FILE - In this May 24, 2019, file photo a vendor bags psilocybin mushrooms at a pop-up cannabis market in Los Angeles. Despite pandemic conditions that made normal signature-gathering almost impossible, activists in the nation’s capital say they have enough signatures for a November ballot initiative that would decriminalize natural psychedelics such as mescaline and psilocybin mushrooms. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

Canada approves psilocybin for compassionate use in four patients

The four Canadians are believed to be the first known patients to legally use psilocybin

By Peter Jackson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram

Four Canadian cancer patients have been granted permission to use psilocybin as a treatment for end-of-life distress, a ground-breaking decision that may signal a broader future role for the hallucinogen in health care.

Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu approved the use through the Office of Controlled Substances. The application was submitted more than 100 days ago.

Spencer Hawkswell, executive director of Therapsil, said the non-profit organization decided to go through the minister after a more general application to Health Canada submitted in 2017 was rejected two years later.

“Obviously, bureaucracy is not a human being,” Hawkswell told The Telegram. “People have compassion. Bureaucracies don’t always have compassion.”

Therapsil is a coalition of health-care professionals that has been pushing for therapeutic use of the psilocybin in small doses for patients in palliative care. The drug is naturally found in several species of fungi commonly referred to as magic mushrooms.

“In an ideal situation, these decisions are not made by the Office of Controlled Substances. They are made by doctors and patients,” Hawkswell said.

One of the four patients said she’s delighted with the minister’s decision.

“The acknowledgement of the pain and anxiety that I have been suffering with means a lot to me, and I am feeling quite emotional today as a result,” Laurie Brooks of British Columbia said in a statement released by Therapsil.

In large doses, psilocybin has a similar effect to LSD and other psychedelic drugs. In small doses, however, it can counteract severe depression and anxiety caused by situational stress and even some mental illnesses.

Last month, a woman in St. John’s told The Telegram how micro-doses of psilocybin have completely changed the way she copes with bipolar disease. “Jennifer” said she’s been able to reduce her regular medications by half as a result.

She takes a small dose every four days to avoid building a tolerance.

“The day after I take it, I’m on top of the world,” she said at the time. “I’m so happy. Everything is brighter. There’s no depression, there’s no anxiety. Everything feels good.”

Hawkswell said the wait was too long, but he hopes Tuesday’s decision will open more minds to the drug’s potential.

“A doctor should have the right to prescribe psilocybin to a patient who needs it, whether they’re at end of life or they suffer from severe alcohol addiction or PTSD or cluster headaches,” Hawkswell said. “This is a decision for doctors and therapists and patients. It’s not a decision that should be in the hands of government officials and bureaucrats.”

The four Canadians are believed to be the first known patients to legally use psilocybin since the compound became illegal in Canada in 1974.

ALSO READ: Experts warn against picking Vancouver Island’s magic mushrooms species


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Healthcare

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 20 to 26

Rabbit Day, Hobbit Day and One-Hit Wonder Day are all coming up this week

Port Hardy Mounties help First Nation chief build smokehouse

‘We have great maya’xala for all the community members, in each of the communities…’

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

Access to remote Side Bay beach up in the bureaucratic air

Roads to the pristine north west coast Vancouver Island beach at risk of being deactivated

B.C. or Ontario? Residential school survivors fight move of court battle

It’s now up to Ontario’s Court of Appeal to sort out the venue question

Body discovered floating in water near Lasqueti Island

JRCC reports personnel aboard fishing vessel made the find

Young B.C. cancer survivor rides 105-km with Terry Fox’s brother

Jacob Bredenhof and Darrell Fox’s cycling trek raises almost $90,000 for cancer research

B.C. migrant, undocumented workers rally for permanent residency program

Rally is part of the Amnesty for Undocumented Workers Campaign led by the Migrant Workers Centre

Preparations underway for pandemic election in Saskatchewan and maybe B.C.

Administrators in B.C. and around the country are also looking to expand voting by mail during the pandemic

Nearly 20 per cent of COVID-19 infections among health-care workers by late July

WHO acknowledged the possibility that COVID-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions

Ferry riders say lower fares are what’s most needed to improve service

Provincial government announces findings of public engagement process

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Comox Valley protesters send message over old-growth logging

Event in downtown Courtenay was part of wider event on Friday

Most Read