Canada will enable well being professionals to legally use psychedelic mushrooms, well being minister says

Canada will allow a handful of health professionals to own and consume psilocybin mushrooms to better treat the growing number of patients who are now allowed to use the psychedelic, the country’s top health official said in a recent interview.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu’s testimony appears to be the first public announcement of the Health Department’s response to pending requests from therapists to use psilocybin. Hajdu’s office granted requests from some patients in end-of-life care to use the drug for psychotherapy in the summer, but officials left unanswered as to whether they would approve similar requests from the therapists themselves.

At a town hall virtual meeting hosted last week by Hedy Fry, a member of the House of Commons, Hajdu said national health authorities only allowed the therapists’ request the day before.

“I’m also pleased to say that Health Canada yesterday granted exemptions to a number of health professionals who wanted to possess and consume psilocybin-containing mushrooms,” said the Minister of Health. She described the move as “controversial for some and not others, but the doctors prescribing this therapy wanted to understand what it felt like and how it could best be used to help their patients who are having problems.”

In my Virtual Townhall Health Min, @PattyHajdu answers Spencer’s question about using psilocybin mushrooms in palliative care.

See here ⬇️https: //t.co/O9iFJgziH6

– Dr. Hedy Fry (@HedyFry) December 6, 2020

Hajdu’s office has the ability to grant exemptions that effectively give individuals immunity from the country’s controlled substance laws. This power has made the Minister of Health a focus in a concerted push by advocates of psychedelic therapy to give broader approval for the legal use of entheogenic substances for therapeutic and religious purposes.

In a landmark decision in August, Health Canada approved applications from four cancer patients to legally use the drug for end-of-life treatment. In the months since then, regulators have granted more than a dozen additional exemptions, including at least one patient who is not in palliative care. In October, Health Canada approved a non-terminal patient to use psilocybin to treat unresolved trauma.

In an interview last week, Hajdu called this development “an exciting moment … for many people who see this as a possible therapy.”

Behind many of the successful exceptions is the Victoria, BC-based nonprofit TheraPsil, which advocates legal access to psilocybin therapy. The group has supported more than a dozen psilocybin uses by patients in end-of-life care and has helped secure approval for the non-palliative patient with trauma.

Earlier this year, TheraPsil also requested exemptions for some of its therapists. The group announced to Marijuana Moment that these applications were recently approved by Health Canada.

“We are grateful to Health Secretary Patty Hajdu,” said Spencer Hawkswell, Group CEO. “Training will be imperative to meet patient demand and explore the many challenges of patient access, especially the shortage of doctors and therapists trained in psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy.”

TheraPsil stated in a press release sent after this article was first published that 17 health care providers have been granted exemptions so far and that the group is aiming to raise $ 250,000 to fund an educational program for them.

Hawkswell was asked about the group’s request to allow therapists to use psilocybin in an interview with Marijuana Moment in July. He said it was a sensible step to make sure therapists are familiar with the drug’s effects and how best to use it to treat it.

“Part of ensuring very high quality psychedelic treatment for patients is ensuring high quality training for therapists,” he said. “It is very beneficial when therapists have received psychedelic therapy themselves.”

Few people, he offered by analogy, “would advise going to a sex therapist who has never had sex.”

Dr. Sean O’Sullivan, an emergency physician and psychotherapist who serves on TheraPsil’s board of directors, told Marijuana Moment, “It’s about enabling therapists to understand the area they are plowing.”

“The main reason therapists expose their own experiences with psychedelics is that you probably won’t understand their meaning if you haven’t visited these areas,” he said.

MP Fry, a doctor who has worked in hospitals for more than two decades, admitted during town hall with Hajdu that there are still “all kinds of moral judgments” about the therapeutic use of psychedelics, but said that “in fact the most of these products have medicinal benefits. “

“I find it interesting that some professionals can try,” Fry said, “because especially when you are dealing with psychotherapy … to understand how the patient is being affected by the drugs – what happens”. The psyche, what you feel, what it does with your perception, will be very important if you want to treat patients with psilocybin and psychotherapy at the same time. “

Hajdu said that while she is willing to grant exemptions in certain cases, she would like more formal research into psilocybin.

“I think we need more evidence in this area,” said Hajdu, “and I would encourage Spencer and TheraPsil to work with our office as we are trying to collect this research.” It is so important to not only understand the potential value of psilocybin treatment, but also to pave the way for others who may not understand it. “

“The more research we can get and the more understanding we get through clinical trials and research, the better it is,” she continued. “So we are on standby to support any organization, academic or medical professional who is interested.” Application for approval for clinical trials. I think that would really help move this conversation forward and somehow get it out of the shadows and into more of a mainstream conversation. “

As the conversation has changed in recent years, officials and lawyers have disagreed on how quickly and comprehensively access to psychedelics is possible. Last month, three separate government officials responded to a petition from thousands of residents urging the government to decriminalize personal possession of psychedelics that no immediate changes to the country’s drug laws were required.

A statement from Hajdu’s office signed by MP Darren Fisher states that psychedelics must pass the country’s drug screening process and obtain approval from Health Canada before any major changes can be made.

Given that existing laws and regulations “already provide a mechanism for access to such organisms for medical or scientific purposes, or for reasons otherwise in the public interest (e.g. for religious purposes),” it says Statement: “No changes to current legislation or regulations are required. “

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Image courtesy Kristie Gianopulos.

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