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  • Australia to reclassify MDMA as medicine

    Author: AAP

Australia will become the first country in the world to recognise MDMA, the active ingredient in the party drug ecstacy, as a medicine for post traumatic stress disorder.

From July 1, the Therapeutic Goods Administration will permit specifically-authorised psychiatrists to prescribe MDMA, otherwise known as methlyenedioxymethamphetamine, for PTSD and psilocybin, the active ingredient in psychedelic mushrooms, for treatment-resistant depression.

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The two drugs will still be classified as prohibited substances and their legal use will otherwise remain limited to clinical trials.

The TGA ruling, announced on Friday afternoon, prompted immediate and mixed reaction from medical researchers and academics.

Swinburne University Professor Susan Rossell, who leads Australia's biggest trial on the effects of psilocybin on depression, is concerned more research needed to be done.

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"These treatments are not well established at all for a sufficient level of broad-scale implementation," she said.

"We've got no data on long-term outcomes at all, so that worries me a lot, which is one of the reasons why I'm doing my very large study."

Meanwhile, Australian National University associate professor David Caldicott said the classification change represented an inevitable outcome that could have occurred years ago.

"MDMA was being used as medication in 1985, when it was banned by executive order of the President of the USA, and against the advice of medical professionals and administrative agencies," he said.

"Perhaps most excitingly, many of the treatments that are emerging with these previously banned products require only a brief exposure to facilitate therapy, and not the life-long prescription of drugs that do little more than dull the edge of psychological trauma."

Dr Paul Liknaitzky leads Monash University's clinical psychedelic research project, which already delivers psychedelic-assisted therapies to clinical patients.

"We have witnessed up-close the potential of our treatment to change people's lives for the better; yet the safety and effectiveness of psychedelic therapies depends on a unique set of professional competencies and considerations that are in scarce supply within mental healthcare," he said.

"For clinical psychedelic services to be sensible, safe and useful, considerable professional and public education will be needed, and questions of affordability, eligibility, oversight, and standards of care should be addressed.

"With this schedule change coming in a matter of months, Australia has very little time to get across this."

Melbourne University's Chair of Clinical Psychology Professor Kim Felmingham said MDMA's reclassification was both exciting and promising, but also called for additional reserach.

"No one PTSD treatment is a panacea that will treat everyone with PTSD effectively and MDMA is not an exception," Prof Felmingham said.

"Additional research on this topic would allow us to streamline our health resources, direct people to the most effective treatment for them and improve the accessibility of treatments for people living with PTSD."

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