Yesterday, Australia shocked the world by announcing that it will allow the prescription of psilocybin and MDMA for certain medical conditions, starting July 1. This marks the first time medical MDMA use has been approved in any country, and psilocybin is available for adults 21 and over in Oregon and soon in Colorado, as well as limited medical use in Canada.
The specific use cases for these substances are limited: psilocybin for treating treatment-resistant depression, and MDMA to treat PTSD, for which research has shown promise. The substances must be administered in conjunction with psychotherapy, similar to Oregon’s system of psilocybin administration and integration, and only psychiatrists with authorization from Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) can prescribe them.
This amendment to the substances’ legality came about through a change in Australia’s Poison Standards, which is regulated at the state or territory level. While this amendment will take place nationwide, individual states or territories in Australia may opt out of the decision if they choose.
Researchers in Australia are divided on the decision. While some are excited about the potential for alternative treatments for those who have exhausted all other options, others are more cautious, citing the need for more research.
This legalization of substances anywhere in the world is a crucial step in the destigmatization of drug use, a welcome move away from the War on Drugs and towards a new narrative of substances. MDMA was being used as medication in 1985, when it was banned, and this “re-medicalization” of certain historically illicit drugs is a very welcome step.
It also offers the chance to catch up on the decades of lost opportunity in delving into the inner workings of the human mind, abandoned for so long as part of an ill-conceived, ideological “War on Drugs.”