Vol. 18, ed. 6

February 2022

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Psychedelic substances may become sorely needed options for Australian practitioners seeking better ways to treat some especially stubborn mental health conditions.

Just as this month’s feature article on the medical potential of psychedelics was being finalised, Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt confirmed how $14.8 million set aside by the Australian Government to support clinical trials in this area would be used.

Seven Innovative Therapies for Mental Illness grants have been awarded to projects spanning:

  • MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for treatment-resistant social anxiety in young adults with autism spectrum disorder
  • psilocybin for anorexia nervosa, depression and alcohol use
  • MDMA for alcoholism and post-traumatic stress disorder
  • CBD for anxiety disorders in youth
  • DMT for major depression and alcohol use.

Meanwhile, in Canada research has yielded invaluable insight into a correlation between the prescribing of opioids to relieve non-cancer pain and the commencement of injecting drug use. Compared to non-patients, people treated with medical opioids are about eight times more likely to later start injecting drugs, according to a team in British Columbia.

A second piece of Canadian work reveals the overwhelmingly positive impact of an Ontario safe drug supply program in reducing overdoses, crime and hospital visits and at the same time improving the overall health of its clients. London InterCommunity Health Centre’s safe supply program leader and physician Andrea Sereda says: “What surprised me was the level of impact – 35 per cent of people have actually stopped injecting drugs altogether. I knew we were moving a lot of people in that healthier direction [but] even I was surprised about the magnitude.”

And in one more piece of encouraging news, most people who experience alcohol and drug addiction – roughly 75 per cent – not only survive but recover and go on to live full and healthy lives, a US study shows. This is among findings by Dr John Kelly of Harvard Medical School and the Recovery Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital, who says some 22.3 million Americans – more than nine per cent of adults – are living in recovery from some form of substance-use disorder, proving that contrary to common misconceptions, people do in fact get better.

As we settle in to 2022, please continue to share The Bulletin widely within your networks and, as always, let us know if there’s a particular topic that you’d like to see covered in a future issue of Australia’s dedicated frontline worker magazine.


John Ryan
CEO, Penington Institute