Australia is the first country to allow patients with depression or PTSD to prescribe psychedelics

FILE – The artwork on display is seen at the Psychedelic Science conference at the Colorado Convention Center on Wednesday, June 21, 2023 in Denver. Australia is the first country to allow psychiatrists to prescribe certain psychedelics to patients with depression or PTSD. On Saturday July 1, Australian doctors can now prescribe doses of MDMA, also known as ecstasy, for PTSD. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, Files)

SYDNEY (AP) Australia is now the first country to allow psychiatrists to prescribe certain psychedelics to patients with depression or PTSD.

Starting Saturday, Australian doctors can prescribe doses of MDMA, also known as ecstasy, for PTSD. Psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in psychedelic mushrooms, can be administered to people suffering from difficult-to-treat depression. The country placed the two drugs on the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s list of approved medicines.

Scientists in Australia were surprised by the move, which was announced in February but went into effect on July 1. One scientist said he puts Australia at the forefront of research in this field.

Chris Langmead, deputy director of the Neuromedicines Discovery Center at the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, said there has been very little progress in treating persistent mental health problems over the past 50 years.

Growing cultural acceptance has led two US states to pass measures for their use: Oregon was the first to legalize psilocybin use by adults, and Colorado voters decriminalized psilocybin in 2022. Days ago, the president’s younger brother Joe Biden said in a radio interview that the president has been very open in the conversations the two have had about the benefits of psychedelics as a form of medical treatment.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration designated psilocybin a Breakthrough Therapy in 2018, a label designed to expedite the development and review of drugs to treat a serious condition. Psychedelic drug researchers have received federal grants, including Johns Hopkins, and the FDA late last month released draft guidance for researchers designing clinical trials to test psychedelic drugs as potential treatments for a variety of medical conditions .

However, the American Psychiatric Association has not approved the use of psychedelics in treatment, noting that the FDA has yet to offer a definitive determination.

And medical experts in the United States and elsewhere, including Australia, have warned that more research is needed into the effectiveness of drugs and the extent of the risks of psychedelics, which can cause hallucinations.

There are concerns that the evidence remains inadequate and that the transition to clinical service is premature; that incompetent or poorly equipped doctors could flood the space; that treatment will be untenable for most; that formal oversight of education, treatment and patient outcomes will be minimal or ill-informed, said Dr. Paul Liknaitzky, head of the Clinical Psychedelic Lab at Monash University.

In addition, the drugs will cost Australia about $10,000 (about $6,600 US dollars) per patient to treat.

Litnaitzky said the opportunity for Australians to access medicines for specific conditions is unique.

There is excitement about drug policy advances, he said, for the prospect of being able to offer patients more tailored and tailored treatment without the constraints imposed by clinical trials and rigid protocols.

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