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Australia is set to kick off one of the world's largest studies into the use of psychedelic drugs for mental health.
Melbourne researchers are preparing to launch a clinical trial that will examine the effects of psilocybin - the active ingredient in magic mushrooms.
It has long been thought that psilocybin could be effective in helping people who suffer from severe persistent anxiety.
As well as this, a second trial will examine the use of MDMA - also known as ecstasy - in helping to treat patients with intractable post-traumatic stress disorder.
A study from Harvard previously found that between 60 to 80 percent of people with depression or post-traumatic stress disorder had evidence of remission after taking one of these two drugs.
Now, the Australian trial - sponsored by Monash University - will further examine these results.
Chief principal investigator and Monash research fellow, Paul Liknaitzky, told The Age that current approaches to mental illness are often unsuccessful, but added that psychedelic-assisted therapy could be effective in treating such illnesses.
He said: "A lot of people are inclined to think about it as a drug treatment, as a chemotherapeutic treatment, whereas it's really a combination of drug and talk therapy within a conducive setting."
The new treatment model will see therapists administer a high dose of the psychedelic drugs to a mental health patient during a series of psychotherapy sessions.
As for the MDMA trials, consultant psychiatrist and psychedelic medicine researcher Nigel Strauss said that the substance, despite not being a classic psychedelic, encouraged empathy and reduced anxiety while allowing patients to process otherwise inaccessible trauma.
He explained: "It basically lowers your anxiety levels without sedating you, so you can go into the bad memories comfortably."
This comes after researchers campaigned for Australian authorities to reschedule some illegal drugs so they could be investigated for their medicinal benefits.
Mind Medicine Australia wrote on its website: "The rescheduling would move these medicines from Schedule 9 of the Uniform Scheduling of Medicines and Poisons (which deals with Prohibited Substances) to Schedule 8 (which deals with Controlled Medicines).
"The changes proposed by Mind Medicine Australia will not affect existing legal controls on illicit use or supply.
"The rescheduling will enable psychiatrists and specialist addiction physicians to more easily access these medicines to augment therapy for patients suffering from key mental illnesses such as depression, PTSD and for the depression and anxiety often associated with a terminal illness diagnosis (and hopefully in the future for substance abuse, OCD, anorexia and early-stage dementia).
"It will also relieve a significant part of the regulatory burden associated with undertaking trials with these medicines in Australia."
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