How Psychedelics Are Changing Lives in Canada

Here’s How Psychedelic Therapy & Psilocybin in Canada is Changing Lives

When Canada legalized cannabis in 2018 it was the first G7 country to do so. Combined with the country’s publicly funded health care and progressive assisted dying laws, legal cannabis cements Canada’s reputation as one of the most forward-thinking countries when it comes to health policies. Now with the global COVID-19 pandemic coming along in addition to a national overdose crisis, Canada has the opportunity to continue with its trail blazing attitudes by rethinking some of its outdated regulations and allowing for freer access to restricted drugs such as psilocybin and other psychedelics. Positive first steps have already been taken as a few doctors, therapists and even patients have been given access to psilocybin and Health Canada is even considering retooling its current policies that could allow for the study of more than just magic mushrooms.

As of last year, Health Canada, non-profit organizations and a few other firms and  publicly traded companies started to work together on the common goal of freer access to psilocybin and other psychedelics for their potential help during psychotherapy. Some firms have made use of the existing laws and legislations while others are hoping to have changes made to outdated regulations that will allow medical professionals to have easier access to restricted drugs that could help their patients. As far back as 2016, John Hopkins University started to study the effects of psilocybin on mental health problems such as depression and anxiety as it pertains to people who suffer from life-threatening diseases such as cancer. The results were astounding as it was revealed that 78 percent of participants reported lower rates of depression after receiving just one dose of psilocybin. Furthermore, a staggering 83 percent of subjects who participated in treatment, said they were experiencing lower rates of anxiety lasting six months.

TheraPsil out of Victoria, BC is one of the non-profit organizations that championed what some called the psychedelic renaissance. So far they have successfully used a subsection of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to help many terminally ill patients and people who suffer from clinical depression procure psilocybin legally. TheraPsil used the subsection that allows access to psychedelics in order to help therapists and medical doctors gain access to the drug for medical and other scientific purposes.

Sufferers of depression or those who are terminally ill will sometimes grasp at anything for relief when traditional medicine has failed them. When Health Minister Patty Hajdu granted exemptions to four qualifying patients, one of them could not stop praising the psilocybin assisted therapy. The ground-breaking new treatment has allowed some people who are facing death a new perspective when it comes to their condition. The treatment has even had a changing effect on how some patients interact with others. Those who have been more analytical in their approach to life have shifted towards having more empathy for other people and those who have been rational in their speech have become more comfortable using warm and emotional words when speaking to others.

TheraPsil is leading the charge in psychedelic therapy by having doctors, therapists, social workers and even nurses take psilocybin in the name of science. The thinking behind this action is that those who are to administer this treatment should experience it too. This way they can be prepared for working with patients. This proved so successful that the company is hoping to start a psychedelic assisted psychotherapy training program sometime this year. TheraPsil and other organizations like them are trying to push for easier access to psychedelics, but not for recreational use. The evidence is in the psychedelic assisted therapy, meaning that it is a combination of both the psilocybin and the psychotherapy that is showing all these positive results. As more and more positive reporting makes its way to Health Canada, the easier it seems for doctors and therapists to gain access to this one taboo drug.

Doctor’s Have Access to Psilocybin

If there is one drawback to a state-run health care system, it is that the organization’s goal is always to get a form of help that works for the majority of people taking advantage of the system. However, TheraPsil and like minded groups are out there fighting the good fight in proving that there are alternatives to the traditional therapies.

Special Access Program Reform – The Role it Plays

In 2013, the Special Access Program (SAP) of Health Canada was dealt a great blow during the reign of the Conservative Party. Stephen Harper’s government prohibited medical professionals from gaining access to restricted drugs for patients for whom traditional treatments failed. The only way that those who needed alternative treatment could gain access to psilocybin and other restricted drugs was through clinical trials. However, this narrow minded regulation was eventually challenged and on December 12 of last year, Health Canada made it clear that it is intending to reverse the conservative regulations imposed on the SAP in 2014 and so they would be initiating a comment period for public feedback that would last two months. There are a set of ethical guidelines called the  Helsinki Declaration. Amongst other principals it lays out clearly that if a person had access to a restricted drug through clinical trial and found that drug to be beneficial, they should be entitled to receive ongoing therapy.

Of course, with the global COVID-19 pandemic taking up most of its time last year, it is still encouraging to see that psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy is receiving the attention it needs from this federal organization and the reversal of the 2013 restrictions are still a priority. Changes to the SAP regulations will allow for easier access to psilocybin and other drugs. This means that those who are interested in such therapeutic practices only need to find a doctor who would apply for access on their behalf. No longer will there be a blanket restriction on the drug as applications will be judged on a case by case basis and if all goes well, and if these treatments continue to prove successful, there might come a time that we can expect the application process to be done away with permanently.

It took decades for the cannabis to become legal for recreational use and there does not seem to be a time in the near future that you can just walk into a dispensary and purchase magic mushrooms in the same way as you would marijuana, but thanks to the tireless work of some advocates for psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, psilocybin could be legal for medical use soon.

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