Terminal cancer patients in Canada now have access to a legal supply of psilocybin.
The psychoactive compound, found naturally in the magic mushroom, may help relieve end-of-life anxiety.
Psilocybin is illegal in Canada. Patients could previously get exemptions to use it, but could not easily access the drug.
Six terminal cancer patients in Canada have received the country’s first legally produced psilocybin, the psychoactive compound found naturally in “magic” mushrooms, under new rules surrounding access to the substance.
Patients received the drug, alongside therapy, over the weekend.
Health Canada changed its rules in January so doctors can now request access to professionally made psilocybin for terminally ill patients under a “special access program.” Psilocybin is illegal in the country, but has shown promise for treating end-of-life anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancers.
Patients were previously allowed to apply for exemptions to use psilocybin, but there was no framework in place for them to access professionally made drugs. This meant that they either had to grow their own mushrooms or source the substance from an unlicensed dispensary.
Under the new rules, patients who have been approved by Health Canada’s SAP can now access an artificial version of psilocybin from an authorized retailer approved by regulators. Although treatment aims to improve symptoms, it does not attack the cancer itself.
Spencer Hawkswell, CEO of TheraPsil, a non-profit organization that helps Canadians access psychedelic therapy, said in a statement Monday that it was a “momentous occasion.”
“This is a major victory for patients and doctors who have been left in the dark for the past 2 years with legal exemptions but no psilocybin supply,” he said.
Hawkswell told the Vancouver Sun that patients often don’t know what’s inside the substances they buy. “It’s not as safe as it should be,” Hawkswell said.
In addition to the six that had been approved, four applications for other people are being reviewed, Health Canada told Insider.
The “magic” mushrooms allowed me to calm the worries in my head
Thomas Hartle, the first Canadian to gain access to psilocybin-assisted forensic psychotherapy in August 2020, was one of six cancer patients to receive the drug alongside therapy over the weekend.
Hartle flew from his hometown of Saskatoon, a city in western Canada, to Vancouver Island off the Pacific coast to receive psilocybin for the first time since August 2021, when when his one-year exemption expired.
Hartle initially sourced her own “gray market mushrooms” legally and used them alongside her therapist in Saskatoon. This time, he received medical-grade psilocybin from psychedelic drug maker Psygen Labs and underwent group therapy with the other five patients. PAS requires the supervision of a physician and a treatment team.
Hartle told the Vancouver Sun that the effects of her first experience lasted six months.
“The magic mushrooms allowed me to calm the worries in my head, allowing my body to use my energy to instead heal and process those fears in a supportive environment,” he told the Vancouver Sun. .
Hartle said it took him 103 days to get the first exemption and he hadn’t heard of his request for renewal, which took more than 176 days. Getting approval through the new SAP took three months, he said.
Health Canada said it expected approvals could be obtained more quickly in the future now that the first authorizations had been granted.
“Requests to SAP for new products or new indications generally take longer to process, as checks must take place with the manufacturer regarding the quality of the product and their ability and willingness to supply the drug,” the statement said. health organization to Insider. “However, once access to a specific product has been authorized by SAP, ensuing requests for the same drug and indication can be processed much more quickly.”
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