With a growing belief that research around the potential of psychedelics is finally making key policymakers within the European Parliament stand up and take notice, a number of newly established organisations such as PAREA are now facilitating meaningful conversations which could lead to a shift in perception regarding psychedelics in Europe.
On PSYCH Symposium’s panel, ‘The Future of Psychedelic Medicine in the EU’, a group of changemakers and MEPs will discuss how the EU could take a central role in driving psychedelic healthcare to become a reality across Europe. The limited capacity event takes place two weeks today, secure your tickets now to guarantee your attendance.
PSYCH spoke to panel members, Tadeusz Hawrot, Founder of The Psychedelic Access and Research European Alliance (PAREA), and Mikuláš Peksa, MEP for Czechia, ahead of the event.
Do you see signs of a shifting perception or increased openness to exploring psychedelics in Europe?
Hawrot: “There is a noticeable increase in interest among EU institutions regarding the scientific advancements in psychedelic therapies.
“An Action Group for the Medical Use of Psychedelics has recently been formed by members of the European Parliament. Earlier this year, EU regulators, including the European Medicines Agency (EMA), published a commentary in The Lancet titled: The therapeutic potential of psychedelics: the European regulatory perspective.
“The EMA is planning a multistakeholder workshop towards the end of this year, aimed at promoting the development of psychedelics that address unmet medical needs.
“Additionally, the EMA plans to include psychedelic therapies in its updated depression guidelines, which are due to be published later this year. The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, soon to be transformed into the EU Drug Agency, organised a one-and-a-half-day “Technical Meeting on the Medical Use of Psychedelic Substances: Opportunities and Concerns” in March.
“On the EU member states’ front, the Czech EU Presidency released a memorandum during a mental health event in Brussels, calling for increased attention to psychedelic medicines.
“Meanwhile, the Dutch Government has created a State Commission to investigate the risks and benefits of MDMA, including its potential medical use. To put these significant advancements into perspective, no psychedelic activities took place at the EU level before 2023.”
Peksa: “The perception is definitely shifting, but it is shifting slowly. We experienced it first-hand when we tried to bring up this topic in the European Parliament.
“It was very difficult to find like-minded progressive MEPs to speak about this topic publicly. Now that mental health has become a more pertinent topic, people are realising that psychedelics-assisted psychotherapy has the potential to help patients battling depression, PTSD or addictions.”
How do you envision the future of psychedelic healthcare in Europe – what advancements or changes do you anticipate?
Hawrot: “The future of psychedelic healthcare in Europe is poised for significant advancements, closely tied to the increasing prioritisation of mental health and wellbeing. We are at a turning point in mental health care, with the potential to transform lives on an unprecedented scale. The importance of mental well-being is gaining recognition, and the enormous potential of psychedelic therapies is gradually becoming more understood.
“Lessons from stroke rehabilitation can be applied to the development and implementation of novel psychedelic therapies. Both require a multidisciplinary approach, evidence-based practice, and substantial resource investment. Stroke rehabilitation gained prominence when strokes were recognized as a significant public health issue, leading to increased research funding for developing effective treatments and expanding the evidence base.
“A similar shift in perspective is needed for mental health and psychedelic therapies. However, it’s important to remember that it took several decades for the field of stroke to attain the level of priority it enjoys today. The regulatory approval of psychedelic therapies will be just the first step in the long journey of expanding access.
“Overall, a shift in focus, combined with regulatory incentives, increased funding, and fostering a supportive environment for R&D in this field, could turn the tide in our battle against mental health conditions.”
What role can the EU play in promoting innovation and research in psychedelics, as well as safe access to psychedelic therapies?
Peksa: “The EU has the potential to lead by example and become a pioneer in psychedelic-assisted psychotherapies. There are successful ketamine clinics in several Member States already, such as the Czech Republic or Spain.
“The EU should help its Member States to champion this approach to psychedelics and make it relevant on the global stage. It should also include wording on psychedelics in its strategic documents, especially now that the new comprehensive approach to mental health has been published.”
PSYCH Symposium: London 2023 is a limited capacity event, secure your ticket today to guarantee your attendance.