Four terminally ill Canadians get special exemption to use psychedelic therapy

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TORONTO – In a landmark decision, four Canadians with terminal illnesses were approved to receive psilocybin therapy to treat their anxiety – marking the first time that a legal exemption has been granted in Canada to allow patients to accessing psychedelics for treatment. A press release issued Tuesday by TheraPsil, a nonprofit advocacy group that works to help Canadians access psilocybin therapy, revealed that Health Minister Patty Hajdu had approved the request.

It has been more than 100 days since the four applicants made their pleas for the first time.

“I would like to personally thank the Hon. Minister Hajdu and the team from the Office of Controlled Substances for the approval of my exemption under section 56, ”said Thomas Hartle in the press release.

“This is the positive outcome that is possible when good people show genuine compassion. I am so thankful that I can move forward with the next healing step.

Hartle spoke to CTV News in June about his battle with terminal cancer and the overwhelming fear of such a diagnosis.

The 52-year-old’s anguish about the end of his life made his present days unbearable and the anti-anxiety drugs were not having the effect he needed.

It was this suffering that prompted him and three other Canadians with psilocybin-like diagnoses.

The drug, found in so-called “magic mushrooms”, is a natural psychedelic compound.

Research into the effects of the psychedelic drug has revealed that it has the potential to provide long-term relief from mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, especially in people receiving palliative care due to a diagnosis. terminal.

The American Center for Psychedelics and Consciousness at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore is currently conducting clinical trials to assess whether the drug should be marketed as a prescription drug.

In Canada, drugs are illegal. According to Health Canada’s website, the possession, production or sale of magic mushrooms or anything containing psilocybin is prohibited “unless authorized for the purposes of clinical trials or research.”

He notes that “there are currently no approved therapeutic products containing psilocybin in Canada.”

These regulations meant that in order for Hartle and other claimants to have access to the drug, they had to apply for a compassionate exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

After the decision, Hartle told CTV News by email he was “very happy” to hear it – but admitted he wasn’t sure how it was all going to turn out.

“I had my doubts that it would turn out so well, but the minister really showed that she was ready to support her words when she spoke about the importance of mental health,” he said. he writes.

“I certainly hope that means the gates could be opened a bit more for others.”

Laurie Brooks, one of the other three candidates, said in the press release that she “felt quite moved” after hearing the good news.

“Recognizing the pain and anxiety I am suffering from means a lot to me,” she said.

“I hope this is just the beginning and that soon all Canadians can access psilocybin, for therapeutic purposes, to relieve the pain they are experiencing, without having to petition the government for months to come.” get permission.

Dr Bruce Tobin, the founder of TheraPsil, expressed his gratitude to Hajdu in the press release

“Although it has taken a while, we are impressed by their willingness to listen to patients who have not been heard and to change direction and policy to reflect their interests and protect their needs.

Tobin, psychotherapist and professor at the University of Victoria, has been working since 2017 to be able to treat patients in end-of-life distress with psilocybin.

“Canadians now have the right to die, and this was legally recognized in physician-assisted dying legislation passed a few years ago,” Tobin told CTV News in June.

“If Canadians have a recognized right to die, they must certainly have the right to try… to have a better life before they finally die.

With files from Avis Favaro, Jackie Dunham and Elizabeth St. Philip

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