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Campaign for sensible access to psychedelic therapies

Promising new treatments for PTSD and treatment resistant depression are being hampered by restrictive rules which need to change.

Advocates for mental health reform are fronting a campaign to remove NSW specific obstacles to new treatments that have become available across Australia for patients with treatment-resistant depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

Last year, the TGA rescheduled the use of psilocybin and MDMA as controlled medicines when used as part of therapy for patients suffering from treatment resistant depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  The therapies have shown strong results in overseas clinical trials over many years. 

I joined former Federal Minister Andrew Robb, NSW psychiatrist Dr Ted Cassidy, Mind Medicine Australia (MMA) Chairman Peter Hunt, and patient advocates call for NSW to drop the restrictive requirement for dosing sessions to only occur at a mental health hospital rather than the psychiatrist’s day clinic set out in the psychiatrist’s authority to prescribe. 

“Of course, there must be a balance between guarding against adverse outcomes on the one hand, and providing relief to people whose life has become unbearable on the other.

“In NSW, we currently have that balance wrong and it’s causing untold needless suffering and loss of life.” 

Former Federal Coalition Minister Andrew Robb has been open about his long history with depression.

“All we are asking is that NSW adopt the same clinical approach for Psychedelic Assisted Therapy already in place in Victoria and Queensland,” Mr Robb said. 

“There is no need to restrict patients to mental health hospitals, which are expensive, can have bad connotations for some patients and are already strained to capacity. 

“Patients with treatment-resistant depression or post-traumatic stress disorder are already battling some of the most debilitating mental health challenges. They deserve our support, not further barriers to treatment.” 

In January this year, the first two patients received treatment with MDMA as part of therapy in Melbourne after Australia became the first nation globally to allow psychiatrists to use medicinal psilocybin and medicinal MDMA on a restricted basis. In one case the patient, the psychiatrist and the clinical psychologist involved in the treatment, who were all residents of NSW, had to travel to Melbourne for the medicine dosing sessions because of the regulatory obstacles in NSW. 

Patient advocate Vanessa B. was influential in the legalisation of psilocybin and MDMA assisted therapy. 

Her husband, Franco, took his own life after he was administered 96 treatments of electro-shock therapy, was prescribed 19 different anti-depressant medications, and received 24 transcranial magnetic stimulations. 

“The side effects from Franco’s treatment were so severe that he could no longer remember the route to his own daughter’s school, let alone his mother’s house just around the corner,” Vanessa said. 

“This was Franco’s reality, and this remains the reality for thousands for Australians suffering from treatment-resistant mental illnesses today. 

“We owe it to those people suffering from these debilitating conditions who live in NSW to urgently remove a senseless obstacle so that these exciting new treatments can be made available to appropriate patients in the day clinic of their psychiatrist who has been approved to prescribe these medicines by the TGA.” 

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