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Psychedelic Healing Stories from Australia: Juleane’s Experiences with 5-MEO-DMT

In this blog series, we are sharing some of the healing stories from our recent book: Psychedelic Healing Stories from Australia. In this blog, we share the story of Juleane and her experiences with 5-MEO-DMT.

 

What led you to seek healing through psychedelic medicine?

It was by chance that a friend of mine was given some medicine and wanted to share the experience with me. I feel that psychedelic experiences aren’t only valuable to people with mental illness, but in fact everyone.

Although at the time I wasn’t seeking any healing, in hindsight I believe that it’s played a critical role in alleviating the pressures I felt in my everyday life.

What was your psychedelic experience like?

The anxiety I had around my life decisions and responsibilities, all changed in the months following my experience with 5-MEO-DMT. The actual experience was brief (lasting about 10 minutes) yet extremely profound.

It felt disorienting at first but once I relaxed and surrendered, I felt an intense, warm loving energy flow throughout my body. The experience is difficult for me to articulate — I felt like I was being told that I was loved, and I am safe, despite not actually hearing any spoken words. The visual distortions induced the 5-MEO-DMT were so vivid that I felt like I was living in video game, giving rise to a strong sense of wonder and awe.

How have you been able to integrate this experience? How has it contributed to your healing process?

Feeling unconditional love and safety brought about the biggest change in my life — the courage to embrace life’s uncertainties. The experience also made me realise that I was living under a lot of societal and self-imposed pressures.

It initiated a slow but steady process of healing my yearning for certainty of outcomes and recovering the people-pleaser in me. The subsequent reflections have enabled me to take bigger risks in my career, appreciate the novelty that comes from taking chances, develop a deep gratitude for life and trust my own feelings.

Curious to read more? Read the Stories of 53 Australians That Experienced Psychedelic Healing, In Their Own Words.

This book will show you the deeply human side of the effect this medicine can have, and give you hope, inspiration, and clarity around what is possible for Australians when we get fair access to these breakthrough medicines.

Three Weeks Down Under: My Mind Medicine Australia Psychedelic Lecture Tour

 

I have just come back from a 3-week lecture tour of South-Eastern Australia supporting the cause of the charity Mind Medicine Australia (MMA).

They have been raising money for psychedelic research for about 4 years with considerable success. Through their efforts, the Australia government last year put up $15 million for psychedelic research and seven grants have been funded covering either psilocybin or MDMA in disorders such as treatment-resistant-depression, PTSD, anorexia, addiction and OCD, several of which I am acting as an advisor to. So, it was good to catch up with these researchers as part of my tour. MMA have organised and paid for the importation of GMP supplies of both psilocybin and MDMA. Medical-grade psilocybin has now been imported into Australia with medical-grade MDMA ready for importation, so the research is good to go once all necessary approvals have been obtained.

But the main point of my visit was to raise awareness of the current research situation for both psilocybin and MDMA, putting it into context for donors (MMA is a charity), researchers, clinicians and most importantly regulators. I gave over 15 talks to a total of over two thousand members of the public, hundreds of academics and 130 members of the TGA and the Commonwealth Department of Health.

In a demanding schedule, I gave a public lecture in Byron Bay, Canberra, and several in Sydney and Melbourne as well as to the controller of the national drug regulatory system the TGA. In addition, I met with several State health ministers, Commonwealth and State policy advisers and lead psychiatrists. In these lectures [please see summary on the MMA website]. I exploded the long-standing myths of the harms of the medicines and shared the new clinical trials and brain imaging data.

A major reason for my visit was to support local psychiatrists who have been campaigning for several years for compassionate access to psilocybin and MDMA for patients who have failed to respond to conventional therapies. Australian Federal regulations allow these drugs for compassionate use but till now, for reasons that are unclear, not one State or Territory nor the Military medicine organisations have allowed this. After discussions with several of the State and National leads for psychiatry as well as representatives of the RANZCP it became clear that many of the historical myths of these drugs were still being used to defend the lack of action. Myths such as: they are very harmful, addictive and there are safer alternatives.

I learnt from the partner of one man with depression who was denied psychedelic therapy despite having failed to respond to 96 ECTs and 24 TMS treatments and over 40 different medicines who then killed himself in despair. One has to ask what purpose was served by denying compassionate access to this man? Is there anyone who could reasonably claim that 96 ECTs might be more effective and safer than a single dose of psilocybin? My sense is that professionals were preferring to defend decisions made decades ago on the basis of limited and often false evidence rather than accept that there is now sufficient evidence of efficacy and safety in resistant depression for psilocybin and in PTSD (many trials including a phase 3 one).

To overcome this impasse MMA has made available one million dollars for an open observational study of these treatments given for compassionate access in these treatment-resistant conditions — providing real-world evidence [RWE] data in treatment-resistant patients. The terms of trial entry are listed below. The outcome data will be curated in an independently managed Register hosted at Monash University. This will use the latest adaptive and Bayesian stats methods to provide regular updates on outcomes and adverse effects. This will be the first such RWE trial in psychedelic-assisted therapy in the world and will provide vital corollary data to support the ongoing RCTs, so allowing optimal clinical roll-out once they achieve marketing authorisation. And till then they will offer hope to hundreds of Australian with mental illnesses not amenable to current treatments.

The MMA RWE Research Proposal

Background: MMA has set up a world-leading training course that has trained several hundred potential therapists. They have many hundred psychiatrists ready to engage in the trial. They have also engaged Ambassadors and an Advisory Panel of top international experts and patients and relatives with lived experience.

MMA has arranged for the import into Australia of medicinal grade psilocybin and MDMA for compassionate use to be provided for the trial

The RWE protocol for treatment-resistant patients requires for each patient

a. approval of diagnosis and treatment plan

i. by the TGA

ii. and by an independent psychiatrist

b. The treatment administering psychiatrist has been trained in whichever medicine is to be used

c. Drug treatment is given to standard protocols including preparation and integration sessions

d. For the whole period of the drug treatment session there are two health care professionals present

e. The drug treatment session is filmed for safety reasons

In addition:

A Register of Patients who are given this therapy will be set up at Monash University:

i. Entering this register will be a requirement for treatment [though patients will be anonymised] –

ii. Patients will give informed consent as the treatment is off-licence

iii. The register will contain pre-and post-treatment data including standard measures of illness severity

iv. Data collection on any adverse effects

v. Patient-reported outcomes especially quality of life and other relevant outcomes e.g. sleep and wellness scores

The register will provide an independent report in a regular fashion on outcomes and safety data distributed to all stakeholders on a regular basis

Clinical efficacy will be evaluated using adaptive and Bayesian methods that have been shown within another compassionate-use clinical-register program to provide the most optimal statistical evidence of efficacy

We believe that with the above in place, psilocybin and MDMA can be administered safely to patients who have been failed by current treatments.

This compassionate use programme for treatment-resistant depression and PTSD with a Register which is constantly updated will be the first of its kind in the world. As well as helping many hundreds of patients who are currently failed by psychiatric medicines and/or conventional therapy, it will provide critical Real World Evidence (RWE) of the value of these treatments that will make a significant contribution to the growing clinical knowledge derived from commercial and other RCTs on these medicines.

RWE is now being acknowledged as a vital part of the overall evidential base for new medicines development and roll out. The former head of the UK NICE and MHRA Sir Michael Rawlins said this in his RCP Harvey Lecture in 2008: [1]

“Randomised controlled trials, long regarded at the ‘gold standard’ of evidence, have been put on an undeserved pedestal. Their appearance at the top of ‘hierarchies’ of evidence is inappropriate; and hierarchies, themselves, are illusory tools for assessing evidence. They should be replaced by a diversity of approaches that involve analysing the totality of the evidence base.” As a result, the UK NICE and MHRA are now asking for RWE as part of decision-making [2]. It seems likely other national regulatory authorities will follow suit.

References

  1. Rawlins, M. (2008) De testimonio: on the evidence for decisions about the use of therapeutic interventions The Lancet Dec 20;372(9656):2152–61. DOI: 10.1016/S0140–6736(08)61930–3
  2. https://www.nice.org.uk/corporate/ecd9/chapter/introduction-to-real-world-evidence-in-nice-decision-making

Professor David Nutt’s Lecture Tour – November 2022

Mind Medicine Australia was delighted that Professor David Nutt, Head of Neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London, could come to Australia for 3 weeks in November 2022. As a result of the discussions and following feedback from various meetings and events, the following Position Statement on Compassionate Access was confirmed by MMA.

Professor Nutt presented keynote presentations and lectures including Q&A panels with the Professor, a range of researchers, clinicians and those with lived experience. Sell-out events took place at Byron Theatre, Paddington Town Hall and the University of Melbourne with the International Keynote Topic ‘Psychedelic-Assisted Therapies: History, Neuroscience and Myths’.

Professor Nutt also presented for a large audience hosted by Professor Russell Gruen and Professor Paul Fitzgerald of the Australian National University’s College of Health and Medicine and was the Keynote Speaker at a Symposium for the Monash University, University of Melbourne and the Florey Institute Neuromedicines Discovery Centre on ‘Next Generation Medicines for Better Mental Health’ alongside Professor Arthur Christopoulos and other leading researchers in the field. VIP events included lunches and dinners with philanthropists and other interested partners and supporters at the Australian Club in Sydney and Melbourne.

He also presented to Adjunct Professor John Skerritt and over 130 staff at the TGA, a large group of clinicians and researchers from Black Dog, Federal Health Minister Mark Butler’s Advisor, Australia’s Chief Psychiatrist and the Department of Health, clinicians, researchers and parliamentarians from Canberra and the ACT Government, the Mental Health Minister and the Shadow Health and Mental Health Minister for NSW, NSW Department of Health Psychiatrists, Joint Health Command regarding Veterans mental health and suicide, the RANZCP, Professor Patrick McGorry and Professor Mal Hopwood and psychiatrists from the Albert Road Clinic in Melbourne.

There was significant media interest in his visit, and he was interviewed by many of the major media in Australia. Please be inspired by some of the articles and interviews here.

We are deeply grateful to Professor Nutt for his outstanding support and contribution to MMA. We have received wonderful feedback about his presentations and celebrate his knowledge, wisdom, warmth, compassion and wit.

Psychedelic Healing Stories from Australia: Zinevara’s Story with Changa and MDMA

In this blog series, we are sharing some of the healing stories from our recent book: Psychedelic Healing Stories from Australia. In this blog, we share the story of Zinevara and her experiences with Changa and MDMA.

 

What led you to seek healing through psychedelic medicine?

I felt disconnected from myself and from life, like I was standing on the outside looking in. I’d never felt connected to anything. I spent years being told I will never heal from my traumas, that I will always be plagued by its shadow. I could only hope to be accepted as ok, as normal both by myself and others, constantly struggling to keep my head above water. I found psychedelic medicine after doing my own research.

What was your psychedelic experience like?

It was the most life-changing experience that I am still learning from every day. During my trip, I felt safe, gentle, and loved. That’s not to say the experience wasn’t painful. It was like labour, without the physical pain, just the emotional pain. Yet throughout this birthing experience I felt held in love, gentleness, and safety, and I did not feel scared. I did try and fight the process as I didn’t want to face my trauma but the harder I fought, the more I felt loved. This experience was magical, and my deep-seated trauma was diffused in fifteen minutes.

Now I can think and speak about my trauma without the waves of pain that once devoured me, triggering PTSD. I’m no longer attached to my trauma. I feel connected to myself and to life. I experienced so much more than this, like being taken to other places and times but I hesitate to explain this part because the focus of this story is on healing.

I have also found healing through another substance, which with a gentle chat from a trusted friend has allowed me to face the less intense parts of my traumas (I have several).

I want to stress the importance of doing these medicines in a safe place with a safe and trusted guide or therapist. I once had the misfortune of being maliciously triggered by someone while under the effects of a psychedelic and it was a difficult and horrible experience. This is why I STRESS the importance of being in a safe environment with a trained therapist to help deal with any trauma, painful experience, or unforeseen reactions.

How have you been able to integrate this experience? How has it contributed to your healing process?

My experiences with psychedelic medicines have shown me I’m not a lost cause. It didn’t “fix” me in fifteen minutes, but I experienced so much healing. Even now as I unravel the whole process, I find myself smiling. I now have inner strength, and a goal to fight for… me! I have hope that I will be able to heal completely. I am more aware of myself and my triggers, and I have the energy to keep working towards my highest and whole potential.

Curious to read more? Read the Stories of 53 Australians That Experienced Psychedelic Healing, In Their Own Words.

This book will show you the deeply human side of the effect this medicine can have, and give you hope, inspiration, and clarity around what is possible for Australians when we get fair access to these breakthrough medicines.

Psychedelic Healing Stories from Australia: John’s Experience with MDMA, Psilocybin and Ayahuasca

Man in Nature

 

In this blog series, we are sharing some of the healing stories from our recent book: Psychedelic Healing Stories from Australia. In this blog, we share the story of Maree and her experiences with psilocybin and LSD.

 

What led you to seek healing through psychedelic medicine?

I was bored with life.

I had money, a decent business, good friends, good health, a great lifestyle (I lived overseas for ten years) but despite all that, I wasn’t happy. I didn’t feel fulfilled or alive. I felt like life was basically meaningless. It was empty.

As a result, I drank too much alcohol. I smoked cigarettes. I took risks with my life, like racing motorcycles through the mountains of Northern Thailand and taking recreational party drugs. Anything to feel. Anything to feel alive.

I was disconnected from myself, disconnected from the people around me and I was not making the most of my potential as a human being. I was not contributing to society and to life in any meaningful way.

What was your psychedelic experience like?

I’ve had several psychedelic experiences and every single one was incredibly healing.

They showed me that I was totally shut down emotionally. There’s a lot of trauma in my family. Sexual abuse, physical violence, emotional abuse, drug and alcohol use, depression, anxiety, and more. My parents also got divorced when I was seven years old.

All of this led me to feel incredible pain when I was a child.

As a result, I shut down emotionally without realizing it. I totally disconnected from myself. Psychedelics showed me that this was why I wasn’t happy, this was why I wasn’t fulfilled. I’d lost parts of myself, and I needed to get them back. I needed to remember who I am.

That meant I needed to feel all the pain from the past. I need to turn towards my pain instead of turning away. I needed to embrace it and work with it, and in that embrace, I realised that I had the power to liberate myself from it. I had the power to heal.

How have you been able to integrate this experience? How has it contributed to your healing process?

I’m happier than I’ve ever been. More fulfilled and more alive. I rarely drink alcohol anymore, and when I do it’s usually only one glass. I quit cigarettes. I don’t use recreational drugs like I used to. I’ve never been on better terms with my immediate family. We’ve resolved all kinds of things from the past and I feel so much closer to them now. I feel lighter, as though I’ve let go of a massive weight that was on my shoulders.

It’s impossible to put into words how powerful and how positive psychedelics have been for me and my family. I think it’s a tragedy that these substances aren’t more widely available, and I hope that more people can experience what I’ve experienced.

Curious to read more? Read the Stories of 53 Australians That Experienced Psychedelic Healing, In Their Own Words.

This book will show you the deeply human side of the effect this medicine can have, and give you hope, inspiration, and clarity around what is possible for Australians when we get fair access to these breakthrough medicines.

Psychedelic Healing Stories from Australia: Maree’s Story with Psilocybin and LSD

Healing Stories

In this blog series, we are sharing some of the healing stories from our recent book: Psychedelic Healing Stories from Australia. In this blog, we share the story of Maree and her experiences with psilocybin and LSD.

 

What led you to seek healing through psychedelic medicine?

I experienced several traumatic events in my military career, which inevitably lead to moral injury and PTSD. I was experiencing depression, flashbacks, and nightmares, which, regardless of my best efforts seemed like I could not escape. I had tried talk therapy, mindfulness, gratitude, meditation, and other healing practices. I felt hopeless, life was void of joy and meaning. I could no longer see the good in the world or the value in my life. A friend mentioned how psychedelic medicine may help me. It was the only avenue I had not explored. I was nervous and hesitant to use the compounds at first but spent several weeks conducting my own research into the experiences, their benefits, and what conditions would lead to a beneficial experience.

 

What was your psychedelic experience like?

My first psychedelic experience completely changed my life. I gained a new perspective on myself, my experiences, life, the universe, and I felt a deep sense of connectedness to everything. It has been the single most potent spiritual experience of my life. I had a sense of being held, loved, and supported by the universe as I travelled with the medicine.

Consequent experiences took me deep within myself to directly address my trauma in a gentle way, which allowed me to shift my perspective and integrate the trauma. Not only was I able to explore my consciousness, but I was able to experience deep realisations that immediately and continue to improve my life. My psychedelic journeys have been the most healing, powerful, and spiritual experiences of my entire life.

 

How have you been able to integrate this experience? How has it contributed to your healing process?

I initially struggled to integrate the realisations I had in my early experiences simply because they were so profound and so mind-expanding. Over time they were integrated seamlessly, along with the insights and realisations I had during more gentle journeys. My psychedelic experiences were the single most important part of my healing process.

I have not experienced depression, nightmares, or any other negative consequence of my trauma to date. I can now look at them with appreciation, as these challenges have only contributed to my overall growth as an individual. Not only have I healed and become a happier person, but I now have a deeper respect for all of life, a relationship with the divine, and an appreciation for all of life’s experiences. I cannot be more grateful for these compounds entering my life.

Curious to read more? Read the Stories of 53 Australians That Experienced Psychedelic Healing, In Their Own Words.

This book will show you the deeply human side of the effect this medicine can have, and give you hope, inspiration, and clarity around what is possible for Australians when we get fair access to these breakthrough medicines.

Psychedelic Healing Stories from Australia: Kerry’s Healing with DMT

 

In this blog series, we are sharing some of the healing stories from our recent book: Psychedelic Healing Stories from Australia. In this blog, we share the story of Kerry and her experiences with DMT.

Trigger warning: suicide attempts and suicide ideation


What led you to seek healing through psychedelic medicine?

I grew up with no love, experiencing “trauma by omission” as quoted by Gabor Mate. I hated myself and suffered deep self-loathing throughout my childhood until my first experience with DMT at fifty-eight years old.

When I was ten years old, I developed bulimia and when I was sixteen, I fell in love with the first boy who came along and got pregnant. I was forced to give my first child up for adoption. My self-loathing got worse and I descended into multiple addictions including alcohol, drugs, and always, food.

I eventually started a family but was still haunted by my self-loathing. I tried multiple suicide attempts until my children made me promise not to do it again, but I still wanted to die every minute of every day. I tried every medication possible and every alternative course, book, and modality without relief from the crushing and incessant wish to die. I was a chemotherapy nurse, listening to patients wanting to live one more week, one more month, while my diaries were full of longing for ‘god’ to give me cancer. By that stage, I was deep in the throes of alcoholism and drug addiction.

What was your psychedelic experience like?

I was offered the chance to take DMT by a therapist. As soon as I took the dose, I felt an instant love for self and for ‘source,’ which is something I had never felt before. This experience healed me in a profound way.

How have you been able to integrate this experience? How has it contributed to your healing process?

I gave up all my physical addictions and released my negative and destructive behaviours. I started yoga and Vipassana meditation, which developed my feelings of connection to source. I started to eat nutritious, whole foods and my health has drastically improved. My family and friends are blown away by the changes.

It took fifty-eight years of hell and truly wanting to die every day, to have my healing experience with DMT. I now appreciate life and I have a deep love for myself, and strong faith in my connection to ‘source’, ‘god’, creator.


Curious to read more? Read the Stories of 53 Australians That Experienced Psychedelic Healing, In Their Own Words.

This book will show you the deeply human side of the effect this medicine can have, and give you hope, inspiration, and clarity around what is possible for Australians when we get fair access to these breakthrough medicines.

Psychedelic Healing Stories from Australia: Charlotte’s Experience with Psilocybin

Joshua Tree

 

In this blog series, we are sharing some of the healing stories from our recent book: Psychedelic Healing Stories from Australia. In this blog, we share the story of Charlotte and her experiences with psilocybin.

 

During the summer of 2019, I once again found myself searching for answers. I was visiting Joshua Tree in the United States on a road trip I had planned with friends to see a band tour concert. At that point in my life, I had been experimenting with psychedelics for a while. For the last few years, I spent my time travelling to and from America, using cannabis recreationally. I had flown to Peru the previous year and partook in three separate Ayahuasca sessions. Shortly after, I consumed Peyote in a traditional Native American setting and picked ‘magic mushrooms’ in Australia.

*****

The reason I keep returning to psychedelics is the truly magical healing you receive when you use them at the right time in your life, with the proper ‘set’ and ‘setting.’ Trips, undeniably, do have the potential to go wrong. However, if these medicines are used with intention and respect, they can open people up to incredible insights about themselves and the world around them.

*****

I had been an avid traveller for many years and understood the power of manifestation and synchronicities. Knowing how to use your intuition and creativity are skills well-practiced when you’re a young girl exploring wild, yet potentially dangerous situations in countries, unfamiliar to your own. During my many explorations in America, I met and became very close to a group of friends. These people ended up playing a central role in my life and personal growth.

They travelled with me on this adventure, and we got to talking about our life experiences. We shared vulnerable parts of ourselves, which was therapeutic in itself. One of the women and I both suffered from anxiety and negative self-beliefs, which manifested in different health conditions. I developed an eating disorder and my friend developed trichotillomania (see Glossary). For many people with these disorders, it is a way of dealing with negative or uncomfortable feelings, such as stress, anxiety, tension, boredom, loneliness, fatigue, or frustration.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve suffered from some sort of mental health struggle. It started when I was in primary school, where I dealt with depression and anxiety because of an undiagnosed mental disorder. Feeling hopeless and alone, I developed an eating disorder, which then was followed by extremely low self-esteem and self-worth. I noticed patterns of addiction with other substances, but nothing compared to the high of a binge and purge cycle. I had very little confidence by the time I turned eighteen.

Eating disorders and trichotillomania are extremely difficult conditions to treat. Both of us had tried psychiatric medications and talk therapy which helped, but just like most recovery journeys, we found ourselves reverting back to our dysfunctional behaviours.

During this trip, we consumed a North American species of magic mushrooms. The experience was wonderful and insightful. We laughed and cried, but more importantly, we all started questioning our automatic behaviours. We spoke deeply about our body image and felt like we strengthened our relationship with ourselves, each other, and we deepened our connection with nature.

We all reported similar feelings of self-love. Instead of knowing we are worthy of love, we actually felt worthy of love and held the memory of that sense in our bodies long after the experience. We bonded over music and played tracks that helped guide our trip. Because I have researched and had many experiences with these medicines, I understood the importance of doing them correctly. We felt safe in our environment and with each other to be able to explore our inner psyches.

As a result, I better understood the impact that my inner turmoil has on my physical body. Since a major component of eating disorders is the control and restrict aspect, I was able to clearly see how damaging black and white thinking can be. That insight, coupled with a deeper admiration for nature as a result of the psychedelics, has improved how I eat. I now eat more consciously, instead of punishing myself if I eat the ‘wrong’ thing.

This experience in Joshua Tree had positive long-lasting effects on my life, as well as the lives of the other women in our group. It created a profound connection between us that I can reflect on when I start to feel my disorder symptoms returning.

Psychedelic medicines have the potential to help such a variety of mental conditions, that it’s practically criminal to not allow them to be used in a clinical setting. In saying that, psychedelics are not a ‘cure all’ — they are a crash course that can speed up recovery, which is desperately needed for those whose mental illnesses are potentially life threatening.

Integration is just as important as the experience itself. We are all in need of healing in some capacity, it is a part of being human, no one’s life is perfect. However, healing is a journey, and psychedelics with proper integration are powerful medicines that can help us lead healthier and happier lives.

 


 

Curious to read more? Read the Stories of 53 Australians That Experienced Psychedelic Healing, In Their Own Words.

This book will show you the deeply human side of the effect this medicine can have, and give you hope, inspiration, and clarity around what is possible for Australians when we get fair access to these breakthrough medicines.

Granny’s Trips by Kerry Soorley: How Psychedelic-Assisted Therapies saved my life

“Trauma by omission” as Gabor Mate calls it, was my childhood. I grew up feeling abandoned, rejected and with so much self-loathing and shame from the earliest of times and my memories have always been that I have been on a self-destructive personal path.

I was the last of six children from a Catholic family with about 18 years between the eldest and me. I fell pregnant at 16. I was overjoyed to be in love and having a baby of my own to love. It happened that my father died during the pregnancy, and I was forced by my family to adopt my child out, they said, “it’s for the baby’s best”. They said “if I really loved it” that’s what I should do, even though I was engaged and even went on to marry the father and have 3 more children.

The baby was never allowed to be spoken of again, as if it didn’t happen. My husband had been so devastated by the situation, that it fuelled his already burgeoning alcoholism.

I went nursing for 2 months after the adoption hoping that by helping others it would improve my self-esteem and my grief. But my addictions and self-destructive path just became worse due to the deep loss of both my father and my baby.

Despite the cigarettes and diet coke addiction, the eating disorder that I managed to keep hidden from everyone was truly eating away at my soul.

I went on to have 3 more children and tried to have a ‘normal life’ and be the best mother I could be. My first born was always in my thoughts. However, the addictions and terrible depressions combined with grief were ever present.

I went on my first anti-depressant at about age 20 which didn’t work.

After many years continuing down this destructive path I was reunited with my first born but even that did not stop the depression or addictions. Then I left my husband, and everything kicked up a notch. I really did not want to be here.

Alcohol, drugs and destructive relationships entered the picture as well. My alcohol problem became so bad I had to drink daily despite saying each day I was not going to have a drink. I would wake up after blackouts with injuries and I had no idea how they had occurred. I embarrassed my children.

Looking back over my diaries, marijuana was the only thing that stopped me having more suicide attempts. ‘Pot’, had the ability to change my state, only if I had it rarely.

I didn’t want to be this way so I tried everything that I thought could help. Every book, course, healing modality, therapist, vipassana. Multiple antidepressants were tried as well. There was no alternative.

At this stage I was working in the chemotherapy unit and listening to my patients talk about just wanting to see out one more Christmas or birthday. Meanwhile I was writing in my diaries that I just wanted to die.

I had a couple of suicide attempts and ended up in a mental hospital for a month. The place made me think there was no hope because the people I met in there were on the turnstile of in and out regularly, with no end in sight or hope to be found. Unfortunately, the pharmaceutical company that owns this hospital and many other mental hospitals are very much about customers for life. They charged $5000 per patient per week for daily visits to a psychiatrist, multiple visits to psychologists and different group therapy sessions that the clients didn’t want to go to. However, the big pharma companies get money from health funds for all of this. So, it is not in their best interests to get these people well. Sadly, many of the clients want it that way too. It’s almost seen as a party place to come to catch up with their buddies.

I was addicted to benzodiazepines, and I just wanted to sleep and not wake up from the emotional pain.

Eventually, an amazing therapist offered me DMT to smoke and my life was never the same again.

I felt instant love, joy, and the pure connection that I had been craving all my life. And like an onion, with the help of truly compassionate guides and therapists, I have been able to shed so many of the walls and layers of baggage that have built up over the years.

I was able to give up my addictions and self-destructive ways and exchange them for yoga, meditation, good food, daily swims, and nature.

I became a different person. I became the passionate advocate I now am for the healing and therapeutic possibilities of psychedelic medicines.

Over the years, I also received a Graduate Diploma in Palliative Care and worked in that area for many years. I believe the existential crisis felt by the dying could be relieved by psychedelic medicines and research has shown this to be the case.

It’s now time to reschedule these medicines and enable all Australians who are suffering with treatment resistant mental illnesses access.

We have a chance to halt the real pandemic: our terrible mental health crisis NOW.

We all know someone with either mental health issues, addictions, trauma, and abuse that may be helped by this medicine. It’s time to stand up, support Mind Medicine Australia and write to politicians. Talk to people like myself, there are so many of all ages and walks of life that are benefitting from psychedelics.

A friend’s son told me to call this blog Granny’s Trips. I hope to still be around in my mid-nineties to do be able to do this with all my grandchildren if they want.

Kerry Soorley

Nurse

Kerry Soorley is a nurse of 44 years, mother of four and grandmother to nine, specialising in palliative care. She had suffered depression, addictions and suicidal ideation all her life. “Trauma by omission” Gabor Mate calls it. Forced adoption of first child and death of her father during pregnancy at 16 just escalated her mental health issues further including suicide attempt and hospitalisation. Every antidepressant, therapy, book, course and seminar all failed and just left her feeling hopeless and wanting to die even though she was so blessed. At age 58 she had opportunity to try DMT. It reset my brain and gave me, joy, self-love and connection for the first time in my life. It’s not called the God molecule for nothing. She is committed and passionate to helping others get benefits of psychedelic therapy in a safe environment and sees great potential for palliative care as well.

Mind Medicine Australia’s Progress and Achievements Since 2019

In our first three and a half years, we have made remarkable progress in growing public awareness of Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy in Australia. We are seeing a paradigm shift in the curiosity, acceptance, and interest in the use of psilocybin and MDMA-assisted therapy for depression, addiction, PTSD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anorexia, cognitive decline, end-of-life stress, and other mental and physical illnesses in our communities.

Our goal is to build the ecosystem for these treatments in Australia and ensure they are accessible to all who need them in medically controlled environments. Please see our key strategic objectives below.

What we have achieved in three and half years with your support:

 

Awareness and Knowledge Building

• 200+ webinars, screenings and special events attracting 41,000+ participants

• Launch of free online Global Webinar Series where World-leading experts provide illuminating presentations and conversations about the ground-breaking opportunity psychedelic-assisted therapies offer.

• Launch of Mind Medicine Australia Podcast series

• Over 550,000 visits to the Mind Medicine Australia website

• Over 39,000+ followers on our social media channels

• Over 500,000+ views on our YouTube Channel

• 6000+ visits to our e-book about psychedelic-assisted psychotherapies

• Over 35,000+ people in our database incl. over 15,000 health professionals and over 1000 psychiatrists

• 500+ regular donors

• 200+ media appearances

• 33+ local Chapters around Australia and New Zealand with 2200+ members and growing

• 55,000+ views to our TGA How-to guide during the 2022 public submission period

• Video animation explaining the mental illness epidemic in Australia and the benefits of psilocybin and MDMA-assisted psychotherapy with 80,000+ views

• Created a short documentary, Science vs Stigma, to dispel some of the myths associated with these important medicines with over 28,000+ views

• Over 150,000+ views of Shroom Boom, a light-hearted music video

• Implemented a Board Observership program in conjunction with VMIAC.

• Appointed as member of peak body, Mental Health Australia

• Launch of MMA online shop selling a range of unique merchandise including Australia’s first book of Psychedelic Healing Stories

• Initiated Australia’s first Essential Research poll to gauge the sentiment of the Australian public on the issue of access to psychedelic medicines in medically controlled environments as treatments for key classes of mental illness. 67% agreed that ‘People experiencing terminal illness should have the choice to use psychedelic-assisted therapy to ease end of life distress’.

• Presented and produced Mind Medicine Australia’s inaugural International Summit on Psychedelic Therapies for Mental Illness in November 2021

• Nearly 1000 people registered for our two-day workshop and Global Summit from every state of Australia and more than 15 other nations

• Over 90,000 views of our Summit sizzle reel

• Over 80,000 visits to the Summit website

• Over 5000 queries received from the Summit website

• 110 virtual breakout rooms

• 32 global leaders in the field presented on a range of topics

• 19 major Corporate partners

• Over 160 Education partners

• 17 Supplier Partners

• 15 Media Partners

• 8 Scholarship winners

• 5 Poster winners

• 1 global 4-day event with massive impact

 

Access to Medically Approved Therapy

• Further submissions made to the TGA to reschedule MDMA and psilocybin from Schedule 9 (Prohibited Substances) to Schedule 8 (Controlled Medicines)

• Australia’s TGA has granted approvals through SAS-B for psilocybin and MDMA assisted therapies for patients on a case-by-case basis

• Continued review and lobbying of Federal and State legislative and regulatory requirements to permit the medicines for clinical use to treatment resistant patients

• Granted an Innovation Patent over an improved method of synthesis of MDMA

• Successfully procured medical grade GMP standard psychedelic medicines for import to Australia for use in trials

• Developing a gold standard National Care Program, clinical protocols and standard operating practices for psychedelic-assisted therapies in partnership with leading clinical groups around Australia

• Key university student placement partnerships with University of Melbourne

 

Professional Development Program

• Our highly anticipated Certificate in Psychedelic-Assisted Therapies commenced in January 2021 featuring a world class Faculty. We have been thrilled to welcome 260 therapists including GPs, physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists, mental health nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, addiction specialists, paramedics and counsellors.

• Confirmed world-leading facilitators for our Certificate in Psychedelic-Assisted Therapies (CPAT) professional development course

• Described as “the best course of its kind in the world” by Prof. David Nutt on ABC Radio National interview (UK)

• Over 500+ applications received since launch

• Over $200,000 raised for CPAT grants through philanthropy to support those in regional and rural areas and therapists suffering financial hardship. Over 50 grants have been awarded so far.

• Over 127,000+ views of the CPAT sizzle reel

• Mind Medicine Institute (MMI) established to further develop educational and training courses

• Launch of the Fundamentals in Psychedelic-Assisted Therapies Course with over 320+ participants so far

Recognition by key peak/membership bodies of our professional development and training programs
Engagement with University Sector and Novel Research

• Successfully advocated for $15 million to support innovative mental health clinical trials utilising psychedelic-assisted therapies from the Federal Government through the Medical Research Futures Fund

• Launch of The Monash University Neuromedicines Discovery Centre, initially proposed by MMA and developed over a 2-year period

• 17+ current trials of psilocybin, MDMA, LSD and Ibogaine in Australia and New Zealand.

• Developed a BLOG, significant education resources and partnered with Universities to disseminate these as well as sharing these via our website

• Discussions with key University stakeholders continue

 

Noteworthy from Media Releases:

TGA Expert Review Findings Support the Therapeutic Use of Medicinal Psychedelics in Treating Mental Health Crisis in October 2021

Mind Medicine Institute Launched as a Dedicated Training, Education and Clinical Services Organisation Focusing on Psychedelic Assisted Therapies for Mental Illness and the Developing Understanding of the Mind, Cognition and Human Consciousness in October

Mind Medicine Australia Launched Australia’s First Book of Psychedelic Healing Stories in October 2021

Monash University announced the establishment of the Neuromedicines Discovery Centre to Focus on Psychedelic-Assisted Therapies for the Treatment of Key Classes of Mental Illness in November 2021

Mind Medicine Australia hosted Australia’s Inaugural International Summit on Psychedelic Therapies for Mental Illness online in November 2021

Mind Medicine Australia joined a global coalition launched to secure a rescheduling of psilocybin under the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances in January 2022

New Polling by Mind Medicine Australia Revealed Over 60% of Australians Support Increased Access to Psychedelic Medicines in February 2022

Mind Medicine Australia Lodged New Applications for the Restricted Medical use of MDMA and Psilocybin Assisted Therapies for Patients with Treatment Resistant Mental Illnesses in March 2022. The full applications can be found here.

The progress we are making in public education was exemplified in several headline media articles including in the Australian Financial Review, The Australian, The Age, Herald Sun, The Saturday Paper and Vogue Australia and media interviews including with Channel Nine, Channel 10, The Project, ABC and numerous other TV and radio stations and online media.

Our primary focus over the next couple of years will be on psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy and MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, given their “Breakthrough Therapy Designation” with the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) in the United States and the strong clinical evidence that supports both their effectiveness and safety. We are also interested in developing other medicines to treat a variety of conditions.

Behind the scenes, we are working closely with key stakeholders to ensure that these therapies will be accessible and affordable to all Australians needing these treatments in medically controlled environments, so that cost and geography doesn’t become a barrier.

In the last 18 months, we have assembled a comprehensive leadership team with expertise in mental illness including psychology, neuroscience and pharmacology, non-profit development, business practices and networks, public health, events, marketing and educational development.

Mind Medicine Australia is also supported by an outstanding Board, Ambassadors, and an Advisory Panel of over 70 local and international experts in medicine, psychiatry, psychology, pharmacology, research, science more broadly, ethics, law, policy, anthropology, business and therapeutic practices. We have also developed a Lived Experience and Young Leaders Panel.

As we move through 2022, our vision and capacity continue to grow, as does the need to make these effective and safe therapies a legally available treatment through our medical system for the increasing number of individuals suffering as a result of the pandemic, environmental challenges and global trends which challenge social cohesiveness and social inclusion.

We ask for your continued and expanded support so that we can fund the path for psilocybin and MDMA-assisted psychotherapy to help treat the millions experiencing key mental illnesses in Australia. This is personal for every one of us.

As Carl Jung said, “The sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.”

With gratitude for your interest and generosity. There has never been a more important time to support innovation in the treatment of mental illness.

Peter Hunt AM and Tania de Jong AM

Tania de Jong AM

LL.B (Hons), GradDipMus

Tania de Jong AM is a trail-blazing Australian soprano, award-winning social entrepreneur, creative innovation catalyst, spiritual journey woman, storyteller and global speaker. Tania is one of Australia’s most successful female entrepreneurs and innovators developing 6 businesses and 4 charities including Creative Universe, Creativity Australia and With One Voice, Creative Innovation Global, Mind Medicine Australia, Dimension5, Umbrella Foundation and Driftwood – The Musical, MTA Entertainment & Events, Pot-Pourri and The Song Room.

She works across the public, private, creative and community sectors.  Tania speaks and sings around the world as a soloist and with her group Pot-Pourri releasing twelve albums. She was Founder and Executive Producer of the award-winning future-shaping events series, Creative Innovation Global.  She was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in June 2008 and named one of the 100 Women of Influence and the 100 Australian Most Influential Entrepreneurs and as one of the 100 most influential people in psychedelics globally in 2021.

Tania’s TED Talk How Singing Together Changes The Brain has sparked international interest.  Tania’s mission is to change the world, one voice at a time!

Peter Hunt AM

B.Com, LL.B

As an investment banker Peter Hunt AM advised local and multi-national companies and governments in Australia for nearly 35 years.  He co-founded and was Executive Chairman of one of Australia’s leading investment banking advisory firms, Caliburn Partnership (now called Greenhill Australia) and continued as Chairman of the Firm after its sale to Greenhill Inc in 2009. Peter was a member of the Advisory Panel of ASIC and chaired the Vincent Fairfax Family Office.

Peter is an active philanthropist involved in funding, developing and scaling social sector organisations which seek to create a better and fairer world.  He is Chairman of Mind Medicine Australia which he established with his wife, Tania de Jong, in 2018. He founded Women’s Community Shelter in 2011 and remains on the Board. He was previously Chairman of So They Can, Grameen Australia and Grameen Australia Philippines. Peter is a Director of Project Rozana and an Advisory Board member of the Monash Sustainable Development Institute. Peter also acts as a pro bono adviser to Creativity Australia. 

Peter was made a member of the General Division of the Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2010 for services to the philanthropic sector.

A message from Dr Simon Longstaff AO

Mental health

Few measures better reveal the character of society than its approach to those who suffer.

Occasionally, the suffering we encounter is beyond our capacity to relieve. In those cases, we can be held to no higher standard than that we have responded with care and compassion. However, what is to be said of a society that could have offered relief – yet refused to do so? How might such a society be judged? Will history excuse those who plead ignorance, or prejudice, or a lack of moral courage to do what was not only possible but necessary? I think not.

Such is the case in our society’s response to those who suffer from mental illness yet are denied access to the increasingly proven benefits of psychedelically assisted clinical therapies. Too often, those who suffer have already given all in service of their society: military personnel, first responders who too often suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Can we justify the continuing harm done to such people when we know that, in many cases, effective treatment options are locked away for no good reason? I think not.

Mind Medicine Australia begins and ends with scientific evidence.

The world abandoned prospective treatments not because they were unsafe or ineffective but because they were associated with the ‘wrong’ side of politics. So, what politics abandoned, let ethics restore. Let us not be a society condemned for the suffering we might have prevented – if only we had made better choices, for a better world.

Dr Simon Longstaff AO is Executive Director of The Ethics Centre and a Director of Mind Medicine Australia.

Dr Simon Longstaff AO

B.Ed., Ph.D

Dr Simon Longstaff commenced his work as the first Executive Director of The Ethics Centre in 1991. He undertook postgraduate studies in Philosophy as a Member of Magdalene College, Cambridge.

Simon is a Fellow of CPA Australia and in June 2016, was appointed an Honorary Professor at the Australian National University – based at the National Centre for Indigenous Studies. Formerly serving as the inaugural President of The Australian Association for Professional & Applied Ethics, Simon serves on a number of boards and committees across a broad spectrum of activities. He was formerly a Fellow of the World Economic Forum.

Simon’s distinguished career includes being named as one of AFR Boss’ True Leaders for the 21st century. In 2013 Dr Longstaff was made an officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for “distinguished service to the community through the promotion of ethical standards in governance and business, to improving corporate responsibility, and to philosophy.”

If the Medicine Works Shouldn’t We All Have Access to it? A Recent Poll of Australians Says Yes We Should By Scott Leckie and Tania de Jong AM

(As published in The Daily Telegraph on 16th February 2022)

The painful COVID-era will fade but it will never be forgotten. This unanticipated period will be remembered for many things – death, suffering, economic and social disruptions and words like lockdown, iso, quarantine, social distancing, Zoom, omicron…

But beyond changes in the way we live and communicate, it is the devastating toll on our mental health that will continue for generations to come. Depression, anxiety, trauma, suicide, addiction, loss of livelihoods, domestic violence and broken families are increasing. We have never felt more isolated, alone and uncertain about our futures.

Our families and communities are suffering, and we urgently need access to preventative and curative medicines and medical care that is safe and effective.

Mental health charity Mind Medicine Australia recently commissioned Essential Research to conduct a representative opinion poll of more than 1,000 Australians. It found that only a small minority was aware of the immense promise of psychedelic-assisted therapy, with just 11% of those asked aware of the medicinal properties of these substances and their potential use in controlled settings. This is despite over 160 recent studies by some of the most prestigious research institutions – Johns Hopkins University, Imperial College London, Oxford, Yale to name but a few – clearly showing the quantifiably positive impacts that these substances can have when used as medicines in combination with therapy, under the guidance of trained doctors and therapists in a clinical environment.

These ground-breaking treatments offer therapeutic access to either psilocybin (the active ingredient in ‘magic mushrooms’) or MDMA, a synthetic medicine. These therapies have been scientifically proven to be safe, non-addictive and effective cures for depression, trauma, end-of-life anxiety and addictions after a short treatment program. Remission rates range between 60-80% with no serious adverse events.

Both medicines have been granted Breakthrough Therapy Status by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States to fast-track their approval. This designation is only given to medicines that may prove to be vastly superior to existing treatments.

Although the recent poll showed that only one in nine Australians was aware of these impacts, when they were informed about the results of recent studies, their views changed dramatically towards supporting access to these promising medicines that remain illegal under Australian law. 67% agreed that ‘People experiencing terminal illness should have the choice to use psychedelic-assisted therapy to ease end of life distress’, 63% agreed ‘People experiencing mental illness should have the choice to access them in medically-controlled environments and as an alternative option for treatment-resistant patients’’, and 60% agreed ‘The difference between medical and recreational use of psychedelic substances should be legislatively recognised’.

Trials are underway in Australia and the demand for these therapies is accelerating rapidly. As ever more legal jurisdictions legalise, decriminalise or otherwise tolerate these substances – Oregon, Washington DC, Jamaica, Canada, the Netherlands and elsewhere – support will grow further. Given our publicly funded health care system, mental health epidemic and human right to access to all forms of safe and effective medicine, huge majorities rightly believe that people should not be prevented from legally accessing medicines in therapeutic settings that can help them in ways that no other pre-existing medicines can.

An official decision by the Therapeutic Goods Authority last year refused to reschedule both psilocybin and MDMA as Controlled Medicines (Schedule 8). This rescheduling would make it easier for doctors to access these therapies in clinical environments for treatment-resistant patients through our Special Access pathways. If these legislative changes continue to be delayed, many more desperate people will seek the treatments underground. Everyone deserves the chance to get well.

A new international campaign on the Right to Universal Access to Safe and Effective Medicine is now underway seeking support for a declaration to this effect, while another initiative is seeking the international rescheduling of psilocybin under the UN drug control regime. There is a growing global movement and a trillion dollar market is emerging. Continuing the status quo not only makes little sense in terms of public health but it is also cruel. There is increasing awareness that help is available, yet these treatments are being withheld even though existing medicines don’t work for the majority.

Arguably, continuing to deny access to these medicines is also a clear human rights violation. Refusing and making illegal therapeutic access to safe medicines with a proven effect violates a whole range of internationally recognised human rights, including the right to the highest attainable level of physical and mental health, the right to access all forms of safe and effective medicines, the right to access pain medication, the right to dignity of the human person, and even the right to be free from inhumane, cruel or degrading treatment or punishment.

The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us that we all deserve access to high quality treatment. As the pandemic becomes endemic, let’s turn our collective minds to ensuring that everyone everywhere has access to each safe and effective medicine. Medicines that are non-addictive, non-toxic, voluntarily taken, administered by trained medical professionals and implemented lawfully, without the threat of sanction for either the patient or the doctor involved.

This issue is not only relevant to conservative, progressive or ecological voters. It is personal because an estimated 50% of us will experience a mental illness in our lifetime. The people are ready and support change. It’s time for the politicians, political parties and all our Governments to follow suit and act with urgency to avoid further avoidable suffering and suicide.

Scott Leckie

Scott A. Leckie is an international Human Rights lawyer, Law Professor and Director and Founder of Displacement Solutions, an NGO dedicated to resolving cases of forced displacement throughout the world, in particular displacement caused by climate change. He also founded and directs Oneness World Foundation (www.onenessworld.org), a think tank exploring questions of world-centric political evolution and new forms of global governance.

He hosts Jointly Venturing, a podcast dedicated to the question of world citizenship, and manages the One House, One Family initiative, an ongoing project in Bangladesh building homes for climate displaced families. He regularly advises a number of United Nations agencies and conceived of and was the driving force behind more than 100 international human rights legal and other normative standards, including UN resolutions – most recently the Peninsula Principles on Climate Displacement Within States. He has written 22 books and over 250 major articles and reports.

Tania de Jong AM

LL.B (Hons), GradDipMus

Tania de Jong AM is a trail-blazing Australian soprano, award-winning social entrepreneur, creative innovation catalyst, spiritual journey woman, storyteller and global speaker. Tania is one of Australia’s most successful female entrepreneurs and innovators developing 6 businesses and 4 charities including Creative Universe, Creativity Australia and With One Voice, Creative Innovation Global, Mind Medicine Australia, Dimension5, Umbrella Foundation and Driftwood – The Musical, MTA Entertainment & Events, Pot-Pourri and The Song Room.

She works across the public, private, creative and community sectors.  Tania speaks and sings around the world as a soloist and with her group Pot-Pourri releasing twelve albums. She was Founder and Executive Producer of the award-winning future-shaping events series, Creative Innovation Global.  She was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in June 2008 and named one of the 100 Women of Influence and the 100 Australian Most Influential Entrepreneurs and as one of the 100 most influential people in psychedelics globally in 2021.

Tania’s TED Talk How Singing Together Changes The Brain has sparked international interest.  Tania’s mission is to change the world, one voice at a time!

Social Media Attacks and Ethical Issues in the Psychedelic Sector – Why can’t we all get on together for the greater good? By Peter Hunt AM

An Open Letter from our Chairman, Peter Hunt AM

 

Tania and I started Mind Medicine Australia three years ago because we wanted to help people who are suffering from mental illness, particularly treatment resistant mental illness. Australia’s mental health statistics are terrible and the level of suffering has become significantly worse during the covid pandemic. Many people who suffer from mental illness have received multiple treatments that have failed often combined with debilitating side effects.

Our mission has always been to expand the treatment options available to practitioners and their patients to reduce the immense suffering in this country.

We chose to work with psychedelic-assisted therapies because the overseas trial results have been so strong. These therapies are curative rather than palliative and the remission rates in overseas trials have been simply stunning. They are also safe and non-addictive when used in appropriate clinical settings by trained practitioners.

We gave ourselves the huge task of developing the ecosystem in this country so that these therapies could become part of our medical system as quickly as possible, and available and affordable to all Australians that could benefit from them.

Over the last three years we have:

Along the way we have met so many outstanding medical and health practitioners and researchers who give of themselves tirelessly every day. They are caring and inspiring people who desperately want to help patients who are suffering from debilitating mental illnesses.

We’ve also met many of the patients. Some of them have received these therapies overseas or though the underground and tell us how much they have been healed from their long-term mental illnesses. Sadly, there are so many more people suffering from long term depression and trauma who reach out to us daily, and tell us about the multiple failed treatments that they have received. They are desperate to be given the opportunity to legally access these therapies. These people just want to be given a chance to lead healthy, happy and meaningful lives.

However, it is with great sadness that I have to say that we have also experienced the dark side of all of this.

There is a small group of people from the psychedelic community that feel threatened by our drive for change. They seem to want things to remain largely the same, with incremental progress subject to ongoing, expensive and time-consuming small research trials which replicate larger trials completed overseas. This group is led by a tiny group of psychologists and young researchers. They operate by making nasty social media attacks on our organisation and highly personal and defamatory attacks on Tania and myself. They send anonymous defamatory and vindictive letters to our advisors and stakeholders. They are too cowardly to speak directly to us or identify themselves on their social media posts. They generally hide behind fake identities or don’t provide any name at all.

Their accusations come under the following headings:

(1) Tania and I are evil capitalists and Mind Medicine Australia is a front for us to make money out of the system. They completely ignore the fact that as a registered charity Mind Medicine Australia’s accounts are audited by external auditors, that we are large funders of its work and that Tania and I work full time for the charity as volunteers and receive zero payment for all the work that we do. They don’t seem to understand that we are simply driven by compassion and a desire to help others.

(2) They attack the quality of the educational courses that we run and don’t appear to realise that the teaching Faculty is led by leading clinicians and educators and includes industry leaders from around the World. Our certificate course was described by Professor David Nutt (one of the leading researchers in this field globally) as the best course of its kind in the World.

(3) They attack the pace of change that we are driving and seem to want people suffering from debilitating mental illnesses to be patient and simply wait until they believe it is time for these therapies to ‘emerge’.

(4) They argue that we don’t believe that research is important and choose to ignore the fact that we are actually funding research trials, have many researchers on our advisory panel and made representations to the Government that led to $15 million of grant funding becoming available for psychedelic research. They do not appear to understand that ongoing research is completely consistent with the use of unregistered medicines in a controlled way on compassionate grounds when circumstances are appropriate, and that this is a normal part of our medical system.

(5) They attack our work environment and ignore the fact that we have an incredible team, some of whom have been with us almost from the start. They point to staff turnover but do not understand that turnover is normal with any organisation especially in its early stages. Sometimes staff members also have to be encouraged to leave because they are disruptive to the culture and/or poor performers. These people have never started or run an entrepreneurial organisation focused on driving change and seem to have no idea of the pressures and work involved.

(6) They justify hiding their identity with the assertion that we would legally attack them if they publicly identified themselves, but ignore the fact that we would have no basis for a legal challenge if their public statements weren’t defamatory and they weren’t engaged in harassment, victimization and bullying.

They particularly attack my wife Tania, an incredibly talented and caring human being who has started three charities to help the disadvantaged and alleviate suffering. Tania works tirelessly to help people, She is deeply compassionate and caring and works as a volunteer for no financial return. Perhaps they find this concept of unpaid service to others challenging and are daunted by her drive and determination to have impact. But that is no excuse. Attacking and trolling any person vindictively on or offline, and particularly a woman, should be unacceptable to all of us. It’s even worse when the perpetrators work in the mental health sector and therefore understand the mental damage that this sort of conduct can cause.

These personal attacks also send a message to the regulators that we are a community divided by pettiness and that we are incapable of coherent and professional discussion of differences. This choice of behaviour is simply self-destructive.

There is a lot of hypocrisy in these people. We know that they are all regular users of the medicines and, indeed, some of them serve the medicines to others. However, they seem to think that it is their right to prevent people suffering from mental illness from accessing these therapies through the medical system until they themselves are ready for this to happen.

They suffer from cowardice and a sense of entitlement. We know who these people are and we have reached out to them on multiple occasions to try to build understanding. These people hold professional qualifications and by their conduct are derogating their professional duties and violating their ethical obligations. Instead, these people keep attacking us and hiding their identity when they send their anonymous letters to third parties and make horrible social media comments.

I am writing this note simply because I want to make you all aware of the unnecessary challenges that we constantly have from a small group of spiteful, selfish and rather sad people. I also want to emphasise that these people will not divert us from our goal of making these therapies accessible to all Australians who need them through our medical system.

What is often referred to as the ‘psychedelic community’ is a broad group of diverse people with many different agendas. Most of the community are decent and caring people who want to see all those who are suffering from relevant classes of mental illness being given the opportunity of accessing these incredible treatments through our medical system. However, the darkness of the small faction that is attacking us needs to be dealt with.

I would therefore ask all of you who know who these people are to insist that they behave decently and in a caring and respectful way. Ask them to consider the importance of the work that we are doing and to consider the implications before posting small-minded and defamatory material. Please ask them to behave as professionals and bring concerns into the clear and open air where we can assess differences and hopefully come to some form of understanding.

It’s fine to have different opinions on how to progress this incredibly important work provided that the discourse is respectful and inquiring. Disagreeing on something can be a feature of a healthy and mature mind if a person remains thoughtful and curious. We welcome anyone with issues with our work to reach out so that we can address them collaboratively.

We should all be working together for the greater good.

Peter Hunt AM

B.Com, LL.B

As an investment banker Peter Hunt AM advised local and multi-national companies and governments in Australia for nearly 35 years.  He co-founded and was Executive Chairman of one of Australia’s leading investment banking advisory firms, Caliburn Partnership (now called Greenhill Australia) and continued as Chairman of the Firm after its sale to Greenhill Inc in 2009. Peter was a member of the Advisory Panel of ASIC and chaired the Vincent Fairfax Family Office.

Peter is an active philanthropist involved in funding, developing and scaling social sector organisations which seek to create a better and fairer world.  He is Chairman of Mind Medicine Australia which he established with his wife, Tania de Jong, in 2018. He founded Women’s Community Shelter in 2011 and remains on the Board. He was previously Chairman of So They Can, Grameen Australia and Grameen Australia Philippines. Peter is a Director of Project Rozana and an Advisory Board member of the Monash Sustainable Development Institute. Peter also acts as a pro bono adviser to Creativity Australia. 

Peter was made a member of the General Division of the Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2010 for services to the philanthropic sector.

Anyone for a Magic Mushroom Medicine? By Tania de Jong AM and Scott Leckie

In the lucky country we like to think of ourselves as free, prosperous and privileged. But is our luck running out and what might we do to get it back? Australia is now ranked as the OECD’s worst performer on tackling climate change, our vaccination rollout has by every measure been a dismal failure with Australia today ranked 113th in vaccinating its people, and we are now the nation with the second worst mental health statistics in the world, with only Iceland behind us. Something is clearly not right.

Somehow, we have created a society which promotes the consumption of all forms of alcohol, and where gambling is an addictive source of government revenue. Yet fungi that possess incredible medicinal powers and grows all by itself can, if consumed, put you behind bars.

We allow Australians to drink and smoke, eat ever-growing amounts of sugar, trans-fats and processed foods, causing an obesity epidemic of massive proportions that costs society billions of dollars a year. Doctors easily dole out anti-depressants and pain-killing opiates. Only an estimated 30-35% of depressed individuals in the general population experience remission from current pharmacotherapies or psychotherapies, with the majority experiencing ongoing symptoms, and significant side effects, and between 50% to 80% relapsing after treatment stop. To create positive change and healing, we need to be innovative and broaden the tools available to our medical practitioners and qualified therapists working in this area.

And how free are we if we don’t have access to all of the safe and effective medicines that could cure us when we are ill?

History, science and increasing amounts of data, now clearly demonstrate the enormous potential social benefits of psilocybin mushrooms (psilocybin is the psychoactive component in magic mushrooms) to our mental health, creativity and productivity. Yet digestion of psilocybin remains illegal in Australia, both for medical and recreational uses. Why do prevailing State laws make it illegal to eat completely safe, non-addictive, non-toxic and free wild mushrooms, which may just be growing right outside your door in this magic mushroom season? And yet it is perfectly legal to pick a poisonous mushroom growing nearby that may possibly kill you!

 

 

Far from making us ‘lose our minds’, it turns out that the educated, careful and responsible consumption of psilocybin mushrooms might just make us better and healthier people. And yet our minds, the cornerstone of everything we do in this short and finite life, are not as free as we may think.

There is nothing particularly radical or new about humans picking and consuming mushrooms, even those with psychoactive properties. Indeed, we would be hard pressed to find a single human culture anywhere, throughout thousands of years of recorded human history, that did not revere and use these medicinal sacraments to heal a variety of physical and mental ailments. Indeed, many now believe that the original story of our beloved Santa Claus is thought to have come from Nordic indigenous peoples who, along with their reindeer, were known to have regularly consumed the famous Amanita Muscaria mushrooms.  Their white dots against a red-capped mushroom dome became the key colours of Christmas cheer.

Though these mushrooms may have a reputation as daunting and dangerous, the science clearly shows that the individual and social dangers associated with the taking of psilocybin is far safer than almost all other drugs, even in recreational environments.

In scores of medical trials of these therapies at the world’s most prestigious Universities including Yale, Harvard, Oxford, Imperial and Johns Hopkins we are seeing remission rates of 60-80% amongst thousands of patients suffering with depression, anxiety, addictions and end-of-life distress. These results occur after just two to three medicinal doses in clinical settings, combined with a short course of psychotherapy. They have been shown to be effective, safe and non-addictive. Many patients describe the therapy as one of the top five most meaningful experiences in their lives! Whoever says that about any medicine?

These outcomes are so promising that psilocybin-assisted therapies are now being studied for the treatment of anorexia and other eating disorders, a range of addictions, obsessive compulsive disorder, dementia, Parkinson’s disease and cluster headaches. The therapeutic use of mushrooms has been legalised in Canada and the U.S. State of Oregon, and compassionate access to these treatments for treatment-resistant patients is being granted in the USA, Switzerland, Israel, and even Australia.

Aside from the realm of mental health, mushrooms are known to fundamentally change things for the better. The pioneering work of globally well-known mushroom experts, including American Paul Stamets, demonstrates that mycelial networks from which mushrooms grow constitute a significant portion of the world’s precious topsoil. They are the neural pathways by which trees and other plants actually communicate with one another. These infinitely complex networks also have qualities that can detoxify waste and greatly enhance the strength and resilience of topsoil. Clearly, mushrooms can do extraordinary things!

Psilocybin mushrooms can intensely reconnect one’s mind and significantly alter consciousness in ways almost impossible to describe to those who have not had this experience. Psilocybin binds to a serotonin receptor called 5-HT2a and takes the brain into a state where it can flow more freely, unconstrained by prior and rigid beliefs about how the world is supposed to work. Psilocybin works through cracking open complexes of suffering contained within the body and brain. It is often said of conventional antidepressants that they merely ‘plaster over’ the root causes of suffering, whereas the defining property of psychedelic therapy is the ability to accelerate self-understanding through revelation leading to complete remission for many.

How can ingesting a mushroom that grows naturally all over Australia still be illegal? In a country that is ‘free’, how can picking a magic mushroom in your garden leave you subject to prosecution and imprisonment? Increasingly, with compassionate motivations, we allow people to use drugs to end their lives via euthanasia, yet we prevent the management of mental illness with a safe and effective medicine that could assist millions to overcome a whole range of health challenges.

As Covid-19 has shown, it is easier to treat an illness if you understand it. Mental illness is the world’s number one cause of disability, and depression is the largest contributor to this burden. Pre-Covid-19, anti-depressant medications were prescribed to one in eight of the adult population in Australia including one in four older adults and one in thirty children.  And yet our rates of mental illness and suicides continue to grow. We clearly need a better approach based on science and proven treatments that get to the root cause of our suffering.

Our hope is that professionally delivered psychedelic therapy using psilocybin mushrooms can meet the massive need for breakthroughs in mental health care.

Action is needed now to ensure that these medicines are accessible and affordable to all and prevent further avoidable suffering and suicides. The recently completed Global Drug Survey showed that thousands of people sought self-treatment for psychiatric conditions and emotional distress with psychedelic-assisted therapies:  85% of them said their conditions improved as a result. People are taking matters into their own hands because they cannot wait any longer for a legal and medically controlled pathway.

Australia was a world-leading innovator in major issues such as the eight-hour work day, women’s vote, our superannuation and healthcare system and so much more. We often initiated positive change, but now our reefs, forests, unique animals, climate and coastlines are under severe threat and our international reputation is losing its shine. We need to find a way back.

Providing safe, medically controlled and legal access to effective medicines to everyone who needs them may be one of the answers. If we want to regain our world leading stature, we all need to reassess what it means to truly be free and make choices about the medicines that may heal us.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is currently conducting an Independent Review to reconsider the rescheduling of MDMA and psilocybin from Schedule 9 (Prohibited Medicine) to Schedule 8 (Controlled Medicine), while the Australian Government also recently announced a $15 million grant round for research into psychedelic-assisted therapies. However, huge obstacles remain, and there is still much to achieve to ensure we catch up and heal the immense suffering.

The next step is to ensure that all Australians enjoy the right to the highest attainable level of health, a right that is recognised under a plethora of human rights treaties Australia has freely ratified. To fully possess this right, everyone needs to have access to all the medicines in the medicine cabinet, and that includes magical mushroom medicine.

Tania de Jong AM

LL.B (Hons), GradDipMus

Tania de Jong AM is a trail-blazing Australian soprano, award-winning social entrepreneur, creative innovation catalyst, spiritual journey woman, storyteller and global speaker. Tania is one of Australia’s most successful female entrepreneurs and innovators developing 6 businesses and 4 charities including Creative Universe, Creativity Australia and With One Voice, Creative Innovation Global, Mind Medicine Australia, Dimension5, Umbrella Foundation and Driftwood – The Musical, MTA Entertainment & Events, Pot-Pourri and The Song Room.

She works across the public, private, creative and community sectors.  Tania speaks and sings around the world as a soloist and with her group Pot-Pourri releasing twelve albums. She was Founder and Executive Producer of the award-winning future-shaping events series, Creative Innovation Global.  She was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in June 2008 and named one of the 100 Women of Influence and the 100 Australian Most Influential Entrepreneurs and as one of the 100 most influential people in psychedelics globally in 2021.

Tania’s TED Talk How Singing Together Changes The Brain has sparked international interest.  Tania’s mission is to change the world, one voice at a time!

Scott Leckie

Scott A. Leckie is an international Human Rights lawyer, Law Professor and Director and Founder of Displacement Solutions, an NGO dedicated to resolving cases of forced displacement throughout the world, in particular displacement caused by climate change. He also founded and directs Oneness World Foundation (www.onenessworld.org), a think tank exploring questions of world-centric political evolution and new forms of global governance.

He hosts Jointly Venturing, a podcast dedicated to the question of world citizenship, and manages the One House, One Family initiative, an ongoing project in Bangladesh building homes for climate displaced families. He regularly advises a number of United Nations agencies and conceived of and was the driving force behind more than 100 international human rights legal and other normative standards, including UN resolutions – most recently the Peninsula Principles on Climate Displacement Within States. He has written 22 books and over 250 major articles and reports.

Psychedelic Medicines: How My Journey Into The Jungle Changed My Life by Dr Alana Roy

 

My name is Dr. Alana Roy and for those who know and love me, Lani Roy. I am the National Practice Manager of Mind Medicine Psychological Support Services and the Co-lead on CPAT (Mind Medicine’s ‘Certificate in Psychedelic-Assisted Therapies’). I am a Social Worker, Psychologist, Counsellor, Researcher, Teacher, mother, and wife.

I am also an Ayahuasca dietero* a psychedelic and plant medicine advocate… And I am finally ready to share my story.

When I turned 30 years old, I was a decade into my career as a sexual abuse and suicide prevention therapist. I had always loved my work and had enormous energy and joy for my clients and projects.

During this time, I was completing my PhD, raising my two young sons, growing my private practices, and working multiple roles in the community. Slowly but surely, I began a descent into what I can now see as a “spiritual crisis and emergence.” Over a two-year period, I experienced extreme levels of existential anxiety, fear of death, and excruciating levels of suffering – suffering for all the women, men, and children impacted by sexual, emotional, and physical abuse. I began to lose hope in the current treatments offered by mainstream mental health services, which contributed to occupational burnout; an endless revolving door of wounded souls taking far too long to feel relief. I felt that I was failing them.

Over this two-year period as I completed my PhD, navigated complex trauma cases, and attended parks and playgroups with my children, my body, mind, and spirit began to shut down. I plummeted into a dark, dense black hole of nothingness – I would oscillate from feeling nothing to extreme terror. I tried everything – meditation, mindfulness, hypnotherapy, exercise, therapy, supervision, spending time with friends and family. I had resources, support, and a happy and loving marriage of 18 years, but the suffering deepened. People did not know how to help me. My psychologists were running out of ideas and the capacity to hold my darkness.

I finally understood the suicidal mind. I had supported people with suicidal thinking my entire professional life. Yet, I never quite grasped their level of pain until I experienced my spiritual emergence.

I also gained a deeper respect for myself as a woman and a mother during this time; I was able to compartmentalise my pain and keep significant levels of joy and happiness flowing in my household for my children. However, this was exhausting, and something drastic needed to happen. Death and panic met me each morning as I made my children’s cereal and kept me awake all night. In the late nights, as my beautiful family slept, I fell apart. I began researching alternative treatments for over a year. I explored topics ranging as far and wide as atheism, panpsychism, physics, cosmology, theories of space and time, neurotheology, and of course nihilism. Somewhere in this rigorous, yet desperate search, I found Ayahuasca.

I remember looking at my husband and saying, “It is either I go to the jungle or a psychiatric ward.” The next day I booked my ticket to Peru.

Getting on that plane alone was the bravest thing I had ever done. My psychologist told me not to go and that I was making a mistake. I felt fear and trepidation at letting go of my consciousness and what little sanity it had left. In my mind, I said goodbye to my husband and children. I felt that I was approaching death, and I was right. Something did die, my fear.

My first night drinking Ayahuasca was both the death, and the birth of me. I sat down in the dark and drank two big cups; with cosmic levels of fear, I pulled the psychedelic trigger. During this journey I processed memories of my past sexual abuse and domestic violence; my ego and sense of self dissolved; I experienced the most fear I have ever experienced in my life; I died; I was born; I purged out global, archetypal, personal, and client traumas. I also experienced realms, dimensions, spirits, downloads, and the external feeling of being known and held.

After this experience, I was sent into isolation to hang with the monkeys and the bats for five days to participate in a mapacho (tobacco dieta). Each day under strict supervision I drank mapacho and spent time in deep meditation; grounding, integrating, processing, and healing. Over the coming weeks, I went on to do San Pedro cactus and more Ayahuasca ceremonies.

Both medicines worked synergistically for me. Ayahuasca expanded me beyond my biggest and wildest fears, whilst San Pedro helped me experience the drumbeat of the natural world; I could hear the animals, the trees, the jungle, and in a sense the beat of my own heart and all the aspects in my life which connect me to a sense of meaning and purpose. San Pedro grounded me back into my body, my heart, and my practical and rational mind. This ultimately helped me to process many aspects of my Ayahuasca journeys, which for me, remain beyond language, space, and time.

San Pedro

I will never forget the feeling of jumping into the Amazon River with no fear. As I swam with excitement, I could see my new sense of self emerging. I drove out of the jungle on a little rusty boat in the darkness of the early morning, into the light of the bustling city of Iquitos, and knew I was ready to return home. However, were people ready for me?

On my return to Australia, I was left to integrate these experiences alone, with no professional support, and no community to understand me. I felt a deep sense of reverse culture shock. I retuned with eyes that could see the environment that our modern world can generate; the disconnection, mass consumption, greed, sheer lack of depth and empathy for others.

Few people wanted to engage with me on the epistemology of plant spirits, or could tolerate the notion that my most life changing experience involved losing my mind in the dark with an exotic brew. Professionals didn’t trust that my progress would last and were not willing to engage with me in discussion regarding the huge potential of psychedelics and mental health.

My family and friends saw the changes in me and would often say “Lani, you look and sound so different, how did you get better?”

It took me a long time to be able to say, with confidence and without censorship “I went to the jungle and drank Ayahuasca, San Pedro and spent a lot of time alone with a master plant, that’s what changed me.”

I am an Ayahuasca dietero

I am a Psychologist/ Social Worker

I am a Scientist-Practitioner

I wear all these titles and more, embracing paradox and complexity with pride. Can this make people uncomfortable? Yes…. But progress and growth are often uncomfortable.

Each day I wake up with a new mystery and adventure to explore. My ability to hold darkness and trauma has expanded beyond what I could have ever imagined

In a few short years, I am now running Mind Medicine Australia National Psychological Support Services and helping to grow a national community of professional experts who are skilled in harm minimisation, preparation, and integration services for people seeking out psychedelics in legal clinical trials, as well as community and overseas contexts.

I have revitalised hope for the mental health system as we, as a global community, pioneer the clinical use of psychedelics. I work each day providing clinical support to people who have had similar experiences. After 15 years of working as a trauma specialist, I am finally seeing fast and deeply transformative results with psychedelic medicines. The clinical evidence can no longer be ignored. Our policy and lawmakers need to move beyond the stigma of psychedelics and listen to the science.

I have the privilege of walking side by side with a team of wise, humble, and skilled academics and practitioners in the Certificate of Psychedelic Therapies and together, with you, and the wisdom of these plants and molecules… we will change the mental health system.

This is only one chapter of my story; there are many layers and journeys left untold.

I am growing as a wife, mother, friend, leader, mentor, teacher, researcher, medicine woman. I have so much to learn, but with my plant teachers by my side and the support of professionals with integrity, I will do my best with what time I have on this earth to generate as much healing, joy and dreaming as I can.

 

*Ayahuasca is taken in combination with other ‘master plants’ is referred to as a shamanic dieta (Gearin & Labarte, 2018). The term ‘dieta’ in Spanish simply means diet. However, in this context, a dieta encompasses a range of dietary and behavioural practices in which apprentices make lasting relationships with the spirit/essence of the specific plants, including ayahuasca, over a number of days.  

Dr Alana Roy

Ph. D Psychology, B. A Social Work (MHSW)

Dr Alana Roy is a psychologist, social worker and therapist and has spent the last 13 years working in mental health, suicide prevention, trauma, sexual abuse, family violence and the disability sector. Alana has worked with borderline personality and dissociative identity disorder in various roles in the community such as: Rape Crisis Centres with victims of ritual abuse, childhood and adult sexual assault, supporting women in the sex industry, survivors of human trafficking and now as a psychedelic integration specialist.

Alana focuses on harm reduction, community and connection. She is dedicated to psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy and plant medicines. She has engaged with, and provides integration therapeutic support services for communities across Australia. Alana works at several universities as a Research Fellow and supervisor of students on placement. Alana passionately advocates for public policy, community education and legislative changes so that these treatments are regulated and supported by a strong, connected and skilled sector.

Learn more about Alana’s experiences in: Psychedelic Medicines: How My Journey Into The Jungle Changed My Life

Peter’s Story: Finding Acceptance, Being Generous And Healing Grief Through Psychedelic Medicines by Peter Hunt AM

Psychedelic roof

 

As a young person, I never thought that I would be an Australian. I lived in a country town in England and my family seemed secure and loving (even though relationships between my mother and my father were sometimes strained). Then when I was 13, without any warning, my father committed suicide. He hadn’t let on that his business was failing, and he dealt with the burden of impending bankruptcy by taking his own life. In his letter to my mother, he said that he thought taking his life was for the best. What he didn’t realise was the lifelong damage that he would do to all of us.

My mother was an extraordinary person. In an instant, she had lost her husband, her home, her financial security, and nearly all of her possessions. But she was incredibly determined with lots of inner strength and decided that we should start again by emigrating to Australia. At the time the Australian government paid for virtually everything; a 6-week journey by ship to Australia with my mother paying just 10 pounds (about $20 Australian dollars at the time), and with me coming for free because I was under 16 years of age.

I can remember the ship coming into Sydney Harbour on a beautiful and crisp winter’s morning with the mist rising from the water. I can remember feeling excited by this new country where the light seemed so bright compared to the pastel colours of England and where the buildings in the city seemed so high. I could feel the energy, but I also remember feeling my deep sadness. I felt deeply the loss of my father and nearly everything that I had ever known, my home and my childhood friends.

Looking back, I now realise that I dealt with this sadness by becoming incredibly good at building barriers around my heart; going inwards and working incredibly hard to succeed in my education and in my career. I was lucky to get the chance to go to a great school, which encouraged me to excel, then to go to university (which was then basically free), and then to get a job as a lawyer at a top law firm before moving into investment banking.

As an investment banker, I did far better than I could ever have believed possible. I eventually started my own firm and then sold the firm 10 years later to an American investment banking group. Looking back, I now realise that the hard work, the constant need to achieve, and the financial rewards were all a way of escaping from the pain that I felt deep down. Sadly, this pain prevented me from experiencing the true intimacy in my relationships with other human beings that everyone should have.

As I got older, I started to realise how lucky I had been. I could so easily have taken a different road, unable to cope and spiraled down. Luck gave me an amazing mother with the courage to start again and gave me the intellect, health, and determination to make a go of my new life. But it all came at a cost.

My way of dealing with my sense of luck was to get more and more involved in the not-for-profit sector both as a philanthropist and as an active participant – first going on to Boards and then starting new charities to help disadvantaged people who hadn’t had the luck that I had experienced. By the time that I met my beautiful wife Tania nearly 10 years ago, I had been extensively involved across the not-for-profit sector (particularly in the areas of homelessness and poverty alleviation). I had also started the Northern Beaches Women’s Shelter (with my previous partner) and then Women’s Community Shelters (www.womenscommunityshelters.org.au). The more I dealt with people who were suffering, the more I realised that it could so easily have been me. The only difference was that I had been lucky and they hadn’t been.

About 6 years ago, I can remember Tania getting excited about a Michael Pollan article she read in the New Yorker Magazine, explaining the outstanding trial results that were being achieved by researchers at major universities in the UK and North America using psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy as a cure for key classes of mental illness. I must have been busy on other things at the time because I didn’t immediately get excited about this research, and given the outstanding results being achieved, I should have.

However, Tania is a determined person and a great connector, and she quickly developed relationships with leading overseas researchers in this field. She tried to get us enrolled in trials in London so that we could experience these psychedelic substances, but we didn’t qualify (no mental illness – at least that we know of). Tania didn’t give up though and she found a therapist in Holland (where the therapy is legal) and arranged for us to have a psychedelic experience with psilocybin.

Even then I wasn’t that excited, but I went along because I trusted Tania and this was something that she was obviously passionate about and wanted to try. I had never tried any mind-altering substances (other than alcohol) and I had no idea what I was letting myself in for.

I have to say that the experience with psilocybin was “out of this world!” The therapist helped us get into the right mindset and the setting was quiet and peaceful. Then we took the psilocybin-containing mushrooms and for the first 20 minutes, nothing happened. It felt like a bit of a let-down. Eventually, with my eyes covered by an eye mask, lying down, and eyes closed, I started to “see” the amazing psychedelic shapes and colors that people talk about.

Kaleidoscope

I was then transported into another world that was timeless and where I became an observer. The experience is impossible to explain to anyone who hasn’t taken the medicine: wondrous, confronting, beautiful, extraordinary, altogether another realm of consciousness.  I came out of the experience changed, as if the blinkers that so many of us hide behind had been removed.

The argument that these substances are addictive is complete nonsense. The experience was so deep and meaningful that it took Tania and I a year before we had a second go, and that was even more powerful.

It was now decision time for us. Tania and I could either keep the experience to ourselves or work towards making these therapies available to everyone who needed them in safe environments with trained therapists. Mind Medicine Australia was born from a deep desire to help make these therapies part of our medical system so that many more Australians suffering from debilitating mental illnesses, like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, could get well and realise the joy of life which should be available to all human beings.

Mind Medicine Australia is a charity because we want to make these therapies – with their incredible remission rates – available to all Australians that need them, irrespective of wealth or where they live. We don’t want a need to make money to get in the way.

So how do I feel now about the impact of these medicines on me and the prospect of making them available to all Australians that need them?

The self-made “protective” barriers around me have fallen away a lot in the last 6 years since my first psychedelic experience, as my capacity for acceptance has grown. My sense of wonder in the beauty of the natural world and all human beings has increased in a profound way. It’s impossible to explain this miracle.

How extraordinary that a molecule that exists naturally in some types of mushrooms locks perfectly into a certain type of receptor in the human brain and causes that person to go inwards into another realm of consciousness and, in doing so, examine the wonder of life and the connectedness of all living things. The medicine has been an amazing gift for Tania and I, and we want this gift to be available to all Australians in need.

Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about out mental health system. I’ve learned that its full of the most inspiring health practitioners who give of themselves every day. That’s the good news. The bad news is that there is also a huge amount of entrenched thinking, vested interests and hubris shared by some participants in the mental health system, which (despite claims to the contrary) isn’t based on the available science and data and which inhibits positive change, prevents people from getting well, and leads to more suffering.

Mind Medicine Australia continues to make good progress and I am increasingly confident that these therapies will become available for Australians that need them. The big question is how long will this process take? We need to move quickly to break down bias, prejudice, ignorance, hubris, and vested interests. There are just too many people suffering needlessly.

Peter Hunt AM

B.Com, LL.B

As an investment banker Peter Hunt AM advised local and multi-national companies and governments in Australia for nearly 35 years.  He co-founded and was Executive Chairman of one of Australia’s leading investment banking advisory firms, Caliburn Partnership (now called Greenhill Australia) and continued as Chairman of the Firm after its sale to Greenhill Inc in 2009. Peter was a member of the Advisory Panel of ASIC and chaired the Vincent Fairfax Family Office.

Peter is an active philanthropist involved in funding, developing and scaling social sector organisations which seek to create a better and fairer world.  He is Chairman of Mind Medicine Australia which he established with his wife, Tania de Jong, in 2018. He founded Women’s Community Shelter in 2011 and remains on the Board. He was previously Chairman of So They Can, Grameen Australia and Grameen Australia Philippines. Peter is a Director of Project Rozana and an Advisory Board member of the Monash Sustainable Development Institute. Peter also acts as a pro bono adviser to Creativity Australia. 

Peter was made a member of the General Division of the Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2010 for services to the philanthropic sector.

The Enormous “Elephant in the Room” in the Government’s Mental Health Funding by Tania de Jong AM and Peter Hunt AM

Elephant in room

Mind Medicine Australia (MMA) welcomes the Government’s commitment to mental health and its drive to improve the mental health of Australians and reduce suicide rates. The increased funding for the sector announced in the Budget is an especially important part of this.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said in his Budget speech that suicide prevention was a “national priority”, however the enormous and largely unspoken “elephant in the room” is the lack of effective treatments for many Australians suffering from mental illness.

Too many Australians who seek help are not getting well simply because of the lack of effective treatment innovation in the sector for decades. As a result, the sector has become too focused on managing mental illness (a palliative approach) rather than providing cures (a curative approach).

There is a strong correlation between mental illness and suicidality. Psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy for depression and MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for post-traumatic stress disorder is demonstrating remarkably high remission rates in overseas trials and both now have Breakthrough Therapy Designation with the FDA in the United States. They are being provided to treatment resistant patients under government approved Expanded Access Schemes in North America, Israel, and Switzerland. Trials are also taking place for a range of other debilitating mental illnesses such as anorexia, obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety disorder, substance abuse disorder and early-stage dementia. These treatments represent a major paradigm shift in the treatment of mental illnesses.

The treatments only take place in medically controlled environments, combining 2–3 medicinal sessions with psychotherapy. They have been shown to be safe and non-addictive and curative rather than palliative. Mind Medicine Australia encourages the Government to make these new innovative treatments a central part of its mental health strategy.

We will never solve this problem if we do not invest in new and better treatments.

Mind Medicine Australia is building the infrastructure in Australia for the rollout of these therapies including, the development of training courses for experienced mental health practitioners, the development of clinical protocols and treatment manuals and the development of medicine manufacturing capabilities and supply arrangements. However, to expedite the introduction of these new therapies we need the Government to be proactive in developing the regulatory environment and the medical benefits system to ensure that all Australians in need (and not just wealthy Australians) have access. We also need State and Territory Governments to be working cooperatively with the Commonwealth Government to make this happen.

The Chairman of Mind Medicine Australia, Peter Hunt AM, commented that: “This budget increase is a clear sign that the Government recognises that the current system is failing many Australians. However, the high rates of mental illness in our Society won’t be solved simply by providing more and better facilities and making them more accessible. We need treatments that work for more Australians and much higher remission rates than those currently being achieved. Psilocybin and MDMA assisted therapies offer a new treatment paradigm in mental health so that many more people suffering from mental illnesses have the opportunity to get well. Rescheduling these substances under the Poisons Standard so that they can be used as part of therapy as controlled medicines in medically controlled environments and the development of an accommodative regulatory and fiscal framework needs to be an integral part of Government strategy”.

Executive Director of Mind Medicine Australia, Tania de Jong AM said: “Research from many overseas trials indicates that these medicines are safe and non-addictive when administered within a medically-controlled environment and can lead to remissions in 60–80% of patients after just 2–3 medicinal sessions in combination with psychotherapy. There have been no adverse events in any of the trials, involving thousands of patients. Finally, there is a chance to prevent the immense suffering and suicides in our community.”

The use of psychedelic medicine, within a clinical framework, is the new paradigm for the future of mental health care. MMA continues to build the ecosystem for these medicines to become available and accessible to those who are suffering through raising awareness, educating medical practitioners and the community.

Tania de Jong AM

LL.B (Hons), GradDipMus

Tania de Jong AM is a trail-blazing Australian soprano, award-winning social entrepreneur, creative innovation catalyst, spiritual journey woman, storyteller and global speaker. Tania is one of Australia’s most successful female entrepreneurs and innovators developing 6 businesses and 4 charities including Creative Universe, Creativity Australia and With One Voice, Creative Innovation Global, Mind Medicine Australia, Dimension5, Umbrella Foundation and Driftwood – The Musical, MTA Entertainment & Events, Pot-Pourri and The Song Room.

She works across the public, private, creative and community sectors.  Tania speaks and sings around the world as a soloist and with her group Pot-Pourri releasing twelve albums. She was Founder and Executive Producer of the award-winning future-shaping events series, Creative Innovation Global.  She was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in June 2008 and named one of the 100 Women of Influence and the 100 Australian Most Influential Entrepreneurs and as one of the 100 most influential people in psychedelics globally in 2021.

Tania’s TED Talk How Singing Together Changes The Brain has sparked international interest.  Tania’s mission is to change the world, one voice at a time!

Peter Hunt AM

B.Com, LL.B

As an investment banker Peter Hunt AM advised local and multi-national companies and governments in Australia for nearly 35 years.  He co-founded and was Executive Chairman of one of Australia’s leading investment banking advisory firms, Caliburn Partnership (now called Greenhill Australia) and continued as Chairman of the Firm after its sale to Greenhill Inc in 2009. Peter was a member of the Advisory Panel of ASIC and chaired the Vincent Fairfax Family Office.

Peter is an active philanthropist involved in funding, developing and scaling social sector organisations which seek to create a better and fairer world.  He is Chairman of Mind Medicine Australia which he established with his wife, Tania de Jong, in 2018. He founded Women’s Community Shelter in 2011 and remains on the Board. He was previously Chairman of So They Can, Grameen Australia and Grameen Australia Philippines. Peter is a Director of Project Rozana and an Advisory Board member of the Monash Sustainable Development Institute. Peter also acts as a pro bono adviser to Creativity Australia. 

Peter was made a member of the General Division of the Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2010 for services to the philanthropic sector.

It’s Time To Give Our Military The Medicine They Need by Scott Leckie and Tania de Jong AM

Military

Following the American decision to bring their troops home from Afghanistan after some 20 years in that troublesome country, Australia will also soon do the same. After losing 41 Australian lives, 261 wounded in action, facing war crimes allegations and billions of dollars of expense, thousands of our country’s bravest men and women will soon be coming home. Sadly, many of the more than 39,000 soldiers who served in Afghanistan will have varying degrees of post-traumatic stress disorder. This is nothing unique to the ADF. All soldiers everywhere suffer from PTSD. It’s just a question of degree; whether they know it or not.

Imagine the trauma then, when they come to learn that upon their arrival back in the lucky country, how unlucky they are that they still cannot access medicine with an incredibly successful track record in treating PTSD, that is cheap, plentiful and, most importantly, that works.

More than 150 recent empirical studies have shown the remarkable success that the therapeutic use of either psilocybin (the naturally occurring active ingredient in what are colloquially known as ‘magic mushrooms’) and MDMA (known more commonly as ecstasy) can have with people suffering from PTSD. These medicines can assist them in dealing effectively and permanently with the traumas of war. Yet when they return home, our soldiers will not have legal access to these medicines.

Both psilocybin and MDMA remain illegal in Australia and cannot legally be prescribed by doctors for patients, even though more and more people realise that such substances can be of great benefit in dealing with a range of mental disorders including PTSD. They cannot be grown or manufactured in Australia, cannot be imported and cannot be medically prescribed for patients in need, including returning military personnel. Yet they are available through Expanded and Compassionate Access pathways in many of our closest allies, including the United States, Israel, Switzerland and Canada.

Among other critics of the status quo, Dr Simon Longstaff AO, Executive Director of The Ethics Centre says that it is unethical and inhumane to withhold these treatments from those who are suffering. Existing treatments for PTSD lead to remissions in only 5% of patients compared to remissions for 60–80% of those receiving 2–3 medicinal doses of MDMA or psilocybin combined with a short course of psychotherapy.

In a recent trial supervised by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 105 participants (many of whom were veterans and first responders) had been suffering from treatment-resistant PTSD for an average of 18 years. Just three medicinal doses of MDMA with a short course of psychotherapy led to remission in 52% of cases immediately and in 68% of cases at the 12 month follow up.

Brigadier General Sutton, New York City’s Commissioner of Veteran Services said: “If this is something that could really save lives, we need to run and not walk toward it. We need to follow the data.” This same approach should be taken in Australia and inform the recently announced Royal Commission into Veteran Suicide.

Former Defence Force Chief, Admiral Chris Barrie has repeatedly confirmed that psychedelics offer the “only possibility of a cure for post-traumatic stress disorder”.

The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York has launched a new Centre for Psychedelic Psychotherapy and Trauma Research (one of 6 similar Centres recently launched in the UK and USA), to discover novel and more efficacious therapies for PTSD, depression, anxiety, addiction and other stress-related conditions in the veteran and civilian population. The Centre will focus on studying MDMA, psilocybin and other psychedelic compounds.

Think of the immense suffering, mental illness and suicides that could be prevented if our veterans could finally get well through having access to all medicines that could potentially help them. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they could lead meaningful and healthy lives contributing their skills and courage to our community?

Our health care system and the services it provides is in many respects the envy of the world. Medicare and private health services provide immediate access to both care and medicine for everyone in need. No one falls through the cracks in this country and no one has to show up in an Emergency Department just to access a doctor, as is the case in one of our closest allies, in particular. We should be justifiably proud of this, but also open to how this remarkable system could be improved.

After all, international laws, including those that have been ratified by Australia clearly recognise the right of everyone to “the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health”. This must mean that everyone needing effective medical treatment should have access to all medicines that work, including psilocybin and MDMA which are proven to be safer and more effective than existing treatments, particularly when given under professional medical supervision.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration is currently considering rescheduling these medicines, which if successful, will mean that this medicine could then be prescribed by professionally trained doctors for patients that they feel will benefit from its use. It does not mean that these substances will be legal in a recreational sense. However, they will be part of the full medicinal arsenal available to all trained doctors to provide to all people in need, including our soldiers. With mounting pressure, the TGA recently announced an Independent Review on rescheduling both psilocybin and MDMA. A final decision is expected within months, and there is a large and growing chorus of voices who are calling on the TGA to provide medical access to these treatments to prevent further avoidable suicides and suffering.

Mind Medicine Australia and a rapidly growing global network will soon be releasing a short and, what we hope will be widely applied, Declaration on the Right to Universal Access to All Forms of Safe and Effective Medicine which calls upon governments everywhere to make available, to all persons, every reasonably accessible form of safe and effective medicine — regulated only for reasons of safety and efficacy, and then only to the extent strictly necessary.

Many people, and especially our soldiers, simply cannot afford to wait any longer.


Scott Leckie is an international human rights lawyer. Tania de Jong AM is a social entrepreneur and the Executive Director and co-Founder of the charity, Mind Medicine Australia.

This article was originally published by The Spectator on 6th May 2021.

Scott Leckie

Scott A. Leckie is an international Human Rights lawyer, Law Professor and Director and Founder of Displacement Solutions, an NGO dedicated to resolving cases of forced displacement throughout the world, in particular displacement caused by climate change. He also founded and directs Oneness World Foundation (www.onenessworld.org), a think tank exploring questions of world-centric political evolution and new forms of global governance.

He hosts Jointly Venturing, a podcast dedicated to the question of world citizenship, and manages the One House, One Family initiative, an ongoing project in Bangladesh building homes for climate displaced families. He regularly advises a number of United Nations agencies and conceived of and was the driving force behind more than 100 international human rights legal and other normative standards, including UN resolutions – most recently the Peninsula Principles on Climate Displacement Within States. He has written 22 books and over 250 major articles and reports.

Tania de Jong AM

LL.B (Hons), GradDipMus

Tania de Jong AM is a trail-blazing Australian soprano, award-winning social entrepreneur, creative innovation catalyst, spiritual journey woman, storyteller and global speaker. Tania is one of Australia’s most successful female entrepreneurs and innovators developing 6 businesses and 4 charities including Creative Universe, Creativity Australia and With One Voice, Creative Innovation Global, Mind Medicine Australia, Dimension5, Umbrella Foundation and Driftwood – The Musical, MTA Entertainment & Events, Pot-Pourri and The Song Room.

She works across the public, private, creative and community sectors.  Tania speaks and sings around the world as a soloist and with her group Pot-Pourri releasing twelve albums. She was Founder and Executive Producer of the award-winning future-shaping events series, Creative Innovation Global.  She was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in June 2008 and named one of the 100 Women of Influence and the 100 Australian Most Influential Entrepreneurs and as one of the 100 most influential people in psychedelics globally in 2021.

Tania’s TED Talk How Singing Together Changes The Brain has sparked international interest.  Tania’s mission is to change the world, one voice at a time!

Where Psychedelics and Intimacy Meet by Ella Shannon Morter

Mushrooms

The Psychedelic experience is inherently intimate. These medicines are not passive, rather they demand that we pay intimate attention to our inner world, confront it and allow ourselves to be transformed. Many people that work with psychedelic medicines in more traditional settings speak of the medicines as personified beings that come and work directly with them at the deepest levels of their psyche; if that is not intimate then I don’t know what is! [1] In a more modern therapeutic setting, what does it mean to work in an intimate way with a medicine? How do we navigate the intimacy that these medicines evoke in the context of this re-emerging paradigm of healing in the West? [2] Below I share seven aspects of intimacy that are worth considering before embarking on your inward journey.

 

1.     In the days before, hold your own energy close

 

In preparation for undertaking medicine work with Psychedelics participants are sometimes encouraged to not have sex in the days leading up [3]. As a Sexologist and Relationship Counsellor, there are a few reasons why this makes sense. During sex we merge our energy with another person and the oxytocin (bonding neurotransmitter) that is released in the brain afterwards drives us to want to be with that person (preferably wrapped up in a cuddle with them and not facing the world) [4]. The psychedelic experience is a journey out of the safety of our usual relational containers and into the unknown, so it can be a good idea to start that separation gently and in advance. Secondly, during orgasm energy is released outwards which is the reason we can feel so relaxed after orgasm [5]. Holding onto this energy for a few days (including refraining from self-pleasure) can ensure that you have lots of energy to get you through the medicine work, and lots of energy that can fuel the content of your psychedelic journey [6]. Taking this further, prepare in the days before Psychedelic Therapy by not dissipating your energy via news, social media and other people’s opinions or issues. Hold yourself close and spend time alone in nature, eat nourishing and gentle foods and take some time to reflect on what is currently present for you at a deep level.

 

2.     Preparation with your therapist or sitter

 

Most of the studies since the 1990s utilising Psychedelic Assisted Therapy have used two therapists or sitters [7]. This is preferable as it is such an intimate space to share, even if there is no touch and very little speaking. Touch is rarely utilised in modern counselling sessions, even giving a counselling client a hug at the end of a session can be taboo [8]. There are very good reasons for this- the intimacy and vulnerability that is created in therapy has been taken advantage of in the past [9]. People who have backgrounds of sexual assault, abuse and other types of trauma can find it hard to articulate their needs around touch and may go into a traumatic freeze response if it is initiated [10]. A discussion about touch is therefore crucial and must be approached with the highest level of integrity, clarity and openness. Psychedelic experiences differ greatly from one hour counselling sessions and there are times when you may want to reach out for a caring hand to hold, or where your therapist or sitter may feel compelled to place a reassuring hand on your shoulder. In order to ensure this is safe and welcomed, it is encouraged to practice before hand with your sitter or therapist what touch will be like during the Psychedelic experience and negotiate how you might navigate it within the session, limited to holding of a hand or a comforting hand on the shoulder.

 

3.     Sensuality and Arousal During the Psychedelic Experience

 

The Psychedelic experience is as varied as people who have taken these journeys, and yet there are some common themes and similar things people go through [11]. Feelings of blissful rapture to intense fear and everything in between are reported; but with the presence of a therapist or sitter and good integration, even the most difficult of times can be extremely beneficial [12] [13]. People regularly feel a deep sense of compassion and love for themselves where before they were not able to access any caring or kind self-sentiments [14]. Pleasure and sensual sensations can flow through the body as energy is unlocked and moved. Arousal may be felt and like anything else that comes up in session, is to be allowed [15]. Using anger as an analogy; if anger arises in the session, then it is advised to let yourself experience this. Be with it, see what is there with an attitude of curiosity and go with it, you will not be at risk of acting it out in a harmful way. In a similar vein, do not be afraid of experiencing arousal in session, if it arises just let it be there. Despite stigma, it is extremely rare for psychedelics to render someone totally unaware of what they are doing, and your therapist or sitter is trained to support you graciously through anything that happens.

 

4.     Healing Relational Wounds through Psychedelic Medicine

 

People say that Psychedelics have helped them to go towards difficult emotions they have regarding people that have hurt them, [16] or to work through grief for people no longer in their lives. Others have a sense of being with people who have died in a way that gives them comfort and understanding that they weren’t aware of before [17].

 

The relationship with your therapist or sitter and feeling them there with you in the Psychedelic experience is a major part of the healing process. Most traumatic experiences are relational wounds. Another person has caused harm, people who were meant to love and protect did not, people who you turned to for help dismissed or shamed you. To heal these experiences within the Psychedelic session (if they come up), we need to feel the presence of our sitter or therapist as a deeply compassionate and non-judgemental witness. [18]. We bathe in the sense that this time you will not be left by yourself to cope. This time someone is there to hold your hand through the fear, shame or self-blame.

 

This time, we are not alone.

 

Sometimes the therapist or the sitter becomes a proxy for a parental figure or another important person. Internally the person journeying can project these qualities onto them, in what is called transference by counsellors. In this context it is not a negative process, the therapist or sitter may not have an exact understand of what is happening, but healing can occur through this mechanism if the therapist or sitter remains present, compassionate and supportive [19].

Couple Sky

5.     Intimacy with Everything

 

One of the hypotheses in understanding why Psilocybin is of such benefit for people who are facing the existential angst of imminent death through a terminal illness is that it regularly provides people with a sense that they are an intimate and loved part of the whole. People who have gone through these studies commonly say things to the effect of ‘I felt at One with everything’ or “I somehow knew that I am loved and always will be”. This deeply intimate experience transcends individual relationships and tends to stay with people as a deep knowing. Many people also come out of a psychedelic experience holding a sense of connectedness with all of nature [20]. With good integration these feelings of knowing can become a healing panacea in times of fear and doubt.

 

6.     Holding the experience intimately afterwards

 

When we experience something that was either glorious or extraordinarily difficult, we are compelled to speak of it, often over and over to integrate and process what we just went through. While the speaking of an experience does create a sense of narrativizing it into an experience that can be remembered rather than something we are still going through- it is not advised straight after Psychedelic medicine work. Even if the work was done within a legal research study and therefore it is safe to talk about, there is something about telling it to everyone that can water it down. Probably the most common attribute in people describing their journey is the sentiment ‘It’s hard to explain”. In trying to squash the experience into words too quickly we can lose some of the healing benefits that lie within which cannot be easily described and may be more of a felt sense [21].  Ideally stick to some gentle sharing of how you are straight after with your therapist or sitter, then come back the next day to slowly start discussing your process. Integration groups are also wonderful safe spaces to talk about your experience [22]. Just be mindful that your unfathomable realisations or explorations to the darkest depth of your soul may not be easily understood by your family or friends, so spend some time thinking about what and how much is most helpful to share.

 

7.     Coming back to intimacy with loved ones

 

The person who left the family, friendship group or relationship to do Psychedelic medicine work is not necessarily the person who returns [23]. We often want our loved ones to “Get It!”. We have woken up to something new and special and naturally want the same for the people we care about. However, utilising the mantra ‘softly, slowly’ is crucial. Your loved ones may not have a context in which to frame or understand what you are talking about. They may feel scared that this new you may no longer value the relationship you have with them. These understandable insecurities can make it feel like they are not supportive of you but go gently with them and give them time to adjust to potentially new dynamics as you integrate what you have experienced into daily life. Reassure them and ask explicitly for what you need; a cuddle? Some quiet time together? Some time by yourself to journal or meditate? [24]. And try not to neglect your relationships, it can be thrilling to experience and learn a new way of being in the world, be sure to share this (gently) with those you love. The move from feeling disconnected to a sense of connection is one of the change agents in psychedelic therapy [25]. Be sure to take advantage of this potential shift and step into community spaces that feel like they are a good match and are safe. Healing is ultimately experienced through the power of our relationships and not something we can do alone. [26].

 

References:

 

1.     Goldstein, R. (2021). Ayahuasca and Arabidopsis: The Philosopher Plant and the Scientist’s Specimen. Ethnos, 86 (2). 245-272.

 

2.     Nichols, D., Johnson, M. and Nichols, C. (2017). Psychedelics as medicines: An emerging new paradigm. Clinical pharmacology and therapeutics,  101 (2) 209-219.

 

3.     Orsolini, L., Chiappini, S., Papanti, D., Latini, R., Volpe, U., Fornaro, M., Tomasetti, C., Vellante, F. and De Berardis, D. (2020). How does ayahuasca work from a psychiatric perspective? Pros and cons of the entheogenic therapy. Human psychopharmacology, 35 (3) e2728

 

4.      Behnia, B., Heinrichs, M., Bergmann, W., Jung, S., Germann, J., Schedlowski, M., Hartmann, U. and Kruger, T. (2014). Differential effects of intranasal oxytocin on sexual experiences and partner interactions in couples. Hormones and behavior, 65 (3) 308-318

 

5.     Sewell, K. W. (2005). The experience cycle and the sexual response cycle: Conceptualisation and application to sexual dysfunctions. Journal of Constructivist Psychology, 18 (1), 3–13.

 

6.     Mike L. & Elena A. (2011) Tantric orgasm: beyond Masters and Johnson, Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 26:4, 389-402

 

7.     Pilecki, B., Luoma, J., Bathje, G.,  Rhea, J. and  Narloch, V. (2021)  Ethical and legal issues in psychedelic harm reduction and integration therapy. Harm Reduction Journal. 18.

8.     Harrison, C., Jones, R. and Huws (2012). We’re people who don’t touch”: Exploring clinical psychologists’ perspectives on their use of touch in therapy. Counselling psychology quarterly. 25 (3) 277-287.

 

9.     McNulty, N., Ogden, J. & Warren F. (2013). ‘Neutralizing the Patient’: Therapists’ Accounts of Sexual Boundary Violations. Clinical psychology and psychotherapy. 20 (3). 189-198

 

10.  Lloyd, C., Lanius, R., Brown, M., Neufeld, R.,  Frewen, P.,  McKinnon, M. (2019) Assessing Post-Traumatic Tonic Immobility Responses: The Scale for Tonic Immobility Occurring Post-Trauma. Chronic stress. 3. 2470547018822492-2470547018822492

 

11.  Breeksema, J. Niemeijer, A,  Krediet, E.,  Vermetten, E. and Schoevers, R. (2020). Psychedelic Treatments for Psychiatric Disorders: A Systematic Review and Thematic Synthesis of Patient Experiences in Qualitative Studies. CNS drugs. 34 (9). 925-946

 

12.  Carbonaro, T., Bradstreet, M., Barrett, F. MacLean, K., Jesse, R., Johnson, M. et al. (2016). Survey study of challenging experiences after ingesting psilocybin mushrooms: acute and enduring positive and negative consequences. Journal of. Psychopharmacology. 30, 1268–1278.

 

13.  Barrett, F.,  Bradstreet, M., Leoutsakos, J. Johnson, M. and Griffiths, R. (2016). The Challenging Experience Questionnaire: Characterization of challenging experiences with psilocybin mushrooms. Journal of psychopharmacology 30 (12) 1279-1295.

 

14.  Stansbury, K. (2019). The Influence of Psychedelic Induced Ego-Dissolution on Self-Compassion. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.

 

15.  Carhart-Harris, R., Erritzoe, D., Haijen, E.,  Kaelen, M. and  Watts, R. (2018). Psychedelics and connectedness. Psychopharmacology. 235, (2) 547-550.

16.  Roseman, L., Haijen, E., Idialu-Ikato, K., Kaelen, M., Watts, R. and Carhart-Harris, R. (2019). Emotional breakthrough and psychedelics: Validation of the Emotional Breakthrough Inventory. Journal of psychopharmacology. 33 (9) 1076-1087

 

17. González, D.,  Cantillo, J., Pérez, I.,  Farré, M.,  Feilding, A.,  Obiols, J. and  Bouso, J

(2020). Therapeutic potential of ayahuasca in grief: a prospective, observational study. Psychopharmacology (4). 1171-1182

 

18.  Phelps, J., Anthony P. and Grob, C. (2017). Developing Guidelines and Competencies for the Training of Psychedelic Therapists. The Journal of humanistic psychology. 57 (5), 450-487

 

19.  Taylor, K. (1997). Ethical caring in psychedelic work. Newsletter of the Multidisciplinary Association for the psychedelic studies. 7 (3) 6-30

 

20.  Kettner, H., Gandy, S.,  Haijen, E. and Carhart-Harris, R. (2019). From Egoism to Ecoism: Psychedelics Increase Nature Relatedness in a State-Mediated and Context-Dependent Manner. International journal of environmental research and public health. 16 (24). 5147

 

21.  Noorani, T. (2019). Sciencing the mystical: the trickery of the psychedelic trip report. New writing 16 (4). 440-443

 

22.  Trope, A., Anderson, B., Hooker, A., Glick, G.,  Stauffer, C. and Woolley, J. (2019). Psychedelic-Assisted Group Therapy: A Systematic Review. Journal of psychoactive drugs, 51 (2). 174-188

 

23.  Nour, M., Evans, L. and Carhart-Harris, R. (2017). Psychedelics, Personality and Political Perspectives. Journal of psychoactive drugs. 49 (3). 182-191

 

24.  Gorman, I., Nielson, E.,  Molinar, A., Cassidy, K. and Sabbagh, J. (2021). Psychedelic Harm Reduction and Integration: A Transtheoretical Model for Clinical Practice. Frontiers in psychology. 12. 645246-645246

 

25.  Watts, R., Day, C.,  Krzanowski, J., Nutt, D., Carhart-Harris, R., Anthony P. and Grob, C. (2017). Patients’ Accounts of Increased “Connectedness” and “Acceptance” After Psilocybin for Treatment-Resistant Depression. The Journal of humanistic psychology, 57 (5). 520-564

 

26.  Zender, R., Olshansky, E. and Groer, M. (2012). The Biology of Caring: Researching the Healing Effects of Stress Response Regulation Through Relational Engagement. Biological research for nursing. 14 (4). 419-430

A Mother’s Prayer To The TGA by Annie Mason

Woman on boat

I am writing this as a mother, in the hope that my words may open the closed minds of our politicians, the TGA and the RANZCP, who we rely upon to ensure every Australian has access to the latest medical therapies.

Our 26-year-old daughter suffers from treatment resistant PTSD and severe depression as a result of a trauma when she was only 11.  Rape at any age is devasting, but for a child the impact is profound. We live with the daily fact that with the current treatment of anti- depressants and anti- psychotic drugs available to her in Australia, there is only a 5% chance of her getting well. We also live with the fear that we could lose her. We have journeyed with her for the past 15 years and have seen her suffering as she has tried every treatment available to her. We have all been profoundly impacted by her illness. Our current mental health system has failed our daughter. We need answers. We need treatment. And, we need it now. Tomorrow our daughter may not be here.

Unless you have lived with the fear of your child taking their own life, you will never truly know how it feels. Thousands of mothers, live with that fear every day. Our journey has taken us to countless specialists and across the world. We have watched the work with treatment resistant PTSD using Medicinal MDMA, which is often confused with the recreational drug Ecstasy, Ecstasy is frequently adulterated with more dangerous substances and taken in unsafe environments. We learnt about the outstanding remission rates from Medicinal Psilocybin (which in its natural form comes from certain mushrooms) for treatment of depression. We are confident that these medicines offer real hope. We know that no treatment, even the current ones advocated by our government, is without risks and that the answers are not simple. But we deserve hope.

Clinical trials with medicinal MDMA conducted overseas demonstrate remission rates between 60-80% for treatment resistant PTSD. We were confident Australia would embrace this research in an applied way. Surely, we would act when potentially one of the greatest shifts in psychiatric medicine is knocking on the door? You can imagine our dismay when the TGA refused to reschedule MDMA in its recent Interim Decision. The news was heartbreaking.

The irony is that the TGA is already authorising individual requests from psychiatrists to use these medicines with therapy under its Special Access Scheme, but their listing as prohibited substances in Schedule 9 of the Poisons Standard means that there is no ability to get State and Territory Government approval which is also required so that patients can be treated and have a chance to finally get well.  All this will change if they become Schedule 8 Controlled Medicines.  What a cruel system we have. Providing hope with one hand and taking it away with the other.

I contacted the TGA for answers and found their response deeply disturbing. Their justifications were not based on data or science, but rather demonstrated deep bias and misrepresentation (for example, calling these medicines ‘illicit substances’ when they would, in fact, be used only in clinical medical environments). Their responses were offensive to sufferers and their families.

I contacted the RANZCP in the hope that they would show the capacity to lead us out of this crisis. It was clear that they cannot accept the facts which are undeniable and globally supported by leading experts, that these treatments are a viable and safe treatment option.

These bodies MUST begin to rely upon the validated data generated by the wider medical community. Do they suggest the outstanding research done at the leading Universities around the world is not valid or sufficient? Do they believe that countries that have enabled psychiatrists to use these therapies under Expanded Access Schemes have done so without high levels of regard?  These therapies have been granted Breakthrough Therapy Designation by the USA regulator and my daughter should be given the chance to access these therapies in Australia. Sadly, the Australian community is losing trust in the ability of our institutions to lead us forward. They risk becoming irrelevant as more and more Australians seek treatments conducted illegally by underground therapists.

I contacted every Australian Senator and the common response I have received was “we are sorry for your suffering but it is in the hands of the TGA and RANZCP”. These responses reveal that the TGA and RANZCP have too much power; beyond that of even my elected representatives. I elected my politicians to speak for me and lead us forward, and, as yet, few seem willing to ask if these bodies are advising them correctly and acting in the best interests of Australians. Who will challenge them on my behalf? Has my government forgotten they are here to serve my daughter?

This is so much bigger than my daughter. I speak also for those who don’t have a voice. For the lives already lost and for the families too enmeshed in simply surviving to speak out. Our nation is in a mental health crisis where 1 in 5 Australians have a chronic mental health condition and at least 1 in 8 are on antidepressants including 1 in 4 older adults and 1 in 30 young children.

Anxious adult

Australia should be leading the world in treatment, but instead our system is on its knees, bogged down by regressive thinking that places us as one of the poorest performing countries. We need innovation and leadership from our politicians and our medical establishment.  We can make Australia a leader in this field.  I imagine a day when the world looks to us. A day when no Australian suffers unnecessarily or dies from a treatable mental health illness.

I have NO doubt that the tide is turning and we will see these medicines rescheduled. The push from Australians like myself, WILL bring about this change. I believe the government knows this too.  They know they WILL lose the battle but don’t seem to care about those that will die in the final days of this “war”.

So, it’s time. Enough procrastination, posturing and politics. Our representatives MUST do the job that we have a right to expect of them.

I am praying that the TGA’s announcement this week, that it will be seeking further advice before making the final rescheduling decisions for MDMA and psilocybin will at last mean that the data and facts will come to the surface and block out the bias and stigma. Then finally, change will happen. The TGA has promised an Independent Expert Review into the therapeutic value, risks and benefits to public health outcomes for these medicines. My daughter and so many other sufferers need this so urgently, but I am not holding my breath.

If our government and health agencies continue to fail us, we will be forced to re-mortgage our house and attempt go overseas for treatment. To countries that lead the world in the treatment of mental health. To countries that care in actions, not just words. I will then shout from the roof tops, that my government has failed me and I am deeply ashamed of the country we have become.

Annie Mason

Annie Mason is an educator with a wide range of experiences including classroom teaching K-12, Special Education and Student Wellbeing. She was a Principal for over 15 years and has a special interest in Gender Equity, Social Justice and Women in Leadership. She is a strong advocate for the legal and ethical rights of those with mental health issues.

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