Justice and Due Process

Utah Psychotherapy and Mental Illness Taskforce Finds Psilocybin and MDMA are Safe and Effective

Utah lawmakers are well aware that Utah has the highest rates of mental illness in the nation. In an effort to avail themselves of every available tool, they created the Utah Mental Illness and Psychotherapy Task Force earlier this year. The legislature tasked them with determining if psychotherapy drugs might be useful, which illnesses they may be effective at treating, and what a framework for safely administering them might look like. 

This week the task force issued a report of their findings. 

Referring to MDMA, the report states, “The overall body of evidence… supports a significant benefit from MDMA-assisted therapy for severe chronic PTSD.” 

Their review of psilocybin was equally positive: “Psilocybin-assisted therapy could offer an additional option for the armamentarium of depression treatments. An advantage of psilocybin-assisted therapy is that it does not require daily administration like an oral antidepressant. Additionally, psilocybin-assisted therapy may serve as an option for more difficult-to-treat cases.”

The task force also found that side effects of MDMA and psilocybin are generally minor, and when administered in a clinical setting, neither leads to substance abuse. 

The task force came to these conclusions after carefully examining research on psychotherapeutics. Although thousands of papers exist on the topic, they limited their review to recent experimental trials that employed control groups to ensure their conclusions were backed by the best science. 

The composition of the task force adds gravitas to its report. It was composed of mental health leaders including the CEO of Huntsman Mental Health Institute, the executive medical director of the Utah Department of Health and Human Services, the forensic director of the Utah State Hospital, and other notable doctors, pharmacists, social workers, and researchers. Their conclusions that “the preliminary safety data are encouraging” and that both MDMA and psilocybin are “more effective than placebo” carry significant weight. 

The report lays out a framework for safely producing, distributing, and administering psilocybin and MDMA. Now, all that remains is for the legislature to build on the task force’s work and make medical psychotherapeutics a reality. Thousands of Utahns suffering from mental illness can’t afford to wait.