely.
“I have read about stories where people have had what you call bad trips, or actually they’ve re-experienced their trauma, and so we’ve got to take great caution,” says Dr. Musker.
“It is early compared to the usual process of developing and rolling out new treatments,” says Dr. Colleen Loo to CNN. Loo, a psychiatry professor at the Black Dog Institute and University of New South Wales, is part of The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP), which helped come up with the guidelines on how psychedelic medications should be monitored. “The main issue is that the public understand this, and don’t think that the TGA making these drugs available means that the level of evidence of efficacy and safety is comparable to that usually required for new treatments, before they are approved for clinical use,” she says.
“Done responsibly, e.g. observing the guidance of the RANZCP, it could mean that some people access a useful treatment. Done without due caution, oversight, and monitoring, including by the regulatory authorities, it could mean more harm than good,” she tells CNN via email.
A New Era For Psychedelics
Just a few years ago, it was nearly unimaginable that medical experts would seriously be considering psychedelic use – what more party drugs – as medications. However, the studies are in: there is significant growing body of evidence that psychedelics, most especially psilocybin magic mushrooms, MDMA, and LSD are indeed therapeutic especially for mental health conditions that are afflicting millions around the world.
Research into psychedelic-assisted therapy already began, though was stopped during the 1970s because during this time, pharmaceutical research had to undergo stricter regulations. Because of this, there was a lack of controlled clinical trials plus a lack of interest in the pharmaceutical industry for backing the clinical trials needed. It did not help, either, that a few years prior – in 1966 specifically – the Food and Drug Administration stopped all research on LSD. That didn’t stop the popularity of LSD from getting into mainstream popular culture, plus it was the heyday of psychedelics, what with the hippie culture movement and all that.
Then there was the War on Drugs, a movement led by former US President Richard Nixon, who declared that all drugs were “public enemy number one” then went on to add them to the Schedule 1 controlled substances list. This eventually caused even more research on psychedelics to be halted, and eventually it was frowned upon in cultures around the world because of misinformation deliberately spread about its “dangers”.
But psychedelics were not forgotten.
Many scientists and doctors took it upon themselves to study older bodies of research on various psychedelic drugs. Other experts, such as Michael Pollan and Paul Stamets, began speaking out about the benefits of magic mushrooms. Through the decades, people continued to take MDMA, ketamine, and LSD – illegally.
For some reason, from 2018 onwards, there began a growing movement to once again begin research on psychedelics as well as psychedelic therapy. The pioneers such as Albert Hoffman, Timothy Leary, Abram Hoffer, Humphry Osmond, Keith Ditman and many more were definitely on to something – and people were interested to find out. Organizations, most particularly MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies), are entirely dedicated to promoting scientific and clinical data on the benefits of these drugs that were viewed as harmful in the past.
Today in 2023, psychedelics have clearly reached a new era where it’s now possible in certain destinations to safely take these once-called party drugs in a clinical setting and use them to overcome mental conditions that pharmaceutical treatments were not successful in managing.
Definitely, having the supervision of a licensed and experienced expert will increase safe experiences of patients. It’s much better than giving them out freely, especially to a public who lacks the education given that we are still in the process of fighting the stigma left behind by the War on Drugs. Right now, many therapists are undergoing training to help patients get the most possible out of their experience and steer their session to one that’s as positive and productive as possible, much like with an actual therapist – but this time with a drug.
Psychedelic therapy is the future.
It’s not like tripping out on magic mushrooms or acid with your friends. The risk of a bad trip is always possible, but with the guidance of an expert, this can all be reduced. Struggling patients can now look forward to new possibilities with the aid of psychedelic medicine and therapy combined. (Full Story)