Psychedelic drugs for depression and PTSD? No ‘silver bullet’

22 MAY 2023

Psychedelic drugs for depression and PTSD? No ‘silver bullet’

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has stated that from 1 July 2023, authorised psychiatrists will be able to prescribe MDMA for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression.

MDMA (commonly known as ecstasy or molly) and psilocybin (magic mushrooms) are psychedelic drugs that are otherwise illegal in Australia.

A Charles Sturt expert in clinical psychology Associate Professor Gene Hodgins in the Charles Sturt School of Psychology assesses the pros and cons of this change in policy and urges caution.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression are mental health disorders that are prevalent in the community and can significantly affect the lives of sufferers.

Both disorders have existing treatments. PTSD is treated by psychological therapy - cognitive/exposure therapy, eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR), as well as some medications. Depression is treated by psychological therapy (cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT)) as well as anti-depressant medications and, in severe cases, electro-convulsive therapy (ECT).

While these existing treatments are effective for many sufferers, like all mental health disorders, they do not effectively treat everyone. Also, some sufferers struggle with access to treatment, especially those in rural areas who are trying to access psychological treatments.

Psychedelic treatments for mental health issues have been investigated for more than 100 years, with promising recent advancements. For example, recent research has produced promising findings in treating PTSD with MDMA, and treatment-resistant depression with psilocybin.

However, there are a number of reasons for caution. For example, research is still emerging and strong practice guidelines for their use have not yet been agreed upon. Correspondingly, psychedelic therapy for PTSD and treatment-resistant depression is not effective for all sufferers.

Research also shows treatment with psychedelics still needs concurrent psychological interventions, over a number of months, meaning ongoing sessions with psychiatrists and psychologists. These sessions, along with the cost of the psychedelics, mean treatment courses could cost well over $10,000.

A final consideration is that there is a limited number of authorised psychiatrists and limited access to the required psychedelics, which means availability after Saturday 1 July will be quite limited.

Overall, the potential for additional treatment options for sufferers of PTSD and treatment-resistant depression is welcomed and should be carefully and ethically explored.

However, service availability, costs, and lack of agreed-upon treatment guidelines will severely restrict the availability of psychedelic assisted therapy after 1 July.

The focus should therefore remain on improving access for people to available, existing treatments that are effective for many PTSD and depression sufferers.


Media Note:

To arrange interviews with Associate Professor Gene Hodgins, contact Trease Clarke at Charles Sturt Media on mobile 0409 741 789 or

Share this article

Share on Facebook Share
Share on Twitter Tweet
Share by Email Email
Share on LinkedIn Share
Print this page Print

All Local News Charles Sturt University Health Medicine