Canada Authorizes the Use Of Psychedelic Drugs to Treat Certain Mental Illnesses

    With this measure, the federal Ministry of Health recognizes the therapeutic benefits of substances such as psilocybin and MDMA. Physicians may request them for some patients

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    Canada has taken a significant step in the fight against various mental illnesses, a fight where much of the hopes are pinned on psychedelics. The Federal Ministry of Health made a modification to the food and drug regulations, allowing doctors in the country to request the use of these substances (psilocybin, MDMA, LSD, among others) in the treatment of certain patients. The authorities have created the Special Access Program for this purpose, according to what was published in the official gazette on January 5th.

    With this decision, Ottawa recognizes that “scientific evidence supports the therapeutic benefits” of these drugs to treat mental health problems. Likewise, the document indicates that current treatment options for various conditions of this type are “limited, relatively ineffective and/or are accompanied by negative side effects.” The ministry reached these conclusions after opening a series of consultations in December 2020 with researchers, organizations and doctors, as well as with a group of individuals suffering from any of these ailments or with relatives in this situation.

    Various studies have shown in recent years the medical benefits of psychedelics, after decades of government closure to use them in research. Experts from Imperial College London found that psilocybin (the main psychoactive ingredient in hallucinogenic mushrooms), combined with psychotherapy sessions, helped people with severe depression who had not responded positively to various antidepressants. American and Canadian scientists published an article in Nature Medicine where they showed that the prescription of MDMA (drug popularly known as ecstasy), and also accompanied by psychotherapy, drastically relieved the symptoms of individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Other research has shown benefits in cases of anxiety, stress and alcohol dependence.

    In Canada, the authorization for the use of these substances was reserved only for clinical trials and personal applications of terminally ill patients (55 approved to date). The new provision allows health professionals to contact the ministry -through the Special Access Program- to request the use of these drugs, as long as they are for people with “serious or life-threatening diseases in which conventional treatments have unsuccessful, unsuitable or unavailable”.

    Encouraging development

    Ronan Levy, executive director of Field Trip, a Toronto-based network of clinics that has already trialed ketamine treatments, said in a statement: “While these modifications do not yet provide widespread medical access to psychedelic therapies, they are This is an encouraging development and we welcome Health Canada as a clear leader in this regard.” For its part, TheraPsil, a British Columbia-based nonprofit focused on psilocybin for therapeutic use, made a similar point, saying it’s a step in the right direction, but restrictions will continue to limit many people who require these drugs. treatments.

    Starting in 2021, Health Canada allows a handful of companies (such as Cybin, Psygen, and Numinus) to produce psilocybin for research purposes. On January 17, Pysgen obtained a license to manufacture LSD, MDMA, DMT and mescaline for the same purpose. These and other firms are in contact with the ministry in order to obtain a distribution license for the Special Access Program. According to Bridge Market Research, the global market for psychedelic drug-based treatments could be around 7.6 billion US dollars in 2028. However, this scenario will depend on changes in national or regional regulations.

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