Psychedelics and mental health: The time is now?

hope and mental health
nikko macaspac

Following news this week of Australia becoming the first country to legalise the prescription of the psychedelics MDMA for PTSD and psilocybin for treatment resistant depression (TRD) – as the NHS celebrates its 75th anniversary, Clerkenwell Health asserts that the time is now for the UK’s National Health Service to embrace psychedelic drugs for the treatment of mental health conditions.

According to Clerkenwell Health, more than eight million people in England are on antidepressants, up one million from only five years ago. Indeed, the Mental Health Foundation has estimated that poor mental health costs the UK as a whole approximately £118 billion each year.

Tom McDonald, CEO of Clerkenwell Health, said: “For 75 years, the NHS has been a transformational force in our society. In 1948, even the idea of a publicly funded healthcare system, free at the point of use, was radical. 75 years later, the NHS needs to embrace that same radicalism and start offering alternative, cutting-edge treatments for mental health disorders, which too often go untreated.”

McDonald continued: “A growing body of research suggests that psychedelic drugs could have a ground-breaking impact on the treatment of complex mental health conditions. The Government cannot and should not accept the stasis permeating mental health treatment in the UK. Now is the time for bold thinking.”

Clerkenwell Health is a specialist clinical research organisation (CRO) that supports clients with design and delivery of psychedelic-assisted therapy trials. It recently announced that it has received MHRA approval to run a first-of-its-kind trial in the capital to test whether a novel psilocin prodrug can treat major depressive disorders when combined with therapy. The complex mental health conditions being explored include PTSD, alcohol use disorder, TRD, and anxiety.

Off the back of that announcement, the company is also to sponsor the PSYCH Symposium London this week, on Thursday 6th July, alongside PharmAIa Biotech, Eramol, and Transpharmation Ltd.

The PSYCH Symposium is Europe’s flagship event for psychedelic healthcare, seeking to bring awareness to the societal and investment opportunities within psychedelic science and explore the potential intersection of healthcare, policy, and psychedelics.

The future looks bright for psychedelics, certainly: last year, a partnership between the Institute for Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN), South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, and COMPASS pathways was announced, launching The Centre for Mental Health Research and Innovation in order to accelerate psychedelic research and develop new models of care for mental health in the UK.

Furthermore, as PSYCH - which runs the Symposium - reported in January this year, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) had awarded Innovation Passports to psychedelic-assisted therapies to accelerate their time to market through the Innovative Licensing and Access Pathway (ILAP). These included MAPS' MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD, COMPASS Pathways' COMP360 psilocybin therapy for TRD, and Small Pharma's SPL026, a DMT formulation to treat patients suffering from major depressive disorder (MDD).

Meanwhile, the US FDA released its draft guidance on psychedelic drug clinical trials last month – out for public comment until 23rd August.

Photo by nikko macaspac on Unsplash.