Aug 10, 2023 - Health

Psychedelic therapy group outlines first-ever professional guidelines

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Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The accrediting association for psychedelic practitioners has outlined what it says are the first set of professional guidelines for psychedelic-assisted therapy.

Why it matters: The principles outlined by the American Psychedelic Practitioners Association aim to bring structure to the field amid rapidly growing interest in incorporating psychedelics like psilocybin and MDMA into mental health treatment.

Catch up quick: Earlier this summer, the Food and Drug Administration issued the first-ever clinical trial guidelines for researchers studying psychedelic treatments for mental health conditions such as PTSD and depression, among others.

  • Oregon and Colorado are the only states to have decriminalized supervised use of psychedelics so far, though neither endorses it as a mental health treatment. Other states have explored legalizing psychedelic therapy.
  • For now, patients typically receive psychedelic-assisted treatment by participating in clinical trials.

The details: The psychedelics practitioners group, which was formed in 2021, developed the guidelines with BrainFutures, a non-profit supporting brain research.

  • The guidelines say providers should have specialized training in psychedelic-assisted therapy and be in good standing with their relevant licensure body.
  • Providers should also monitor patients for adverse events during and after sessions, coordinate with other providers in a patient's care team, ensure patients have been appropriately screened for psychedelic therapy and build trust with patients before administering medication.

What they're saying: "This sets up the framework. This says, 'Here's the rules, we're going to start working on these rules.' Obviously, this is extremely dynamic," APPA executive director Stephen Xenakis told Axios.

  • "We have a chance to bring these medications into health care in the smartest way and best way possible," he added.

Of note: APPA's guidelines make clear that psychedelic-assisted therapy should be provided in conjunction with psychotherapy. Scientists are still uncertain which is more effective as both treatments are evaluated in conjunction, STAT News reported.

State of play: APPA's guidelines will expire after two years.

  • The standards are based on a relatively small but growing evidence base, and future guidelines will be informed by new research, APPA said.
  • Additional professional infrastructure in the field and FDA approval of a psychedelic-assisted therapy could also shape future guidelines.

What's next: Practitioners will also need clinical practice and ethical guidelines as the field of psychedelic-assisted therapy grows, Xenakis said.

Go deeper: Why mainstreaming psychedelics isn't generating a fuss

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