Citizens Commission on Human Rights

Australian National Office

Aussie psychiatrists McGorry and Hickie—More Brave New World—Tripping Out Autistic Young Adults with Psychedelics

MDMA and psilocybin psychiatric research is a bad “trip” for mental health in Australia, U.S. and globally.

17 OCTOBER 2022

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) Foundation has embraced what we believe to be the latest unconscionable trend in psychiatry—psychedelic drugs. The college congratulated psychiatric researchers who have received grants from the Australian government’s “Innovative Therapies for Mental Illness Grant” to study psychedelic drug use as a treatment for mental disorders.1

This includes psychiatrists Patrick McGorry and Ian Hickie who were awarded $3.8 million to study using MDMA, which acts as a stimulant and hallucinogen, on autistic young adults with “social anxiety.”2 McGorry has been internationally criticized before for his “Brave New World” theory called “Psychosis Risk Syndrome” that claimed pre-drugging teens and adults with antipsychotics could prevent the onset of psychosis. However, antipsychotics can cause psychosis.3 Likewise, Hickie conducted a clinical drug trial giving antidepressants to the elderly who were “at risk” of depression but not actually depressed.4 Now the two are taking another controversial step: hallucinogens.

$14.8 million has been awarded across seven psychedelic drug projects, of which five involve experimenting with MDMA (street name, ecstasy)5 or psilocybin (an ingredient in magic mushrooms). The largest of the grants goes to Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists Fellows, Professor McGorry (University of Melbourne) and Professor Hickie (University of Sydney) and colleagues Professor Andrew Chanen, Chief of Clinical Practice, Orygen research, and Professor David Coghill, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, Chair of Development Mental Health at University of Melbourne. Based out of the University of Melbourne, their trial is of “MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for treatment resistant social anxiety in young adults with autism.”6

Take a moment to read that again. An autistic young adult will be prescribed a drug that can act as a hallucinogen!7 Autism alone may already manifest in unusual mood or emotional reactions, anxiety, stress, excessive worry, obsessive interests, unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look, being non-communicative, and more.8

Common treatment for “social anxiety” includes selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants, such as sertraline (e.g., Zoloft), or escitalopram (e.g., Lexapro and Cipralex). The serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) venlafaxine (e.g., Efexor XR) is another option prescribed.9

Consider the following potential antidepressant side effects to the already vulnerable person’s state of mind: “Anxiety, agitation, panic attacks, insomnia, irritability, hostility, impulsivity, akathisia (psychomotor restlessness), hypomania, and mania.”10 There’s also suicide, as “antidepressants double the occurrence of events” even in “adult healthy volunteers that can lead to suicide and violence,” according to one study.11 Today, if an antidepressant doesn’t “work,” an antipsychotic may be added to the mix.

The U.S. Alliance for Human Research Protection reports: “Thanks to years of litigation during which [pharmaceutical] company documents have been uncovered, the truth has been revealed. We know that SSRI antidepressants and the ‘atypical’ antipsychotics have failed decisively to demonstrate therapeutic benefits in clinical trials and in clinical practice. Instead, these drugs have triggered debilitating, chronic illness and even life-threatening risk: antidepressants increase the suicide risk and trigger serotonin syndrome, which is potentially fatal. Antipsychotics undermine normal metabolic, cardiovascular, hormonal function, resulting in cardiac arrest, obesity, metabolic syndrome and diabetes.12

When none of the drugs “work,” the autistic young adult may be told that if he feels worse, it’s because he is the problem: he is “treatment-resistant,” even though this is not a scientific fact but conjecture. The truth is that his prior psychiatric treatment has utterly failed him.

Under a hope of “Innovative Therapies,” it is now asserted that there is “an emerging body of evidence on the use of hallucinogens or stimulant drugs” for “treatment resistant mental illness.” 13 In other words, falling back on hallucinogenic drugs that failed in the 1950s to 1970s.

Now, the “medication” will be changed to the mind-altering MDMA that commonly causes anxiety, jaw clenching/tight jaw, impaired balance/gait, and difficulty concentrating, while it can also cause “acute nervousness or anxiety” during psychotherapy.14

MDMA is also a drug of abuse. In fact, Australia is the leading user of ecstasy, with 3% of the population abusing the drug at least once per year, compared with 1% of Brits and Americans.15 An estimated 600,000 Australians use illegal MDMA each year, and an average of about three deaths per year since 2000 have been associated with MDMA toxicity alone, according to a May 2021 Medican Health article.16 A study titled, “MDMA-related deaths in Australia 2000 to 2018,” published in the International Journal of Drug Policy in 2020, identified 392 deaths, with a median age of 26 years. 81% were male. Females were significantly younger than males (24 vs. 27 years). Two-thirds (62%) of deaths were attributed to drug toxicity (48% multiple drug toxicity and 14% MDMA toxicity alone), and one third (38%) to other causes (predominantly motor vehicle accidents) with MDMA recorded as a contributory factor.17

In May 2021, the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)—considered rescheduling psilocybin and MDMA from their current classification as Schedule 9 prohibited substances to Schedule 8 controlled substances. This was so that psychiatrists—after years of delivering a failed biomedical model such as drugs and electroshock treatment, and despite $11 billion spent on mental health in 2019/20 alone—could use psychedelics in combination with psychotherapy for the treatment of conditions such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).18

In February 2021, the TGA had not wanted to reschedule MDMA, citing limited evidence of therapeutic benefit, safety concerns, potential for abuse, and lack of suitably trained psychiatrists. Then in December 2021, the TGA rejected the application calling for MDMA and psilocybin to be downgraded from illicit to controlled substances.19

But that hasn’t stopped psychiatry, especially when there’s a prospective psychedelics market that is already anticipated to be $7 billion (AU$9.7 billion) by 2027.20 Worldwide, there are currently about 100 psychedelic trials for the treatment of depression, anxiety, alcohol and drug-use disorders, dementia, anorexia and chronic pain. Psilocybin-assisted therapy for depression and MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD have been given “breakthrough therapy” designation from the FDA in the U.S.21

It takes 10 to 15 years and around US$1 billion (AU$1.4 billion) to develop one drug. Despite this significant investment, 90% of drug candidates in clinical trials fail. A 2016 analysis found between 40% and 50% of failures were due to a lack of clinical efficacy, meaning the drug wasn’t able to produce its intended effect in people. Around 30% were due to unmanageable toxicity or side effects, and 10%–15% were due to poor pharmacokinetic properties, or how well a drug is absorbed by and excreted from the body. Lastly, 10% of failures were attributed to lack of commercial interest and poor strategic planning.22

Australian federal funds have been funnelled into these psychiatrist’s studies to test psychedelics even though the TGA doesn’t recognize MDMA and psilocybin as legitimate medicines to treat psychiatric conditions. The RANZCP admits that when misused, psychedelics could cause psychosis.23

The “innovative study” is going in the wrong direction. There are global concerns about a growing dependency upon the ongoing biological approach to treating mental health issues. In 2017, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Dr. Dainius Pūras, a psychiatrist, reported: “There is now unequivocal evidence of the failures of a system that relies too heavily on the biomedical model of mental health services, including the front-line and excessive use of psychotropic medicines, and yet these models persist.” 24

McGorry, Hickie, et al., must have missed the memo.

Not surprising. McGorry and Hickie have a history of conflicts of interest with the pharmaceutical industry and psychedelics are the next new frontier for profit from psychotropic drug sales.

When Hickie was a Commissioner of the National Mental Health Commission, he reported in their Register of Interests, that he had received travel support from pharmaceutical companies Servier and Astra-Zeneca, research support from Servier and Pfizer and paid educational seminars/resources from Servier, Astra-Zeneca, Pfizer and Eli Lilly.25

In an article authored by Prof. McGorry published in The British Medical Journal the following is listed for him under Competing Interests, “has received, unrestricted research grant support from Janssen-Cilag, Eli Lilly, Bristol-Meyer-Squibb, Astra-Zeneca, Pfizer, and Novartis. He has acted as a paid consultant for, and has received speaker’s fees and travel reimbursement from, all or most of these companies.”26

Professor Andrew Chanen is the Chief of Clinical Practice at Orygen: The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health,27 a McGorry research group that has a history of receiving funding from the pharmaceutical industry.28

Professor David Coghill’s department has had research support from pharmaceutical companies, Eli Lilly, Janssen-Cilag and Shire. He has served in an advisory or consultancy role for Lilly, Janssen-Cilag, Pfizer, Shire, Flynn and UCB global pharmaceutical company. He received conference attendance support or was paid for public speaking by Eli Lilly, Janssen McNeil and UCB.29

Other studies that the “Innovative Therapies” grant is funding include using psilocybin with psychotherapy to treat eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa. “It is hoped that this psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy trial will be able to demonstrate improved clinical outcomes, especially in those patients where other treatments have failed,” a Sydney researcher stated.30 (Emphasis added)

“Failed” — that’s the operative word here, yet in the face of such failures, more biological models are being developed using more past failed and negated dangerous methods: hallucinogens.

Warning: No-one should stop taking any psychiatric drug without the advice and assistance of a competent medical doctor.


  1. “RANZCP Foundation congratulates psychiatrists awarded MRFF funding,” RANZCP Foundation, 11 February 2022.
  2. “$14.8 million for innovative mental health clinical trials,” The Hon. David Coleman, MP, Assistant Minister to Prime Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, 7 January 2022.
  3. “The Australian Clinical Guidelines for Early Psychosis, 2nd Edition Evidence Map Quick Reference, headspace National Youth Foundation & Orygen Youth Health ; Daniel William, “Drugs Before Diagnosis?” Time Magazine, 18 June 2006.,33009,1205408,00.html ; Sue Dunlevy, “Schism opens over ills of the mind,” The Australian, 16 June 2011, ; Melissa Raven, Prof. Geoff Stuart, Prof. Jon Jureidini, Dr Joanna Moncreif, Prof. Richard Bentall, Pierre Biron MD, Abby Lipman, Fernand Turcotte MD, Arndt von Hippel MD, Janet Currie, Prof. James M Write MD, Prof. John Reed, Barbara Mintzes, “NEURAPRO-Q Study: Objection to trial on ethical and methodological grounds,” Australian and International signatories complaint to ; TianHong Zhang, LiHua Xu, XioChen Tang, YanYan Wei, Quiang Hu, HuiRu Cui, YingYing Tang, Li Hui, ChunBo Li, LiPing Cao, Zheng Lu, JiJun Wang, “Real-world effectiveness of antipsychotic treatment in psychosis prevention in a 3-year cohort of 517 individuals at clinical risk from the SHARP (ShangHai At Risk for Psychosis),” Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 21 May 2021, ; Donovan T Maust, Kenneth M Langa, Federic C Blow, Helen C Kales, “Psychotropic use and associated neuropsychiatric symptoms among patients with dementia in the USA,” International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, February 2017, ; “Medicine summary- Antipsychotics (see list) to date,” Therapeutic Goods Administration, 21 July 2011, p. 47,
  4. Sue Dunlevy,” Older Australians had suicidal thoughts and depression in controversial prevention trial,” Daily Telegraph, 2 September 2017, ;
  5. “What is MDMA?” National Institute on Drug Abuse.
  6. “$14.8 million for innovative mental health clinical trials,” The Hon. David Coleman, MP, Assistant Minister to Prime Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, 7 January 2022.
  7. “MDMA (Ecstasy) Abuse Research Project,” National Institute on Drug Abuse,
  8. “Signs and Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorders,” Centers for Disease Control,
  9. “Social Anxiety Medication,” Shyness & Social Anxiety Treatment Australia.; “Drug treatment for anxiety,” Australian Prescriber, Vol. 36, No. 6, December 2013 ; Jacqueline Howard, “Common types of anxiety medications and how they work,” ABC News, 15 March 2022,
  10. “Australian Product Information – Zoloft (sertraline hydrochloride),” 26 May 2022, p. 7, ; “Australian Product Information – Efexor-XR (venlafaxine hydrochloride),” 19 October 2021, p. 5,
  11. Andreas Bielefeldt, et al., “Precursors to suicidality and violence on antidepressants: systematic review of trials in adult healthy volunteers,” Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, October 2016, Vol. 109, No. 10, p. 381,
  12. “The Truth About Psychiatric Drugs,” Alliance for Human Research Protection, Advancing Voluntary Informed Consent to Medical Intervention, 11 August 2011,
  13. MRFF – 2021 Innovative Therapies for Mental Illness Grant Opportunity (GO ID 4726), Australian National Mental Health and Research Council,
  14. “Side Effects of MDMA (Molly/Ecstasy),” RollSafe,
  15. “Ecstasy use in Australia, a world high,” myDr, 31 January 2019,
  16. “Why Australia should reschedule MDMA and psilocybin for the treatment of mental illness,” Medican Health, 22 May 2021,
  17. “MDMA-related deaths in Australia 2000 to 2018,” (Abstract) International Journal of Drug Policy, February 2020,
  18. Op. cit., Medican Health ; “Mental Health Services in Australia: Expenditure on mental health services,” Table EXP.34, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, last updated 19 July 2022,
  19. Ibid.; “TGA halts use of psychedelics for mental illness,” RN Breakfast, ABC Radio National, 17 December 2021,; “Notice of decision to not amend the current Poisons Standard – Psilocybin and MDMA,” Australian Government, Department of Health, Therapeutic Goods Administration, 15 December 2021,
  20. “How will psychiatrists administer psychedelic treatments?” Big Think, 1 February 2021,
  21. Stephanie Dalzell, “The federal government is funding research into using psychedelics to treat mental illness. So, do they work?” ABC News, 16 March 2021,
  22. Duxin Sun from The Conversation, “90% of drugs fail clinical trials. Here’s a method for selecting better drug candidates,” Medical Express, 24 February 2022,
  23. Stephanie Dalzell, “The federal government is funding research into using psychedelics to treat mental illness. So, do they work?” ABC News, 16 March 2021,
  24. “World needs “revolution” in mental health care – UN rights expert,” United Nations Human Rights Officer of the High Commissioner, 6 June 2017,
  25. “National Mental Health Commission-Register of Interests,” Tuesday 22nd May 2012.
  26. Patrick McGorry, “Is early intervention in the major psychiatric disorders justified?” The British Medical Journal, Volume 338, 4 April 2009, p. 803.
  27. “Professor Andrew Chanen, BPD Australia, 1 October 2015,
  28. David Webb, Melissa Raven, “McGorry’s ‘early intervention’ in mental health: a prescription for disaster,” Online Opinion, ; Clinical Services – Orgyen. “Other funding,” Orygen Youth Health Research Centre, Orygen web page, accessed 18th February 2012, Patrick Dennistoun McGorry, Curriculum Vitae, 23 November 2010, p. 42 ; “Submission to Senate Community Affairs Committees Inquiry: Commonwealth Funding and Administration of Mental Health Services, Orygen Youth Health, 5 August 2011, p. 2.
  29. David Coghill & Tobias Banaschewski, “The genetics of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder,” Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics, 9 January 2014
  30. “Innovative mental health grants awarded to Sydney Researchers,” Mirage, 17 January 2022,