Two research teams in Australia have received over A$3 million to study psychedelic therapies, using MDMA and psilocybin, for the treatment of mental illness.
The sum of over A$3 million was awarded by the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) under the Australian Government’s ‘Innovative Therapies for Mental Illness Grant’, Forbes reports.
Only last year, an Australian doctor fought a legal battle with the state for permission to treat his patient’s severe depression with MDMA.
This grant symbolises the evolution of the Australian government’s stance on the usefulness of psychedelic substances for the treatment of mental conditions like alcohol misuse, eating disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
A recent decision by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) rejected an application to recategorize MDMA and psilocybin as Schedule 8 drugs, which would allow them to be used in medically controlled environments. As it stands, MDMA and psilocybin remain Schedule 9 drugs, meaning they are prohibited substances.
How will the research money be used?
The MRFF is a multibillion-dollar government fund focussed on long-term investment into Australian health and medical research.
The awarded sum will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of MDMA-assisted therapy in the treatment of combined PTSD and alcohol use disorder, alongside a clinical trial of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy for the treatment of anorexia nervosa.
A recent publication from the University of Sydney notes that the aim of the grant is to “accelerate global efforts to find new treatments for mental illness.”
To do so, it is noted that the research efforts will be combined with international collaboration by prominent psychedelic researchers at Imperial College and Johns Hopkins University, in order to develop innovative and effective therapies.
“There is a high rate of comorbidity between alcohol use disorders and PTSD, which is associated with greater clinical impairment, poorer prognosis and greater treatment attrition,” explains Kirsten Morley, Associate Professor from the University of Sydney.
“We urgently require innovative integrated treatments that can enhance outcomes for patients with these treatment resistant complexities,” she continues, “one promising agent that can enhance psychotherapy is MDMA.”
The psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy trial will seek to develop an effective treatment for anorexia nerviosa, a condition which “continues to have one of the highest mortality rates in psychiatry,” said Professor Stephen Touyz. “It is an extremely debilitating and pervasive disorder that can result in immense suffering for those afflicted by it.”
“It is hoped that this psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy trial will be able to demonstrate improved clinical outcomes, especially in those patients where other treatments have failed,” he adds.
This MRFF funding is set to propel Australia into the international psychedelic arena by furthering the research into the therapeutic potential of medicinal compounds like MDMA and psilocybin.
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