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)

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

Administering naloxone to a person experiencing a benzo-related overdose event won’t help. Naloxone is used to neutralize opioids. (Jenna Hauck/The Progress file photo)
Northern Health warning drug users of potential benzo contamination

The drug does not respond to naloxone, and is being included in street drugs

(BC Hydro photo)
BC Hydro planned power outages to darken downtown Smithers for most of day Sunday, Jan 17

Replacement of poles will affect approximately 250 customers in downtown core from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Smithers Local Health Area reported 25 new cases of COVID-19 Jan. 3 - 9. (BC CDC graphic)
Weekly new cases of COVID-19 rise to 25 in Smithers LHA Jan. 3 – 9

Northern Health reported 49 new daily cases for 497 active, 44 hospitalized, 13 in critical care

Syringe is prepared with one of B.C.’s first vials of Pfizer vaccine to prevent COVID-19, Victoria, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 caseload stays steady with 465 more Tuesday

No new outbreaks in health care facilities, 12 more deaths

Chilliwack ER doctor Marc Greidanus is featured in a video, published Jan. 18, 2021, where he demonstrates and describes effectiveness of various styles of masks. (Youtube)
VIDEO: Emergency room doctor runs through pros and cons of various masks

‘We’ve been asked to wear a mask and it’s not that hard,’ Greidanus says.

(Pixabay photo)
VIDEO: Tip to Metro Vancouver transit police helps woman 4,000 km away in Ohio

Sgt. Clint Hampton says transit police were alerted to a YouTube video of the woman in mental distress

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A woman types on her laptop in Miami in a Monday, Dec. 12, 2016, photo illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Wilfredo Lee
British Columbia government lax on cybersecurity practices, auditor reports

The audit did not highlight a specific threat, but it found breaches in cybersecurity are increasing globally

Cranbrook Food Bank coordinator Deanna Kemperman, Potluck Cafe Society executive director Naved Noorani and Sunshine Coast Community Services Society executive director Catherine Leach join B.C.’s new Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne on a video call about B.C. gaming grants, Jan. 19, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. gaming grants reorganized for COVID-19 priorities

Minister highlights community kitchens, food banks

(Pixabay photo)
‘Cocaine bananas’ arrive at Kelowna grocery stores after mix up from Colombia: RCMP

Kelowna RCMP recently concluded an international drug investigation after finding cocaine in local grocers’ banana shipments in 2019

A new video from NCCIH and BC Northern Health titled ‘Healing in Pandemic Times: Indigenous Peoples, Stigma and COVID-19’ was animated by Joanne Gervais. (Photo Provided By: NCCIH Archives)
VIDEO: Stigma against Indigenous people is a ‘social sickness’

A new short animated video is aiming to educate the public on the stigmatization

A pinniped was attacked by an unseen predator off the shores of Dallas Road Monday night. (Courtesy of Steffani Cameron)
VIDEO: Seal hunting, not being hunted in video shot off Victoria waterfront

Victoria woman captures footage of pinniped activity off Dallas Road

Most Read