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Should terminally ill patients have access to Psilocybin?

Home » Health » Should terminally ill patients have access to Psilocybin?

Known to many as “shrooms” or “magic mushrooms”, it may well be this could be a breakthrough medication for terminally ill Canadians.

In Canada, Psilocybin (Sy-le-sy-bin) mushrooms, of which there are over 200 species, are illegal as a Schedule III drug under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. But they have become a hot topic across the country as an effective treatment for terminally ill patients. One 52 year-old Saskatoon man with terminal cancer suffers greatly from anxiety and is asking the federal government for the right to use Psilocybin to treat his anxiety. He’s tried other medications and therapies, but they’ve had little effect.

A recent poll by TheraPsil, a non-profit advocacy group based in Victoria, BC, indicates that 59% of Canadians support the use of this drug when it comes to those who are terminally ill. Studies by world-class medical organisations such as Johns Hopkins, NYU and UCLA have shown that psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy is both a safe and effective treatment option for end-of-life distress. The full results of the survey can be found here.

“Given that mushrooms have been illegal for decades, it’s amazing that 59% of Canadians approve of compassionate access for the terminally ill. I believe that our laws are clearly unaligned with science and public opinion,” said Spencer Hawkswell, Executive Director at TheraPsil. “We are encouraged to see that the more Canadians learn about psilocybin, the more the public is accepting of this treatment option, and support it.”

Research projects around the world have shown that, properly dosed and with accompanying psychotherapy treatment, the drug boosts positive moods and can rewire the brain for depression. This can reduce the need for depression and anxiety medications which can also be complicated by other drugs in terminally ill patients such as those with cancer. The only roadblock is that it is illegal.

Says Spencer Hawkswell, “The Hon. Patty Hajdu has the power to grant patients who have applied to use psilocybin through a section 56 exemption the right-to-try, but so far, she has ignored patient’s requests.” With the legalization of Cannabis in Canada now nearly three years ago,  perhaps it’s time to consider these alternatives for those desperately in need? If you know of or have a family member suffering while being terminally ill, perhaps you too can reach out to the minister of health?

In one U.S. study, many patients experienced significant decreases in cancer-related distress such as anxiety, depression and hopelessness, four years after just one dose of Psilocybin. And in the U.S. at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, they are conducting Phase 3 clinical trials of the drug with the objective of approval for a prescription medication.

With the evidence mounting of the benefits of this drug, we can certainly expect to see more pressure in Canada and other Western countries to bring this drug into mainstream care for terminally ill patients.

More Insights: Check out this informative article on the rise of integrated medicine.

Author: Alex Hurst is a writer for HUM@Nmedia for both Silver and Optimyz Magazines based in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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