The 1st patient in Quebec obtains Health Canada approval for magic mushroom therapy

When Thomas Hartle indulges in a psilocybin treatment session, the end-of-life anxiety, distractions, and noises associated with his terminal colon cancer disappear.

“Before the treatment, it’s like sitting in your car. It’s summer. You have the windows down, you’re stuck in rush hour traffic. It’s noisy. It’s unpleasant “said Hartle, who lives in Saskatchewan.

“Your favorite song is on the radio, but you can’t really enjoy it because all the other distractions prevent you from even noticing the radio is on. After psilocybin treatment, [it’s like] you’re still in your car, in traffic, but you have the windows open, the air conditioning on and it’s quiet. It’s just you and the music.”

Hartle, 54, is one of the few Canadians to have received legal psychedelic psychotherapy for a mental health condition since Health Canada in January made it easier for healthcare workers to access psilocybin – the hallucinogenic compound found in some mushrooms.

In Montreal, meanwhile, a clinic pioneering the emerging field of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy is set to become the first healthcare facility in Quebec to legally treat depression with psilocybin.

“It is a privilege to be able to accompany people in the exploration of their psychological distress and to offer something different from conventional treatments like antidepressants,” said Dr. Andrew Bui-Nguyen, Mindspace by Numinus Clinic. , in a recent interview.

Bui-Nguyen said her clinic received approval from Health Canada on May 5 to care for a patient who had undergone several unsuccessful treatments for depression.

“There is a rigorous screening procedure,” Bui-Nguyen said, adding that Quebec’s health insurance plan does not cover the treatment. “We look at the diagnosis, the medical history, if there is a risk of addiction, what treatments have already been tried. There must have been a lot of treatments upstream so the application is solid.”

On January 5, Health Canada reinstated its “Special Access Program” – abolished under former Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2013 – allowing health care experts to request access to restricted drugs whose sale is not permitted. has not yet been authorized in the country.

Before January, people could only access psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy through clinical trials or medical exemptions. Now, certified experts can file claims on behalf of patients with mental disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety, but for whom conventional treatment has failed.

Health Canada says it has received 15 requests to use psilocybin or MDMA – a psychedelic drug with stimulant properties – since the program resumed.

In April, a clinic called Roots To Thrive in Nanaimo, British Columbia, became the first health center in Canada to offer a legal psilocybin group therapy program, which Hartle participated in.

“The therapy part has a capital T in this whole process,” Hartle said. “It’s not just about taking psychedelics. It’s just a tool in the process; therapy is crucial to getting a good outcome.”

Psychedelic-assisted treatment, Bui-Nguyen explained, requires multiple therapy sessions before and after patients experience the drug. Patients will consume psilocybin under the supervision of two psychotherapists and remain in the clinic’s secure environment for up to six hours.

“It’s not miraculous,” Bui-Nguyen said. “You don’t take psilocybin and that’s it, a psychedelic trip and then the depression is over – no! The patient has a lot of work to do. But it opens up opportunities; it creates new pathways in the brain that we we are not.” accustomed to take. The patient then explores new ways to get out of the depression.

In the world’s largest study of the effect of psychedelics on the brain, published in March in the journal Science Advances, lead author Danilo Bzdok said psychedelic drugs may be the next big thing to improve clinical care. major mental health problems.

“There’s something like a renaissance, a revival of psychedelics,” Bzdok, an associate professor in McGill University’s department of biomedical engineering, said in a recent interview.

He said the evidence-based benefits are very promising. Patients, he said, report experiencing up to six months of lasting effects after a single session of psychedelic-assisted therapy. They also experienced a reduction in symptoms associated with mental health issues, Bzdok said, adding that there were fewer side effects compared to antidepressants.

Mindspace by Numinus CEO Payton Nyquvest said psychedelics have the potential to become mainstream treatment. As Health Canada continues to approve more applications, it hopes recognition will make treatment much more accessible.

“We haven’t seen meaningful innovation in mental health care for probably over 40 years,” Nyquvest said in a recent interview.

“We are in a time when new and better treatments for mental health are needed more than ever. No matter what you look at, depression, anxiety, and suicidality…these are all rates that continue to rise. increase without a clear line in terms of how we are going to solve these huge societal problems.Psychedelics represent an opportunity to have a significant impact.

Hartle’s own experience echoed those hopes. “The improvement in my mental health is so day and night that it would be hard to say how much it does for me,” he said.

“I still have cancer. I still struggle with what he’s doing physically, but there are days I don’t even think about it. What would you do to have a day where you felt like everything? just normal?”