Ayahuasca and MDMA could be powerfully effective depression/PTSD treatment


Australians are using micro amounts of psychedelic drugs to treat chronic headaches, depression and PTSD. However, while overseas research suggests 'microdosing' is effective, Australian ethics committees are reluctant to fund local research.

In 1993, after five months fighting in Somalia’s bloody civil war, Army Major Steve McDonald emerged with chronic PTSD. Years later, after bouts of alcoholism and failed treatment, a friend invited him to an ayahuasca ceremony – a psychedelic medicine originally used by Indigenous peoples of the Amazon – and it saved his life.

“My depression pretty much went straight away. I guess the best way to describe it was the absence of background anxiety.”

In 2015, world-first clinical trials of ayahuasca found a single dose of the substance diminished depressive behaviour by up to 82%.

What’s more, an ongoing study in the US has found that MDMA-assisted therapy can help, and in some cases, cure PTSD. The US Food and Drug Administration has just approved the next round of trials, which could see MDMA used as a viable treatment for PTSD as soon as 2021. Watch more about this in the video below.

Microdosing providing relief from ‘suicide headaches’

For 20 years, Dan Bailey’s ‘cluster headaches’ have baffled doctors. At best, pain killers and oxygen therapy have given him fleeting relief. And he’s not alone – 14,000 Australians suffer from what’s known in support groups as ‘suicide headaches.’

“I started out with one microdose of tryptamine every five days and after the second dose my headaches basically ceased,” claims Bailey. “The next thing I did was learn how to grow magic mushrooms.”

I'm breaking the law so that I can be a functioning member of society. I'm not out there selling anything illegal, it's completely personal. I do it so I can survive.

“I'm breaking the law so that I can be a functioning member of society. I'm not out there selling anything illegal, it's completely personal. I do it so I can survive.”

Dr Martin Williams is a medicinal chemistry researcher and heads up Australia’s only psychedelic research organisation. His efforts to get psychedelic research off the ground in Australia have been blocked twice by two different ethics committees.

Dan and Steve both say they can’t afford to wait for Australia to catch up to the wave of research taking place overseas. Watch their stories in the video at the top of this page.

USA leading the way

An estimated eight million Americans suffer from PTSD, including an estimated 20% of former military personnel. It's a public health disaster costing billions of dollars to treat. And drugs prescribed to treat the condition are only successful in 20% of cases. 

No major pharmaceutical company has invested in research and development into the use of micro-dosing as a treatment for PTSD because no patent can be granted for the treatment -- basically, this form of treatment will not make them money. But a small nonprofit is funding a trial:


Copyright 2018 The Economist Newspaper Limited. All rights reserved. Published under licence. The original content can be found here