The Australian government has announced it will provide $15 million to fund seven clinical trials assessing how alternative medicines could be helpful in treating mental illness.
Each year, an estimated four million people experience some form of mental health condition in Australië. To address this, studies are looking for alternative therapies that can help, including psychedelic drugs.
It has been found that nearly half of all Australians may suffer from depression, anxiety and/or substance use disorders – three of the most common mental illnesses affecting the population.
As the Department of Health wrote in a recent statement, there is a shifting mood and openness to the potential health benefits of drugs, such as MDMA, psilocybin or DMT.
Health and Aged Care Minister Greg Hunt said the Government's MRFF ensures that the Australian 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 stimulate local research into potentially life-saving therapies and offer hope to all those suffering from mental illness.”
Funding alternative research for persistent mental illness
The studies may 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 $3,8 million, 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 contributes to their disability and anxiety. Current treatments are often ineffective.
Other studies will use psilocybin for anorexia nervosa, depression, and alcohol use; MDMA for alcoholism and post-traumatic stress disorder; CBD for Anxiety Disorders in Young People; and DMT for major depression and alcohol use.
The Prime Minister's Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, David Coleman, said mental health and suicide prevention is one of the government's top priorities.
He said: “The prevalence and impact of mental illness is devastating to individuals, families and communities. This research is about making sure we explore every possible treatment option for Australians with mental illness.”