Research studies have demonstrated that psychedelics can be very effective in treating conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. We are now to the point where the psychedelic medicine MDMA may be approved in the USA within a year and psilocybin shortly thereafter. In fact, in Australia both MDMA and psilocybin have received approval for treatment of these conditions. Now folks in Australia are dealing with practical issues like whether or not one’s insurance will pay for this treatment. What it boils down to for those who are paying the bills is this. Is treatment with psychedelics cost effective?
Study of the Cost Effectiveness of Psilocybin for Treatment of Depression
Looking ahead to when psychedelics are approved in the UK, researchers looked at the issue of cost effectiveness of the psychedelic psilocybin for treating depression. They looked at psychedelic assisted therapy and compared it to the use of standard antidepressants and antidepressants with psychotherapy. They only looked at severe cases of depression. People with mild depression what went away with a short course of standard antidepressants or a few visits with a therapist never advanced to the point where psychedelics would have been considered for treatment.
Is Psilocybin with Psychotherapy Cost Effective?
There is something that has to be considered before making comparisons between psychedelics and other types of treatments. How much better does the patient get and for how long? The researchers used what they called quality of life years. In reviewing the literature they found that psilocybin assisted psychotherapy provided the best results followed by standard antidepressants and psychotherapy, therapy alone, and antidepressants alone. The cost effectiveness question comes down to best results in therapy versus cost of therapy and the ability of a person, insurance carrier, government agency, or whoever, to bear the costs involved.
How Much Does Psilocybin Therapy Cost?
In Australia those who have looked at the practical aspects of psilocybin or MDMA treatment put the cost of a full course of treatment at $25,000 in Australian dollars. This comes to just over $16,000 in US dollars. However, therapy sessions in Australia are $100 to $200 just like in the USA. But US sessions are priced in US dollars and Australian sessions are priced in Aussie dollars. The point is that while therapy in Australia will cost about $25,000 in AUD, therapy in the US will likely cost $25,000 in USD.
At What Point Will Psychedelic Assisted Therapy Be Appropriate?
Simply taking a psychedelic is not a cure-all for any mental health condition. What psychedelics like MDMA and psilocybin do is make coaching or psychotherapy much more effective. The biggest cost for psychedelic therapy will not be the medicine but the time of the therapist and support staff. Anyone who goes to their family doctor, is diagnosed as having depression, is given a prescription for a standard antidepressant, and gets better is not going to be considered for a long course of psychotherapy assisted by psilocybin. Psychedelics will only be considered for patients who have sequentially failed other simple forms of treatment.
What Does Mental Illness Cost?
Mental health conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder and severe depression can be disabling conditions. Folks miss work. Treatment of their conditions when borne by government programs costs a lot of money. Getting these folks better faster not only relieves the system of the expense of their care. It also gets them back to being working and tax-paying citizens. These expenses were considered in the study done by folks in the UK when they considered the cost effectiveness of treatment with psychedelics.
At What Point Are Psychedelics Cost Effective?
When nothing else works to cure depression or PTSD and psychedelics work, the cost effectiveness argument makes no sense. When more than one therapy works, then it comes down to the cost of MDMA or psilocybin and the rates charged for psychotherapy and how many therapy sessions are required. The UK cost effectiveness study was published by Cambridge University. They decided that for psychedelics to be most cost effective the cost of psilocybin or MDMA needed to be lower than currently expected and therapy costs need to be limited.