Australia

Psilocybin

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  1. Psilocybin-assisted therapy for depression (MDD and TRD) is finishing phase II clinical trials and may become a licensed therapy as early as 2025.
  2. Academic studies conducted around the world using psilocybin with accompanying psychological support (PAT) are demonstrating rapid and long-lasting positive effects on patients suffering from depression and anxiety. In one study the positive effects were still evident up to four and a half years later.
  3. Next to health care reimbursed therapies, decriminalisation efforts are opening another avenue through which psilocybin, ‘magic mushrooms’, can become a tool for the improvement of mental well-being.

Psilocybin is a psychedelic that can be derived from over 200 varieties of fungi. Since its isolation in 1958 by Albert Hofmann, a variety of synthetic methods for producing psilocybin have been found. A human body quickly metabolises psilocybin into psilocin which is the pharmacologically active agent which interacts with several serotonin receptors in the brain. Specifically, it is best known for being a 5-HT2a agonist, meaning it can change serotonin activity in the human brain and disrupt dysfunctional brain connectivity. Through these and other mechanisms, psilocybin thus offers a potent new alternative for the treatment of a wide variety of mental health conditions.

Psilocybin in Australia

In August 2020, the Green Party in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) committed to supporting the introduction of regulated psychedelic therapies as part of its drug law reform election platform. Although the changes to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) at the start of the year were not honoured, more money is going towards research that could provide evidence for allowing the therapeutic use of psilocybin in Australia.

In Australia, Mind Medicine Australia (MMA) and St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne, are cooperating on a psilocybin study on anxiety in terminally ill cancer patients. MMA is a registered charity that aims to support safe and effective psychedelic-assisted treatments, via clinical research. MMA focuses specifically on the clinical application of medicinal psilocybin and medicinal MDMA for mental health conditions, such as PTSD and anxiety.

This effort is greatly assisted by the recent AU$15 million competitive grant that was launched in March 2021, only weeks after the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) had rejected access for mental health professionals to use psychedelics. The money will be used to fund clinical trials in Australia with psilocybin, MDMA and other psychedelics.

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