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Ex-ADF chief calls for psychedelic treatment in the ACT

Admiral Chris Barrie. Photo: FCDO.

THE ex-chief of the Australian Defence Force has urged the ACT government to allow medical use of psychedelic-assisted therapy in treating veterans and individuals suffering from mental illness.

Admiral Chris Barrie AC said he believes the medical use of psilocybin and MDMA assisted psychotherapies could “provide hope” for patients suffering from treatment-resistant depression and treatment resistant post-traumatic stress.

“Sufferers with treatment-resistant PTSD or treatment-resistant depression can be at severe risk because, by definition, they have exhausted conventional treatments,” he said.

“Allowing a medical practitioner in the ACT with Special Access Scheme approval from the TGA to provide psychedelic-assisted therapy gives the patient the opportunity of receiving a treatment that has been shown to be safe with high remission and response rates.”

The controversial form of treatment has gained traction in recent years as a growing body of research points towards its success in treating mental illness.

Currently the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) can, under its Special Access Scheme, provide an approval to a medical practitioner to treat a treatment-resistant patient with MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD and psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy for depression. However a “Catch 22” between federal and ACT legislation means that it is illegal for practitioners to actually conduct treatment in the ACT because of the territory’s legislative restrictions.

Members from both major parties in the ACT Legislative Assembly have been in discussions about allowing the form of treatment in Canberra.  

Admiral Barrie noted the contradiction between the ACT moving to decriminalise the use of MDMA and psilocybin for recreational purposes but not allowing the substances to be used as part of psychotherapy in a medical setting.

“I have no comment on the pros and cons of the ACT’s push for decriminalising the personal use of psilocybin and MDMA. However, if this happens, it would be ridiculous if a medical practitioner, properly trained in the application of psychedelic-assisted therapies, couldn’t prescribe MDMA or psilocybin to treat a patient,” he said.

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