Study assesses novel way to manage alcohol dependence and depression

Yvonne Bonomo -2022-09-27_St_Vincents__DSC6715_pic_EugeneHyland_ENH_v2

Image: Associate Professor Yvonne Bonomo

A therapeutic intervention study using an experimental psychedelic drug is investigating a new approach to see if this will help people suffering with alcohol use disorder and depression.

The research, which is being led by St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne (SVHM) together with the University of Melbourne, and the Psychae Institute, is looking at how dimethyltryptamine (DMT)-assisted psychological therapy may be effective in supporting these patients.

One of the chief investigators and Director of SVHM’s Department of Addiction Medicine, Associate Professor Yvonne Bonomo, says the important research will investigate the potential for this experimental type of treatment to provide improved outcomes for people with alcohol dependence and depression.

A three-part process

The treatment being explored involves a three-part process where each patient is assigned two therapists.

“During Phase 1, the patient will meet with a psychotherapist and work through why this treatment may be appropriate and what to expect, followed by Phase 2, where the patient undergoes psychotherapy while under the influence of DMT. This phase includes taking the medication and experiencing the effects, which could last up to several hours,” A/Prof Bonomo says.

The post-session integration phase involves the patient working with the therapist to understand the experience and gain insights that may help them with positive change.

“We hope to assess whether the process, not just taking the experimental medication, will help change people’s perspective on their health and the challenges they have experienced, and enable them to move on and make positive adjustments to their lives. It’s an opportunity that we hope may help some of our patients for whom current treatments haven’t been successful,” says A/Prof Bonomo.

Staged approach

A safety trial with healthy volunteers is being launched in early 2023 to explore dose tolerability, the process and the best setting for the trial, participant experiences and suitable therapists, ahead of the main trial planned for later 2023.

In 2021, the study was awarded just over $1.97 million through the Victorian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund towards the main clinical trial.

Read about research activity underway at St Vincent’s in our 2022 SVHM Research Report