Former Defence Force chief Chris Barrie has given his support to a campaign to increase accessibility of psychedelic drugs for sufferers of mental illness, including MDMA and psilocybin.
The retired admiral was advocating for the drugs' authorised use based on a belief psychedelics offered the "only possibility of a cure for post-traumatic stress disorder".
The use of MDMA for the treatment of PTSD could soon become widespread in the United States with a decision delivered by the drug administration group next month. The Therapeutic Goods Administration was expected to follow suit.
If approved, psychiatrists could be given the green light to perform psychotherapy on patients who had been administered MDMA.
Admiral Barrie is the director on the board of Mind Medicine Australia, a philanthropically-funded group working to increase public understanding of the medicinal potential of psychedelics.
He is also a chair of FearLess, a charity that helps people with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Mr Barrie said with the use of psychedelics in controlled settings, in conjunction with qualified therapists and professionals, the advice he had received from medical professionals was they may be able to cure PTSD.
Through his work with FearLess, admiral Barrie said he was in contact with a broad range of people suffering PTSD, including veterans, first-responders and those who had experienced sexual and physical abuse.
"We used to say about one in five Australians had a lived experience either as a sufferer or a carer of someone with PTSD. That number has risen because of bushfires and the pandemic," Mr Barrie said.
"At the moment people might use drugs or they might use meditation or exercise or diet to exercise control but it actually doesn't make the problem go away.
"If we can get a cure through the use of these drugs by bringing them into proper use then we are offering them hope and that would just be fabulous."
Mr Barrie said he founded Australia's post-traumatic stress disorder charity out of his concerns over what was being done to military personnel being deployed to Afghanistan.
He said in 2013 as the former chief he became very concerned about the multiple deployments troops had been on and the effect on their mental health.
"Of course it's not only the sufferers who are impacted by this it's the people who live with them," he said.
Mr Barrie said, while it was by no means perfect, veterans at least had a department which offered support for those with mental health concerns.
"If you are a farmer or a victim of crime or anything like that you are on a health system which was never constructed to deal with mental health issues," he said.
"The health system we have is all about being physical ill and that's one of the reason I think there's been so much concern about its effectiveness."
Founded in Melbourne by soprano singer Tania de Jong and investment banker Peter Hunt, Mind Medicine Australia now had chapters across Australia, including here in Canberra.
It will run its first training course for the delivery of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy this month. Enrolment is full.
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