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Tim Baker: Psychedelic assisted therapy

Community Manager
Community Manager
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On July 1, the psychedelic drugs psylocibin and MDMA will become legal in Australia for therapeutic use for treatment resistant depression and PTSD respectively.

This is a bold move by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, to reclassify these drugs from Schedule 9 (prohibited) to Schedule 8 (controlled) and came sooner than even the most ardent advocates of psychedelic therapy had hoped.

The move follows promising research and clinical trials here and overseas that have consistently shown strong benefits and very few adverse events. It’s an exciting time in the treatment of mental health, offering new and potentially ground-breaking treatments that may help those who have found no relief from conventional mental health interventions.

There are still many questions to be resolved about how the provision of these treatments will play out – the costs, access, who will be qualified to prescribe and oversee them. After observing the normalising of medicinal cannabis over the past five or so years, I expect psychedelic assisted therapy to follow a similar trajectory. Once the relevant authorities are convinced the sky won’t fall in, and that many people are finding real benefit and relief, the bureaucracy will become less onerous, and cost and access will improve.

Call me an early adopter, but I chose not to wait for the bureaucratic wheels to turn to access both medicinal cannabis and psychedelic assisted therapy. As someone living with stage four, metastatic prostate cancer, told bluntly that I had an incurable and ultimately fatal condition, I saw no real downside to trialling these therapies myself. It’s not a path I would try and persuade anyone else to go down. These are highly personal decisions that are best made in consultation with a qualified medical practitioner.

But for me, the need was great, even desperate and I am happy to report, from my sample size of one, that I have enjoyed enormous benefit and no adverse outcomes from these novel therapies.

Medicinal cannabis has quickly become mainstream and specialist cannabis doctors and dispensaries have sprouted as quickly as a crop of wild bush buds in the lush, NSW North Coast hinterland. MC is largely seen now as uncontroversial and an entirely valid treatment option for a range of conditions, from chronic pain and insomnia to anxiety and chemo-induced nausea. My hope is that the widespread provision of psychedelic assisted therapy will soon become similarly mainstream, sparing thousands of people from lives of misery and suffering.

I was able to access psychedelic therapy locally. For me, hormone therapy had inflicted crippling depression and even occasional suicidal ideation. My GP had prescribed anti-depressants, but I felt reluctant to add yet another pill to my regime and was wary of their potential numbing effects.

The sessions, under the supervision of a qualified counsellor, felt deeply healing and I believe have provided long term benefits, complete relief from depressive symptoms and a greater acceptance of my mortality and uncertain future.

Of course, the PCFA and any other credible health organisation cannot provide a general endorsement for a treatment like psychedelic assisted therapy, especially when accessed illegally. But the need is so great, the body of evidence so compelling, it is my hope that it won’t be too long before it is made more widely available for a greater range of mental health conditions. In particular, I think PAT could have enormous benefit for men struggling with the effects of ADT.

In the mean time, the most powerful anti-depressants I know are my daily M.E.D.S – meditation, exercise, diet, sleep – along with the regular application of sunlight and saltwater. And anyone struggling with their mental health should promptly seek a referral from their GP to a qualified psychologist under a mental health care plan, happily subsidised by Medicare.

Tim will appear in an episode of Compass on psychedelic assisted therapy on July 16, at 6:30 pm on ABC TV and iView.

About the Author


Tim Baker is an award-winning author, journalist and storyteller specialising in surfing history and culture, working across a wide variety of media from books and magazines to film, video, and theatre. Some of his most notable books include “Occy”, a national bestseller and chosen by the Australia Council as one of “50 Books You can’t Put Down” in 2008, and “The Rip Curl Story” which documents the rise of the iconic Australian surf brand to mark its 50th anniversary in 2019. Tim is a former editor of Tracks and Surfing Life magazines. He has twice won the Surfing Australia Hall of Fame Culture Award.

Tim was diagnosed with stage 4, metastatic prostate cancer in 2015 with a Gleason score 9. He was told he had just five years of reasonable health left, but eight years on, at 58, he’s still surfing, writing, and enjoying being a dad. His latest book, Patting the Shark, also documents his cancer journey and will be published in August. Tim will be sharing weekly insights into his journey to help other men who have also been impacted by prostate cancer.

Help is Available

Prostate Cancer Specialist Telenursing Service

If your life has been impacted by prostate cancer, our Specialist Telenursing Service is available to help. If you would like to reach out to the PCFA Prostate Cancer Specialist Telenurse Service for any questions you have about your prostate cancer experience, please phone 1800 22 00 99 Monday - Friday 9am - 5pm, Wednesday 10am-8pm (AEDT).

Prostate Cancer Support Groups

PCFA is proud to have a national network of affiliated support groups in each state and territory of Australia consisting of men and women who have a passion for assisting others who encounter prostate cancer. This network is made up of over 170 affiliated groups who meet locally to provide one-to-one support, giving a vision of life and hope after treatment. Call us on 1800 22 00 99 to find your local group.

MatesCONNECT Telephone-based peer support

MatesCONNECT is a telephone-based peer support program for men affected by prostate cancer. If you’ve recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer, our MatesCONNECT service can connect you to a trained volunteer who understands what you’re going through. All of our volunteers have been through prostate cancer. Simply call us on 1800 22 00 99 to be connected with a volunteer.

Newly diagnosed? or need to find more information? Access the PCFA resources here.

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