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Australia Becomes First Country to Legalize Psychedelic Therapy for Mental Health Treatment

Correspondent Correspondent
Saturday, July 01, 2023
Australia Becomes First Country to Legalize Psychedelic Therapy for Mental Health Treatment
Australia Becomes First Country to Legalize Psychedelic Therapy.

Canberra—Australia has taken a groundbreaking step in the field of mental health by becoming the first country in the world to legalize the therapeutic use of MDMA (commonly known as ecstasy) and psilocybin (magic mushrooms). Starting July 1, authorized psychiatrists will have the ability to prescribe these substances to patients suffering from specific mental health conditions.

While Canada and the United States allow the medical use of MDMA and psilocybin in clinical trials or under special permits, Australia's move marks the first time these psychedelics can be legally prescribed by psychiatrists.

In order to ensure the safe administration of these drugs, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists has established strict guidelines for psychedelic therapy. Under these new standards, MDMA and psilocybin can only be administered in a hospital or clinic setting, where two psychotherapists must be present for six to eight hours to closely monitor the patient. However, the organization acknowledges that due to a shortage of mental health professionals, there may be limitations on the number of therapists who can fulfill these conditions.

The decision to legalize psychedelic therapy has garnered mixed reactions from experts in the field. Many scientists and mental health professionals consider it a game-changer, offering new avenues for treatment. However, some caution against overhyping the move, emphasizing the importance of conducting further research to understand the long-term effects of this therapy.

Dr. Mike Musker, a mental health researcher at the University of South Australia, stresses the need for careful monitoring and personalized treatment plans. He explains that patients undergoing MDMA therapy, for instance, would likely receive three treatments over a span of five to eight weeks, with each session lasting approximately eight hours. The therapist would remain with the patient throughout the treatment to ensure safety and support.

Prof Rossell, leading Australia's largest psilocybin trial for depression, emphasizes the importance of additional research to evaluate the therapy's long-term outcomes.

Experts believe that MDMA can be particularly useful in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to its ability to facilitate connection and help patients discuss challenging experiences. On the other hand, psilocybin offers a unique "psycho-spiritual effect" that traditional medications lack, potentially leading to a different perspective on life and increased motivation to live.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) of Australia caused a stir in the medical and scientific communities when it reclassified MDMA and psilocybin in February. The TGA deemed the drugs "relatively safe" when used within a controlled medical environment for patients with serious mental health conditions. Outside of therapeutic use, both MDMA and psilocybin remain illegal in Australia.