7th January 2022
By Roland Sebestyén

The Australian government has announced that it will be handing out $15 million to fund seven clinical trials assessing how alternative drugs could be useful in treating mental health conditions.

An estimated four million people experience some form of mental health condition in Australia every year. To address this, researches are on the lookout for alternative therapies that could help, including psychedelic drugs.

It is reported that almost half of all Australians may suffer from depression, anxiety, and/or substance use disorders – three of the most common mental health conditions affecting the population.

As the Department of Health wrote in a recent statement, there is a shifting mood and an openness to the potential health benefits of drugs, such as MDMA, psilocybin or DMT.

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, said the Government’s MRFF is helping ensure that Australia’s medical research sector remains at the forefront of global innovation.

He said: “It is vital that we continue to support the search for new and better treatments for mental illness. This funding will boost local research into potentially life-saving therapies and offers hope to all those suffering from mental illness.”

The trials have the potential to provide breakthrough treatment for people suffering from persistent mental illness including major depression with alcohol use, anorexia nervosa, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety disorders.

The largest of the grants, – more than $3.8m – will go to a research team at the University of Melbourne to fund a trial of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for treatment-resistant social anxiety in young adults with autism spectrum disorder.

Social anxiety is common in young adults with autism and adds to their disability and distress. Current treatments are often ineffective.

Other trials will use psilocybin for anorexia nervosa, depression and alcohol use; MDMA for alcoholism and post-traumatic stress disorder; CBD for anxiety disorders in youth; and DMT for major depression and alcohol use.

Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, David Coleman, said mental health and suicide prevention is one of the Government’s highest priorities.

He said: “The prevalence and impact of mental illness are devastating for individuals, families and communities. This research is about ensuring that we explore every avenue of a potential treatment for Australians diagnosed with a mental illness.”

The trials are subject to regulatory approvals.

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