No plans to change MDMA, psilocybin classifications in New Zealand after Australia approves them for psychiatric treatment

There are no plans to change the classification of MDMA and psilocybin in New Zealand, the Ministry of Health says.

It comes after Australia's medical regulator approved the psychedelics to be prescribed by authorised psychiatrists for the treatment of certain mental health conditions. The move makes Australia the first country to recognise psychedelics as medicines.

"It is well-celebrated in New Zealand as well," said registered psychologist Dr Rita Csako. "A bunch of clinicians and researchers and mental health professions were advocating for it for years and years now."

From July, authorised psychiatrists in Australia can prescribe medicines containing MDMA for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder and psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression. The move by Australia's medical regulator has been welcomed by a clinical-stage biotech company over there.

"It's going to be very exciting to have another arrow in our bow to help to improve someone who had otherwise failed other therapies," said Professor Alistair Vickery, medical director at Emyria.

The move is also backed by Australia's former Defence Force chief, who has campaigned for war veterans to use MDMA. 

"People I work with at my not-for-profit, PTSD Australia New Zealand, tell me the only way we can cure post-traumatic stress disorder in people is the use of psychedelic drugs," said Christopher Barrie.

Despite being against the law here in New Zealand, psychedelic therapy is happening, as Newshub Nation reported in 2021.

"I know that these substances have saved people's lives," the therapist said.

Now, Dr Csako hopes New Zealand follows the change in Australia.

"It is a very, very effective treatment. We now have a lot of clinical evidence for that," she said. "We are advocating for it and hope policymakers will hear us and see the benefits."

Dr Kyle Hoath from the Australian Medical Association said the move over there will still need to go a little bit further.

"Beyond just the appropriate people to deliver the treatment, there will be the need for making sure the settings are appropriate and there is appropriate follow-up."