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September 25, 2023

Interview with Tania de Jong, one of the founding members of Mind Medicine

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The Good Medicine

Mind Medicine Australia (MMA) is a charity that seeks to alleviate the suffering caused by mental illness through expanding treatment options available to medical practitioners and their patients. Their focus is on the development of safe and effective psychedelic assisted therapies to cure a range of mental illnesses. They believe everyone in Australia should be able to access psychedelic assisted therapies in medically controlled environments.

This Sunday 27 and Monday 28 June, Mind Medicine present two days of film and conversation around psychedelic medicine – their first ever symposium on the new science of psychedelics. Along with education, one of the primary motivators for Mind Medicine Australia, as a charity, is to push for the kind of legal reform that could see these treatments become accessible.

‘We have had such massive traction’ says Tania de Jong, one of the founding members (along with her husband Peter Hunt) of Mind Medicine Australia.

‘We have seen the TGA announcing an independent review of our rescheduling information – special access for doctors and psychiatrists for treatment resistant patients with MDMA – we don’t have a medical exemption for the medicine to go into those states without being prosecuted though – TGA is [in charge of] approvals but in NSW the government doesn’t allow it to be bought in.’

Victoria is currently the only state that has a permit system in place. ‘We are very hopeful if the TGA reschedules medicines to Schedule 8 (as a controlled medicine), that these barriers will fade away.’

Schedule 8 drugs include morphine, cocaine and heroin. All highly addictive but used in hospitals, and if improperly used are far more addictive and dangerous than MDMA and psilosybin.

‘There are all these dangerous drugs in Schedule 4’ says Tania. ‘So in terms of risk and abuse [of MDMA and psilocybin] there is a lot less. Cocaine and morphine are more risky as far as addiction is concerned.’

Tania and Peter are both hugely passionate about providing hope for long-term suffers of depression, PTSD and suicidality. They believe the evidence is there that shows people can use psychedelic medicines to recover.

‘We currently have a system where psychiatrists hand out medication to patients who never get well.’ The idea of a treatment being effective over one or two sessions is a radical departure from existing models of treatment.

‘The narrative at the moment, if you are mentally ill, you have a disease of the brain, and the way to cure that is to keep you on medication for a long time – [yet] there is no evidence that you can point to that because someone has depression that they have a chemical imbalance in the brain – that is a myth’ says Tania.

Doctors and psychiatrists are coming on board.

‘We have over one thousand psychiatrists in our psychiatry circle – they recognise the current environment is a nightmare – they can’t get their patients well and they are desperate – most of them entered medicine because they want to get their patients well.’

There are currently 20 chapters of Mind Medicine Australia around the country. They have just completed the first round of certificate studies in Psychedelic Assisted Therapy – the 46 students were the first in the Southern Hemisphere.  The second intake is at the end of the month.

This Sunday features a full-day Psychedelic Medicine Symposium with Dr Jossy Antony, Dr Mario Alam, Mark Baxter, Patrick Burnett, Simone Dowding, Tania de Jong AM, David Heilpern, Peter Hunt AM, Mark Melek, Bryn Newman, Eva Papadopoulo, Dr Jamie Rickcord, Renee Sloan and Dr Frederick Swan. The day will feature expert discussions on the science of psychedelics for mental health, followed by screenings of Trip of Compassion and Fantastic Fungi.

Symposium: from 11am on Sunday at the Byron Theatre, with Trip of Compassion screening at 6.30pm. Then on Monday 28 June at 6.30pm there is a screening of Fantastic Fungi at 6.30pm. Tickets on mindmedicineaustralia.org or byroncentre.com.au

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