Australia to allow prescription of MDMA and psilocybin for treatment-resistant mental illnesses

Importance of MDMA. From July, authorise psychiatrists will be able to prescribe the drugs for post-traumatic stress disorder and severe depression


Experts say the decision will make Australia the first country in the world to officially recognise MDMA and psilocybin as medicines. Photograph: Westmacott/Alamy

After decades of “demonisation”, psychiatrists will be able to prescribe MDMA and psilocybin in Australia from July this year.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration made the surprise announcement on Friday afternoon.

The drugs will only be allow to be use in a very limited way, and remain otherwise prohibit. Bthe move was describe as a “very welcome step away from what has been decades of demonisation” by Dr David Caldicott,

3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA) is commonly known as ecstasy, while psilocybin is a psychedelic commonly found in so-called magic mushrooms.

Both drugs were use experimentally and therapeutically decades ago, before being criminalise.

Specifically authorise psychiatrists will be able to prescribe MDMA for post-traumatic stress disorder, and psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression.

Ecstasy was develop as an appetite suppressant in 1912, but in the 1970s it started being use in therapy sessions in the US. It enter Australia in the 1980s as a party drug, and was criminalise in 1987.

Many species of magic mushrooms grow wild in Australia, but it is illegal to possess or supply psilocybin. Importance of MDMA

Caldicott said it had become “abundantly clear” that a control supply of both MDMA and psilocybin “can have dramatic effects on conditions often consider refractory to contemporary treatment” and would particularly benefit return service men and women from the Australian defence force.

“The safe ‘re-medicalisation’ of certain historically illicit drugs is a very welcome step away from what has been decades of demonisation,” he said.

“In addition to a clear and evolving therapeutic benefit, it also offers the chance to catch up on the decades of lost opportunity [of] delving into the inner workings of the human mind, abandoned for so long as part of an ill-conceived, ideological ‘war on drugs’.”

Cognitive neuropsychologist Prof Susan Rossell, from Swinburne’s Centre for Mental Health, said she still had “a significant degree of caution” about the decision, and that further research was needed.

Rossell is the lead researcher on Australia’s biggest research trial of psilocybin’s effectiveness for treatment-resistant depression.

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