Byron Shire resident Steve McDonald was one of the founders of not-for-profit Psychedelic Research in Science and Medicine (PRISM).
Byron Shire resident Steve McDonald was one of the founders of not-for-profit Psychedelic Research in Science and Medicine (PRISM).

Army veteran wants psychedelic drugs used in PTSD treatment

A FORMER army major is working towards implementing new treatment for PTSD in Australia using micro-dosing on psychedelic medicine.

A Byron Shire resident since 2009, Steve McDonald co-founded non-profit Psychedelic Research in Science and Medicine (PRISM) in 2011.

PRISM has now initiated formal Australian-based research into psychedelic medicines in Melbourne and has another study planned in Perth.

Psilocybin, the psychoactive compound from magic mushrooms, is being used to treat depression and anxiety in terminally ill patients in a new trial at Melbourne’s St Vincent’s Hospital.

The Western Australian research, set to start later this year, will look into MDMA-assisted psychotherapy with war veterans for patients diagnosed with treatment-resistant PTSD.

As a member of PRISM, Mr McDonald is overseeing these and other projects, and hopes to help those like him living with PTSD.

Mr McDonald served in Somalia in 1993.

After 15 years’ service, he left the army in 1995 and then worked as a rescue helicopter pilot, but the trauma he witnessed caught up with him.

“It crept up slowly over a period of time and often PTSD can lay dormant for many years, and that was the case with me,” he said.

“I suffered a bit of depression but not so much that it would stopped me from working.

“When it really hit me, it was a mix of the result of a number of stressful events in my life at the same time, and then I was unable to sleep properly.

“I lost interest in work and recreational activities, I suffered from depression, I have had suicidal thoughts, difficulty concentration concentrating and my who whole biorhythm changed.”

Mr McDonald said the idea of taking psychedelics or any drugs were not part of his conscience.

“I was very naive about drugs at the time, but they were not part of my reality,” he said.

He is emphatic that PRISM does not lobby for the deregulation of psychedelics for recreational drug use.

“Our aim is to have selected psychedelic medicines approved for prescription and use during therapeutic sessions under the supervision of a medical doctor and trained therapists,” he said.

“They will not be take-home drugs.

“Our aim is to have it made legal for pharmaceutical prescription; you’ll still have to go to a doctor to get them, we are not lobbying for recreational use.”

His first experience with psychedelics was in 2006.

He used ayahuasca, a potent brew made out of Banisteriopsis caapi vine, and other ingredients used in Amazon traditional medicine.

“My depression cleared up very quickly, and that’s when I realised psychedelics can be medicine,” he said.

Mr McDonald served in the army with His Excellency General David Hurley, Australia’s Governor-General who heard of the work done by PRISM and met Mr McDonald last year to discuss it.

“He was my boss in Somalia and last year he invited me to talk to him in Canberra,” he said.

Steve McDonald will be part of a Q&A panel following the screening of Israeli documentary film Trip of Compassion at the Byron Theatre on March 7 from 8pm.