In good news for what I’m sure is at least a subset of our readers, the CSIRO is working on medicinal psychedelics.
Psychedelics are a type of drug that lead to hallucinations and altered states of consciousness. They make you imagine things like colours, visuals and sounds that aren’t there, but your brain thinks are there, by the introduction of the drug. Such drugs are illegal in Australia and are only legal in a handful of countries.
But now, under a new licence (the scheduled poisons licence, to be exact), Australia’s national science agency will begin to work with local medtech companies to develop new psychedelic products and improve existing ones.
“CSIRO is well-placed to contribute to this emerging area of research, which could lead to life-changing advancements in mental health,” said CSIRO scientist Adjunct Professor Peter Duggan.
“Clinical trials both here and internationally have been using known psychedelics – usually MDMA or psilocybin (derived from certain species of mushrooms) with impressive results, but there’s still much to be learnt about how these drugs work and how improvements to their chemical composition could enhance patient outcomes.
“By working with local industry to improve drug design and the patient experience, CSIRO can push Australia into a leadership position in the development of these potentially life-changing medications.”
As per the announcement from the CSIRO, the science agency wants to start developing psychedelic treatments for people with mental health issues, including depression, addiction, anxiety and PTSD. The agency posits that one in five people suffer mental illness each year in Australia and that more than a third don’t respond to existing treatments.
As our colleagues in the U.S. reported back in 2017, psychedelics were observed to physically change the brains of those suffering depression. More recently, it was reported that there’s optimism within the medical community that psychedelics could treat mental health issues.
At the moment, psychedelics like MDMA and psilocybin (derived from psychedelic mushrooms) are currently undergoing testing in Australia, but the CSIRO reaffirmed this was within strict clinical settings. Results have been “promising”, the CSIRO said, and we could one day see these drugs alongside psychotherapy as a treatment for mental health issues.
“Natural MedTech is working to develop psychedelic treatments for several unmet neurological disorders,” said Natural MedTech’s CEO Mark Hestermann.
“CSIRO’s scheduled poisons license extension will mean that they can legally make the raw material we need to further our research and development of psychedelic molecules with a view to progress new drugs to clinical trials.”
It’ll be interesting to watch a widely considered taboo drug work its way into therapeutic practice. You can read the CSIRO psychedelics announcement here.