The Trip Report Interview with Tania de Jong Executive Director of Mind Medicine Australia
Tania de Jong is the Executive Director of Mind Medicine Australia.
About Mind Medicine Australia:
Mind Medicine Australia is seeking to establish safe and effective psychedelic-assisted treatments for mental illness in Australia. As a registered charity (DGR-1 status), we are supporting clinical research and working towards regulatory-approved and evidence-based psychedelic-assisted therapies. We operate as a nexus between medical practitioners, academia, government, regulatory bodies, philanthropists, and other partners.
Mind Medicine Australia is focused specifically on the clinical application of medicinal psilocybin and medicinal MDMA for certain mental illnesses. We do not advocate for recreational use of psychedelics, MDMA, or any other prohibited substances, nor do we advocate for any changes to the law with respect to recreational use. Our focus is wholly clinical.
Mind Medicine Australia Announces First in Southern Hemisphere – Certificate in Psychedelic-Assisted Therapies
The Certificate in Psychedelic-Assisted Therapies (CPAT) has been developed primarily to meet the anticipated demand for trained therapists to provide regulatory-approved and research-backed psychedelic-assisted therapies for the treatment of mental ill-health in Australia. It is also expected that trained clinicians will be needed to work in research trials as they expand in the Australia.
Interview with Tania de Jong
Tania was gracious enough to help me fill my knowledge gaps about the psychedelic landscape Down Under and the mission of Mind Medicine Australia.
How did you get involved in psychedelic research and policy? How did you come to start Mind Medicine Australia?
Taking an illegal substance had never occurred to me until stumbling across Michael Pollan’s article in The New Yorker magazine titled ‘The Trip Treatment’ via a blog I received from Tim Ferriss. Reading it not only made me aware for the first time of the current resurgence in psychedelic research, but also helped me to understand how these ancient plant medicines were assisting people to heal from depression and trauma and come to terms with end-of-life anxiety. And something about this resonated so strongly with me. From that point on, my interest in trying these hallucinogenic plants for myself began to grow.
What could psychedelics teach me about who I am or who I could be? What unknown parts of myself and our cosmos could they grant me access to? Being born Jewish and having lost many of my relatives in the Holocaust, I’ve lived with transgenerational trauma for as long as I can remember.
So I recruited the support of Peter Hunt, my partner at the time, and now husband, and we set out on a quest to have a therapeutic experience with psilocybin mushrooms. Having lost his father to suicide in his early teens, Peter was also interested in dealing with past traumas in a way he’d never thought available to him.
However, being able to do this in a safe and legal setting proved difficult. This was important to us. After first trying, and failing, to get into multiple trials happening globally at the time, we were eventually referred to a private therapist in the Netherlands, where the use of psychoactive truffles is legal. Our search over, we flew overseas, met him, and ingested a large dose of psilocybin.
What we learned from this one session was so profound, healing and powerful, we didn’t feel compelled to have another for a whole year.
Not only have we woven psychedelic medicines into our lives, but the immense value we’ve gained from these magical medicines is what inspired Peter and I to establish our fifth charity, Mind Medicine Australia. If this medicine has affected us this much, imagine if it could heal hundreds of millions of people suffering from mental illnesses. And whilst our other charities are helping thousands of people through women’s shelters, social inclusion choirs and educational programs, poverty alleviation, and microfinance, we realized that at the heart of any kind of social isolation or disadvantage lies mental illness.
In Australia alone, there are over six million people suffering from mental illness. Up until recently, Australia has been way behind in its psychedelic research and advocacy efforts. Our aim is to help make these medicines accessible and affordable to people suffering from a mental illness in medically controlled environments. We believe that would be the most incredible gift we could offer to humanity.
What are your goals with Mind Medicine Australia?
Mind Medicine Australia is a registered DGR 1 charity enabling the development of regulatory-approved and research-backed medicine-assisted psychotherapy for the treatment of mental ill-health in Australia, specifically the clinical application of medicinal psilocybin and MDMA for depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and addictions. We operate as a nexus between medical practitioners, academia, government, regulatory bodies, philanthropists, and other partners.
Mind Medicine is seeking to change the mental health paradigm in Australia by significantly increasing the treatments available to medical practitioners and their patients. Key aspects of our strategy involve education events and awareness building, the development of metropolitan and regional MMA Chapters, the production of a major International Summit in Melbourne in November 2020, the development and delivery of an accredited practitioner training course, funding for relevant and novel clinical trials, the development of an appropriate legal and ethical structure for discussion with regulators, the development of reliable sources of pharmaceutical-grade psilocybin and MDMA in Australia, the development of an Asia-Pacific Centre of Excellence based in Australia, and maintenance and expansion of international information flow and rollout strategies so that all Australians who need these therapies can access them through the medical system.
How is the scientific regulatory framework different in Australia than North America or Europe?
The regulatory framework is fairly similar. To be listed on the TGA register (our FDA) and become prescribable medicine has to be trialed for both safety and efficacy. There are normally 3 phases and the third phase being multi-site trials. In practice, the TGA will often register medicines that have become prescribable medicines in the USA and/or Europe provided that they can access the overseas trial results. There is also the opportunity to make these medicines available through our Special Access Scheme, similar to those being used in the USA, Israel, and Switzerland.
Is Psychedelic research being conducted at the moment? Are there any Australian based research programs focused on psychedelics?
Australia has been very slow off the mark and has just recently started its first trial with psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy for end-of-life depression and anxiety. It is taking place at St Vincent's Hospital in Melbourne part-funded by Mind Medicine Australia. The trial is similar to trials already conducted at both Johns Hopkins and NYU in the USA but it is important for Australia because at last, we have a trial in Australia. This is attracting enormous attention and greater medical and regulatory focus on the benefits of this form of treatment for a range of mental illnesses.
Do MAPS, COMPASS, or Usona have study sites in Australia?
No not at present but we hope this will happen in the future and look forward to collaborating to ensure these medicines can be made available and affordable to all who need them.
Is there a federal prohibition against research into schedule 1 substances in Australia?)
Medical trials are possible provided that permission is given by the TGA (equivalent to FDA). In practice, the TGA will normally give its approval if the trial receives ethics approval first. There is also the potential to have the medicines rescheduled.