From July this year, MDMA and psilocybin will be considered Schedule 8 drugs in Australia – meaning that psychiatrists will be able to prescribe these drugs in certain cases. As the first country to recognise psychedelics as medicine, recent media has been buzzing around this topic. In Episode #255, I’m joined by professor and cognitive neuropsychiatrist, Susan Rossell, PhD, to get to the bottom of what these drugs are, how they can be used, and whether they are safe.
“We have a massive problem at the moment in terms of mental health conditions. We have more people with mental health conditions than we’ve ever had, and we’ve got a pharmaceutical industry that puts no money into central nervous system drugs.”
Susan Rossell is a Professor of Cognitive Neuropsychiatry and an NHMRC Senior Research Fellow at Swinburne University, Melbourne. She has held several prestigious positions across her career and is currently running Australia’s largest clinical trial examining whether psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy is effective for the treatment of treatment-resistant depression. As a well-respected researcher at the forefront of her field, Professor Rossell brings expert insight and thoughtful considerations to today’s conversation.
“My key thing, and I’ve said it multiple times: I want people to be safe. I want people to have access to interventions that are safe.”
In this episode, you’ll learn about a variety of novel interventions currently being studied for their effectiveness in treating mental health issues. We closely examine psilocybin and MDMA, also touching on LSD, ketamine, and DMT, and the mental health conditions they may be used to treat – including depression, PTSD, anorexia nervosa, and more. Dr Rossell breaks down where the research on these drugs is now, and whether they are a safe, viable option. We cover the conditions they may be able to treat, the safety of these interventions, and what treatment with psychedelics could look like.
Specifically, we discuss:
- Intro (00:00)
- Dr. Susan Rossell on mental health research (02:40)
- The history of psychedelics (11:53)
- Concerns over safety of psilocybin and MDMA (18:31)
- Feasibility concerns for the rollout of psilocybin and MDMA (21:54)
- Effects of psilocybin (35:52)
- Psilocybin, SSRIs, and psychotherapy (44:35)
- Microdosing psilocybin (56:12)
- Ketamine vs psilocybin (58:00)
- MDMA for PTSD and recreational use (1:02:03)
- Future of psilocybin and MDMA and their decriminalization (1:11:00)
- Mental health advice (1:21:43)
- Outro (1:25:23)
Topics with extensive media coverage are always going to generate misleading narratives and draw people to polarising views, and I’m glad to have had Professor Rossell on the show today to clearly explain what we know and what we don’t. I hope you found this conversation clarifying; the medical use of psychedelics is certainly something to watch in the coming years.
To learn more about Professor Susan Rossell, you can do so on her Swinburne University profile. Connect with Professor Rossell on Twitter, LinkedIn, or via email.
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More about Susan Rossell, BSc (Hons), PhD
Susan Rossell is a Professor of Cognitive Neuropsychiatry and an NHMRC Senior Research Fellow at Swinburne University, Melbourne; she is the Acting Chair of the Research Advisory Group for Mental Health at St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne and Co-Chair of MAGNET – the Australian mental health clinical trial network. She trained at the University of Manchester and King’s College London in the UK, holding a lectureship at the University of Oxford prior to moving to Australia. She has had positions at several universities in Australia including Macquarie, the University of Melbourne and Monash.
Her research has focused on understanding the cognitive impairments involved in psychosis, mood disorders and body-image-related disorders, aiming to develop new interventions for these debilitating cognitive symptoms. She has published over 390 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. She sits on the National Institute of Mental Health International Body Dysmorphic Disorder Scientific Advisory Group and is the Secretary for the steering committee of the International Consortium of Hallucination Research (ICHR). She is the Chair of the Science Council for Neuroscience Victoria. Recently, her treatment research has focused on the use of psychedelics. She is running Australia’s largest clinical trial examining whether psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy is effective for the treatment of treatment-resistant depression.
- Australia’s biggest research trial using psychedelics to treat depression to commence in 2023 • Swinburne
- Australian Clinical Trials • Australian Government
- Long-Term Cocaine Self-administration Produces Structural Brain Changes That Correlate With Altered Cognition • PMID: 33012519
- The human brain doubled in power, very suddenly, 200,000 years ago. Why? • Big Think
If you are struggling with mental health, you don’t have to do it alone.
- Find Support Groups (USA) • Mental Health America
- Mental health support (Australia) • Beyond Blue
- Mental health support: Get help (Canada) • Government of Canada
- Support groups – Clinical depression (UK) • NHS