Research

Established in late 2020, we are the first clinical psychedelic lab in Australia. Standing on the shoulders of giants overseas, and alongside a small handful of local researchers and clinicians, we are helping to establish the field of clinical psychedelics in Australia. The lab is focused on developing a rigorous program of research in psychedelic medicine at Monash University that seeks to evaluate therapeutic effects, innovate on treatment design, mitigate known risks, explore potential drawbacks, and understand therapeutic mechanisms.

Since inception, we have:

  • Established several clinical psychedelic studies, including Australia’s largest psychedelic trial to date.
  • Developed and delivered the first applied psychedelic therapist training in Australia, incorporating  supervised practice with patients. This includes a partnership with the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies to co-ordinate the first applied MDMA therapist training program in Australia (now complete).
  • Obtained Australia’s first industry-funding and partnership for clinical psychedelic research.
  • Established two therapist teams, a psychometrics team, a qualitative team, a treatment and training team, and a risk mitigation team.
  • Established the site infrastructure required to conduct this unique research.
  • Established numerous local and international collaborations with leading experts in psychedelic science and practice.

Our work

We develop and conduct psychedelic clinical trials, a range of other psychedelic studies, psychedelic therapist training programs, and education. Our research occurs within BrainPark at Monash University, a state-of-the-art research platform that is unparalleled in its ability to support this unique form of treatment. The Clinical Psychedelic Research Lab is uniquely positioned to implement leading edge psychedelic treatment combined with evidence-based psychotherapeutic and behavioural interventions within a seamless, patient-focused, and highly conducive environment.

Our plans include expanding psychedelic research and treatment into new indications, exploring synergies between psychedelics and various psychotherapeutic and behavioural interventions, improving treatment and training outcomes, investigating therapeutic mechanisms, predicting patient response, and assessing cost effectiveness.

Clinical Trial: Psilocybin-assisted Psychotherapy for Generalised Anxiety Disorder (Psi-GAD-1)

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a chronic, relapsing disorder characterised by excessive anxiety and worry. GAD is a relatively common disorder (about 4-6% lifetime prevalence in Australia) that has generally poor treatment outcomes. Within recent trials, psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy led to reductions in anxiety symptoms associated with terminal cancer diagnoses. This clinical trial is a world first testing psilocybin-assisted therapy in the treatment of a primary anxiety disorder. With 72 participants, this investigator-initiated trial sponsored by Monash University is the largest psychedelic trial in Australia to date. It a well-controlled study (double-blind, active placebo) that includes a range of treatment innovations and the development of a specialised therapist training program, with funding from Incannex Healthcare Ltd.

Clinical Trial: MDMA-assisted Psychotherapy for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (MMP-1)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a debilitating condition linked to substantial distress, low quality of life, and increased suicidality, and has a lifetime prevalence of about 12% in Australia. The use of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) in combination with psychotherapy has been shown to be safe and effective for treating intractable PTSD. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) has led MDMA for PTSD research since the 1980’s, raising tens of millions of dollars in philanthropic funding, sponsoring numerous clinical trials, developing a comprehensive therapist training program, and working with regulators to bring MDMA-assisted psychotherapy to market. With generous philanthropic support from Dr. Nigel Strauss and MAPS, this open-label trial with 25 participants will examine the safety and efficacy of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for treating PTSD.

Psi-GAD-1 Therapist Training Study

Psychedelic drugs can induce states of consciousness that are often reported to be remarkable, moving, beneficial, and difficult to describe. Clinical participants also report very challenging experiences that, when well supported, are felt to be highly valuable by the participant. It is essential that participants are supported by skilled and empathic therapists with specialist training. The Psi-GAD-1 therapist training program will incorporate a world-first option for trial therapists to receive psilocybin under supportive conditions. Previous research suggests that psychedelic therapist training can be substantially enhanced if therapists have the opportunity to experience well-supported psychedelic effects, enhancing their ability to accompany clinical participants through profoundly unfamiliar terrain, and thereby improving treatment outcomes. The impact of this aspect of training will be scientifically investigated from the perspectives of both therapist and clinical participant.

The Monash Psychedelic Experience and Effects Survey

In recent, well-controlled studies, psychedelic compounds have shown promising therapeutic potential for the treatment of a variety of mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety associated with terminal illness, major depressive disorder, and substance use disorders. While the mechanisms of this therapy are not fully understood, available evidence suggests that certain subjective elements of the psychedelic experience appear to be linked to therapeutic outcomes. However, subjective effects remain poorly characterised. We have developed three new measures to probe commonly reported aspects of psychedelic experience and outcomes that may have clinical relevance. This study will investigate a number of questions regarding therapeutic mechanism, and validate new scales in an online sample before implementing them within our clinical trials. We will open recruitment for this study shortly.

Upcoming studies

Further psychedelic studies are being established or in advanced planning, with several exciting projects that aim to examine novel indications, novel therapeutic combinations, and novel treatment elements. To learn more about our future studies and support us, please visit our Support page.

Please visit our Participants page for current and upcoming study details and participation.

What is psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy?

Psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy involves a combined drug and psychological treatment, with participants receiving specialised forms of psychotherapy before, during and after each dosing session. The ‘classical’ psychedelics include substances like psilocybin, LSD, DMT and mescaline; the term psychedelic is often used more broadly to include substances like MDMA, ibogaine, and ketamine.

A global resurgence in psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy is underway, with the rapid expansion of research activities and philanthropic, industry and government funding. After nearly four decades of political suppression of psychedelic research, these highly promising and substantially unique set of treatment options are currently being developed and tested. The first regulated psychedelic treatment is likely to be approved in many parts of the world as early as 2023.

Research into the clinical utility of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapies has shown remarkable promise, both within the first wave in the 1950s and 1960s, and over the past two decades. Early trials have demonstrated that a short program of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy can produce rapid, dramatic, and sustained clinical benefit for severe and intractable cases of depression, anxiety, addictions, and PTSD.