More research needed before psychedelics get the green light

25 May 2020
 
 
 

Whilst there is emerging evidence for the use of psychedelic therapies in the treatment of mental illnesses, there is still a way to go before it will be considered a safe and effective practice says the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP).

President of the RANZCP, Associate Professor John Allan explains that further research into this method of treatment is required to assess the efficacy, safety and effectiveness of psychedelic therapies to inform future potential use in psychiatric practice.

‘We are seeing limited but emerging evidence that psychedelic therapies may have therapeutic benefits in the treatment of a range of mental illness, such as PTSD, substance abuse and treatment resistant depression’, said Associate Professor Allan.

‘However, we must note that the evidence available is limited and insufficient to comprehensively assess the efficacy, safety and effectiveness of psychedelic therapies to inform future potential use in psychiatric practice.

Psychedelic therapy includes the use of evidence based supervised psychotherapy as well psychedelic drugs.

Research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelic substances has been limited by legal restrictions and practical difficulties.

‘Due to the illegal nature of the substances and the fear of harm, research trials often involve lengthy ethics approvals and complicated access pathways, which act as significant barriers to further research’, explains Associate Professor Allan.

‘The treatments can be expensive, and the short timeframes of application suggested by early research puts limits on the potential profitability of psychedelic therapies; as a result, there are few pharmaceutical companies supporting research.

‘Because of this, we are still a way off from seeing this kind of therapy being applied in Australia and New Zealand.

‘As psychiatrists, we must promote evidence-based best-practice advice on new and emerging treatments for mental health and whilst we encourage and are open to better and more effective treatments, the evidence for psychedelics just isn’t quite there yet.

The RANZCP will continue to monitor research and discussions on the potential benefits of psychedelics in a therapeutic setting.

For more information, see the RANZCP Clinical Memorandum: Therapeutic use of psychedelic substances.

ENQUIRIES: For more information, or to arrange an interview call Sarah Carr on +61 437 315 911, or email media@ranzcp.org.