Canada to allow 4 terminally ill patients access to psilocybin

Published Aug 19, 2020 09:00 a.m. ET
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Cannabis has caught on as a popular and effective treatment for patients who are at various stages of life, including those who are nearing the end, but now 4 Canadians will be the first-ever to receive legally approved exemptions to use psilocybin similarly through the Canadian Drugs and Substances Act so that they can have safe access to psilocybin therapy.

Why psilocybin?

It might sound unconventional, but through years of research and clinical trials, we’ve discovered that there are some massive benefits that can come to patients from psilocybin therapy, especially for those who are suffering from pain, anxiety, depression, and more. Since these applications sought access to the hallucinogens to treat pain and other end of life discomforts, it is likely that these individuals could achieve a more effective level of relief with the aid of psilocybin.

The exemption

The 4 patients petitioned Health Minister Hajdu at the beginning of April in hopes of receiving exemptions from Canadian law which bans psilocybin. All applicants who applied did so in hopes of using the hallucinogens as part of their palliative care plan to assist them in achieving a smoother transition through the end stages of life. On August 4th,they finally received official permission to begin using psilocybin therapy.

A history-making decision

Canada made psilocybin illegal in 1974, and since then, the only people in the country who have received this type of treatment have been a part of clinical research trials that were highly monitored to track its potential for treating various ailments. These four Canadians on palliative care are the first-ever members of the public to successfully petition for an exemption for psilocybin therapy, and this might only be the beginning of what’s to come.

TheraPsil predicts future petitions for hallucinogens

TheraPsil, the non-profit who facilitated the exemptions for the patients, is predicting that this decision is only the beginning of what will eventually be a flood of new applications and grants for exemptions, some of which might go even further than offering psilocybin, but in the meantime, they’ve gotten that ball rolling themselves with a second application that would allow all licensed therapists to prescribe hallucinogens for treating patients.

This decision does not change current Canadian laws surrounding psilocybin

This is excellent news for both medical patients and anyone who is interested in the recreational uses for psilocybin, but for now, the laws surrounding psilocybin and other hallucinogens remain the same across the country. So, while there might be a few lucky Canadians that have gained access to an opportunity of historical proportions, most will be waiting quite some time before it becomes a legal option for them.

Psilocybin therapy research

Canada might be the first country to take this incredible leap, but the United States is actually leading the game as far as psilocybin research goes. There you can find the Johns Hopkins University which is the largest ever research center dedicated solely to researching psychedelics effects on PTSD, Alzheimer's disease, opioid use disorder, depression, and anxiety, and the University of North Carolina who just announced a $27 million research plan that will be funded by the US Department of Defense.

The future of psilocybin therapy

We’ve long known that certain hallucinogens like cannabis and psilocybin can offer benefits to the right people in certain situations, but now that we see government approval even if it is for such a small group of individuals, it means that we’re heading in the right direction as a society. This shift in opinion is flipping the world as we knew it upside down, and with any luck, in this lifetime, we’ll get to see true legalization of so much more than cannabis.

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