A UK university is to offer one of the first postgraduate courses in the world on using psychedelic drugs to help patients with conditions including treatment-resistant depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The Exeter University course taps into the growing importance of drugs such as psilocybin, the hallucinogenic found in magic mushrooms, LSD and MDMA (ecstasy) as clinical therapy. It could help pave the way for such therapies becoming available within the next five years, The Guardian reports.
Those behind the course hope to beat the stigma attached to the drugs to make real breakthroughs in treatment.
Australia recently became the first country to allow psychiatrists to prescribe psychedelics for treatment-resistant depression. In the US, MDMA may be licensed to treat post-traumatic stress disorder by the end of the year, and Oregon and Colorado are planning to legalise the regulated use of psilocybin.
Read more:BBC Newsnight: Psychedelic drugs could help mental health patients
The programme, Psychedelics: Mind, Medicine, and Culture, was launched at Breaking Convention, Europe’s largest psychedelics conference.
It is intended for healthcare workers and therapists, as well as anyone interested in the emerging potential of psychedelics, the market for which is predicted to be worth £8.4billion by 2028.
It will cover a wide range of topics, including teaching about existing psychedelic therapies and research in psychology, psychiatry and neuroscience, as well as modules on philosophy.
In the 1950s and 60s, psychoactive drugs were found to have promising applications in mental health treatments, but research then fell victim to the political clampdown on illicit drug use.
In recent years, however, a growing body of research has shown such drugs can treat conditions such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic-stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, tobacco addiction, substance and alcohol dependency.