In just a few short years, psychedelics have presented themselves as a potential alternative to pharmaceutical mental health therapies. Research into hallucinogenic drugs has revealed that they are capable of alleviating the symptoms of mental disorders, such as treatment-resistant depression, anxiety and PTSD, when paired with psychotherapy.
But while countries such as the United States and Australia have taken great strides towards increasing psychedelic research and incorporating psychedelics into existing mental health treatment frameworks, the European Union is still trailing behind. A cross-party group of legislators is now calling on the EU to step up its efforts and act fast on psychedelic research.
In a recent letter to Emer Cooke, executive director of the European Medicines Agency, the group of lawmakers urged parliament to turn its attention to psychedelic research and consider legislative changes that would make it easier for researchers to study hallucinogenic drugs and develop viable mental health treatments.
Although we are currently in the midst of a psychedelic research renaissance, most of the legislative efforts geared at making this research and resultant psychedelic treatments more accessible have been outside the EU. Thus far, studies have found that psychedelics such as MDMA, psilocybin and ketamine have the potential to treat conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, treatment-resistant depression, anxiety, eating disorders and alcohol-use disorder.
However, Europe has barely made any regulatory changes to make it easier for researchers to study psychedelics or increase patient access to psychedelic-assisted therapies.
Australia became the first country in the world to allow psychiatrists to prescribe psilocybin and MDMA-based treatments to alleviate treatment-resistant depression and PTSD earlier this year.
In the U.S., Oregon passed a bill to legalize psilocybin last year, and more states are set to vote on psychedelic measures this year as part of a wave of psychedelic reform that has swept through the country.
The recent letter to the European Parliament highlighted the lack of similar progress in the EU and noted that this had disadvantaged millions of Europeans who are suffering from substance-use disorders and mental-health conditions that could be treated by psychedelic-assisted therapies.
The legislators who signed the letter want the European Medicines Agency to be active in promoting psychedelic research and the development of psychedelic-based mental health therapies. The legislators also listed a variety of questions and challenges that have to be addressed before the EU can fully adopt psychedelic treatments, such as understanding their risks compared to other pharmaceutical alternatives.
They suggested that the medicines regulator liaise closely with the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction, plan workshops with relevant parties and create a report.
The lawmakers have reason to be concerned, especially in the light of the progress being made by teams at different North American-based companies such as atai Life Sciences N.V. (NASDAQ: ATAI) focused on developing psychedelics medicines.
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