Last updated August 1, 2018 at 10:14 am
The law is holding back research into the remarkable potential of psychedelic drugs to treat mental illness.
Australia is missing out on the potential value of psychedelic drugs due to a combination of conservatism, prejudice and misinformation, according to two leading psychologists.
They say it is time to catch up with overseas researchers, who have been investigating the likes of LSD and psilocybin (the active compound in “magic mushrooms”) to treat mental illnesses such as post-traumatic stress, depression and anxiety for more than 15 years.
If we don’t, we risk “losing any vestigial reputation as a nation of innovators”, write Dr Stephen Bright from Edith Cowan University and Dr Martin Williams from Monash University
They argue that the absence of psychedelic research in Australia limits the opportunities for people with treatment-resistant mental disorders, or those who experience significant adverse side effects from current medications, to access alternative treatments that may well relieve their suffering.
“We face the real possibility of patients electing to travel overseas for therapies that appear to be unavailable to them on ideological grounds alone, as the risks associated with psychedelic psychotherapy are demonstrably negligible.
“Finally, in terms of health economics, the increasing cost of mental healthcare also provides a significant incentive for these approaches to be explored.”
The authors say drug companies lack an incentive to develop psychedelic treatments because most cannot be patented and patients are often only prescribed two to three doses.
They say their review of international psychedelic science activities shows evidence is mounting that psychedelics hold promise in enhancing psychotherapy and furthering current understandings of the brain.
“Given that there is no psychedelic science program in Australia, we propose that Australian psychologists join the global biomedical community and engage in formal psychedelic research.”
The paper was published in Australian Psychologist.