Australia Unveils First Psychedelic Clinic Treating Depression with Magic Mushrooms

The Melbourne clinic opened this week.
Australia Unveils First Psychedelic Clinic Treating Depression with Magic Mushrooms
The sale, distribution, and possession of so-called magic mushrooms—which contain the hallucinogen psilocybin—are illegal in Canada, but there has been little uniformity in how police services deal with dispensaries selling them. (Moha El-Jaw/Shutterstock)
Isabella Rayner

Australia’s first psychedelic therapy clinic is offering hope to millions of people grappling with stress disorders and depression through treatments like synthetic magic mushrooms, marking a monumental stride for mental health care.

Located in Abbotsford, Melbourne, Clarion Clinics opened this week after approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

The purpose-built clinic will provide specialised psychedelic-assisted treatment for people with PTSD and treatment-resistant depression.

Clinic co-founder and top treatment researcher Paul Liknaitzky, who started Australia’s first lab dedicated to this field, expressed excitement about the advancements in psychedelics.

“We’re able to start this pioneering work that’s never been done in a clinical service delivery context globally, but with a team that has actually got substantial runs on the board,” he said.

“Our clinical, support, and leadership teams at Clarion represent Australia’s strongest track record in delivering psychedelic-assisted therapies.”

The clinic can accommodate up to 1,000 people annually, all of whom must undergo thorough psychiatric, psychological, and medical screening.

Treatment spans about nine months and includes two full-day psychedelic-assisted sessions, individual and group therapy, and customised aftercare.

“While some people may think we’re using magic mushrooms and ecstasy, what we’re using is medical grade, pure, and synthetic forms of psilocybin and MDMA” Dr. Liknaitzky said.

“But more importantly, simply consuming those drugs does not a treatment make. We’re delivering a form of psychotherapy augmented by these substances.”

He shared insights into the journey towards safe psychedelic use.

“Our evidence-informed, extended, and patient-centric treatment model has been designed to harness what we know about how these therapies work towards the highest levels of safety and lasting benefits for the people we treat,” he said.

Magic Mushrooms in London, England, on July 18, 2005. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)
Magic Mushrooms in London, England, on July 18, 2005. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

The move comes as 26.5 percent of Australians (700,000 people) with depression, as well as many PTSD sufferers, have been found to not respond well to antidepressants.

University of Queensland Professor Mieke van Driel explained that long-term antidepressant use can cause reliance on medication to cope with life, as well as sleep issues, weight gain, sexual problems, low sodium, stomach troubles, and feeling emotionally numb.

“Long-term antidepressant use is on the rise around the world, and all of us recognise the urgent need for evidence on safe and effective approaches for people who want to stop taking them,” he said.

Dr. Christopolous emphasised the value of psychedelics as quick and short-term treatments supported by evidence.

“You want something that’s fast onset, you want something that you only take for a short period of time, and you want something that will facilitate non-medicinal psychotherapeutic support, and if you look at where the evidence always exists for that type of neuro medicine, it’s in the psychedelic space, it’s in substances like psilocybin (found in magic mushrooms),” he said.

This follows the regulatory agency’s notable decision last February to reschedule MDMA (ecstasy) and psilocybin in Australia.

That decision moved MDMA and psilocybin from Schedule 9 (Poisons) to Schedule 8 (Controlled Substances) on a restricted basis.

Since July 2023, psychiatrists can apply to prescribe psilocybin and MDMA as authorised prescribers.

Global Shift in Psychedelic Therapy

Joel Latham, CEO of psychedelic pharmaceutical company Incannex Healthcare, believes rules on psychedelic-assisted therapies will change globally.

“We believe regulations regarding the use of psychedelic-assisted therapies will change in other countries too, following Australia’s lead. Clarion will be well placed to take advantage of this,” he said.

“Being the first entrants into this field in Australia will position Incannex, via Clarion, at the forefront of psychedelic-assisted therapies and will facilitate the smooth expansion into more clinics nationwide.”

Canadian biotech companies, including Filament Health, PharmAla Biotech, and Optimi Health, have recently shipped psilocybin and MDMA to Australia.

Mind Medicine Australia (MMA) is ensuring a steady supply of psychedelics in the country and has recently legally administered them to patients outside of clinical trials for the first time in over fifty years.

MMA Executive Director Tania do Jong said the results are rewarding.

“It is so gratifying to see patients who are suffering immensely being able to be treated with these transformational therapies,” she said.