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Australia Legalises Psychedelics For Mental Health Treatment: How Does It Work?

Psychiatrists in Australia can now prescribe magic mushrooms to individuals with certain types of depression.

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Australia has become the first country in the world to legalise the use of psychedelics to treat certain mental health disorders.

Psychiatrists can now prescribe MDMA, popularly known as the party drug ‘ecstasy’ to those suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder, and magic mushrooms to individuals with certain types of depression.  

This controversial move is being viewed as a game-changer by several scientists and mental health experts, however some experts have also labelled this decision as hasty.

The Big Point

As of 1 July, Australia has become the first country to allow the use of psychedelic drugs such as MDMA and magic mushrooms to treat psychiatric conditions such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Australia’s drug regulator, The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has approved the move after a three-year-long process with extensive consultation with experts regarding the decision.

Each treatment is set out to last 8 hours with a patient undergoing 3 treatments over a course of 5 to eight weeks.

Australia Legalises Psychedelics For Mental Health Treatment: How Does It Work?

  1. 1. What Are These Drugs?

    However, the treatment is said to burn a hole through pockets with each course costing tens of thousands of dollars, said Australian Media.

    The psychiatrist stays with the patient through the course of the eight hours the drug lasts.

    Although countries such as The United States of America, Canada, and Israel allow individual use of the drugs, it only for clinical trials or on compassionate grounds.

    MDMA, also known as molly or ecstasy is a synthetic party drug that alters mood and perception. The drug is a hallucinogen that modifies awareness of surrounding objects, distorts sensory and time perception and increases levels of energy and pleasure, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

    MDMA mainly impacts three brain chemicals:

    • Dopamine: Responsible for the reward system and increased energy/activity.

    • Norepinephrine: Responsible for increased heart rate and blood pressure.

    • Serotonin: Responsible for regulating mood, sleep, appetite, and can also influence sexual arousal and trust. Thus, large amounts of serotonin in the body can trigger feelings of empathy, emotional closeness, and an overall elevated mood.

    Magic Mushrooms are mushrooms containing hallucinogens, usually either psilocybin or psilocin. Intake of these can cause feelings ranging from euphoria to distortion of sensory perception and hallucinations, as explained by Medical News Today.

    Although the drug is not seemingly addictive, it can cause feelings of anxiety, and panic, or induce disturbing hallucinations.

    Further, consumption of magic mushrooms can lead to ‘bad trips’ or ‘flashbacks’ according to Canada Ca.

    Expand
  2. 2. What Are The Concerns Surrounding This Treatment?

    According to Dr Mike Musker, a mental health researcher at the University of South Australia, using magic mushrooms or MDMA for mental health conditions should not pose as a case of “take a pill and go away,” reported India Today.

    Although Dr Musker called this move a ‘game-changer,’ people have also reportedly experienced bad trips or relived their trauma.

    "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,"
    Dr Mike Musker reported India Today

    Susan Rossell, a psychiatrist at Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, who is currently working on Australia’s active clinical trial testing psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy for treatment-resistant depression stated that it is yet to be figured out which patients are best suited for the treatment.

    She further spoke about how if these drugs are administered improperly, it could cause people to have bad trips and leave them with increased psychological issues. That’s the worst-case scenario,” she says, according to Nature Journal.

    Moreover, her own unpublished paper states that 10-20% of the participants in the trial have a “really terrible time” with these drugs, reported Nature Journal.

    How Will The Drugs Be Prescribed?

    Psychiatrists will prescribe the drug using the TGA’s Authorised Prescriber Scheme, which permits registered psychiatrists to prescribe medication that is yet to be formally added on Australia’s register of therapeutic goods.

    The TGA spoke about how those prescribing MDMA and psilocybin are required to follow the code of conduct published by the Medical Board of Australia.

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

However, the treatment is said to burn a hole through pockets with each course costing tens of thousands of dollars, said Australian Media.

The psychiatrist stays with the patient through the course of the eight hours the drug lasts.

Although countries such as The United States of America, Canada, and Israel allow individual use of the drugs, it only for clinical trials or on compassionate grounds.

What Are These Drugs?

MDMA, also known as molly or ecstasy is a synthetic party drug that alters mood and perception. The drug is a hallucinogen that modifies awareness of surrounding objects, distorts sensory and time perception and increases levels of energy and pleasure, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

MDMA mainly impacts three brain chemicals:

  • Dopamine: Responsible for the reward system and increased energy/activity.

  • Norepinephrine: Responsible for increased heart rate and blood pressure.

  • Serotonin: Responsible for regulating mood, sleep, appetite, and can also influence sexual arousal and trust. Thus, large amounts of serotonin in the body can trigger feelings of empathy, emotional closeness, and an overall elevated mood.

Magic Mushrooms are mushrooms containing hallucinogens, usually either psilocybin or psilocin. Intake of these can cause feelings ranging from euphoria to distortion of sensory perception and hallucinations, as explained by Medical News Today.

Although the drug is not seemingly addictive, it can cause feelings of anxiety, and panic, or induce disturbing hallucinations.

Further, consumption of magic mushrooms can lead to ‘bad trips’ or ‘flashbacks’ according to Canada Ca.

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What Are The Concerns Surrounding This Treatment?

According to Dr Mike Musker, a mental health researcher at the University of South Australia, using magic mushrooms or MDMA for mental health conditions should not pose as a case of “take a pill and go away,” reported India Today.

Although Dr Musker called this move a ‘game-changer,’ people have also reportedly experienced bad trips or relived their trauma.

"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,"
Dr Mike Musker reported India Today

Susan Rossell, a psychiatrist at Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, who is currently working on Australia’s active clinical trial testing psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy for treatment-resistant depression stated that it is yet to be figured out which patients are best suited for the treatment.

She further spoke about how if these drugs are administered improperly, it could cause people to have bad trips and leave them with increased psychological issues. That’s the worst-case scenario,” she says, according to Nature Journal.

Moreover, her own unpublished paper states that 10-20% of the participants in the trial have a “really terrible time” with these drugs, reported Nature Journal.

How Will The Drugs Be Prescribed?

Psychiatrists will prescribe the drug using the TGA’s Authorised Prescriber Scheme, which permits registered psychiatrists to prescribe medication that is yet to be formally added on Australia’s register of therapeutic goods.

The TGA spoke about how those prescribing MDMA and psilocybin are required to follow the code of conduct published by the Medical Board of Australia.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Australia   Depression   Mental Health 

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