There is currently a renewed focus on the potential medical use of various psychotropic plants and related substances. Best known of these is the cannabis plant, which is now being investigated for efficacy in the treatment of a wide range of conditions and has had legal access pathways created in all Australian jurisdictions.
At the same time there has been a resurgence of interest in the therapeutic use of various psychedelic compounds such as psilocybin, MDMA, LSD and ayahuasca, primarily for the treatment of mental health and substance use disorders. Research programs with these drugs have been established at eminent institutions internationally such as Johns Hopkins, Imperial College, Kings College, Yale and NYU with researchers involved reporting remarkable early results. Both psilocybin and MDMA are now entering Phase 3 trials and have recently been granted ‘breakthrough therapy’ status by the FDA on the basis of initial evidence they may provide a substantial improvement over existing treatments.
However, the possible therapeutic use of such substances differs in important respects from existing approaches, and presents new challenges for medicines regulation and health policy, patient safety, and the design of appropriate treatment protocols that can optimise contextual and psychological factors shown to affect clinical outcomes. There are also further interesting issues related to the current socio-cultural and policy understandings of psychedelic plants and substances.
The MPRN aims to facilitate engagement between Australian and international colleagues to consider research, policy and regulatory questions, as well as potential new opportunities for patient treatment.
The MPRN will provide an opportunity for:
- Facilitating research collaborations between academic researchers, NGOs and industry
- Exploring regulatory approaches and issues relating to medicinal psychedelics
- Hosting research seminars, round-tables or workshops
- Leveraging established connections with leaders in this field in North America and Europe
- Sharing of new research and resources relevant to this area
- Considering issues of safety and ethics relating to patient access, models of treatment, and clinician training
- Researchers, government and NGO representatives to meet and share information in this rapidly evolving area