Toronto, Canada, April 16 2021: Psychedelic drugs which were banned in 1970s have once again found a niche and re-emerging, this time for the treatment of depression and anxiety.
A terminally ill cancer patient from Ontario, Canada, Andrea Bird shares her experience with the use of the psychedelic drug psilocybin. Bird was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 and despite aggressive treatment, the disease resurfaced a few years back, this time devastating her lungs, bones and brain. To cope with the incurable ailment, she started the use of psilocybin, a psychoactive substance derived from hallucinogenic mushrooms.
She says, “I found it to be the most helpful thing that I did in coming to terms with the fact that my life is ending much sooner than I thought it would,” “I’m still dying,” she said, but added that “psilocybin makes me feel like I can stand up. I really love my life, and I really don’t want to die, but I have to find a way to surrender to what is actually happening.”
She is among 30 other Canadians, most of them struggling to face the end of their lives, who have received federal dispensation since August 2020 to use psilocybin for therapeutic purposes or “compassionate treatment” in this case, thanks to the efforts of TheraPsil, a non-profit organization based in British Columbia which also helps connect patients with therapists who can oversee the use of the drug.
There is now a renewed interest among researchers and investors to reconsider the ban on mind altering drugs such as psilocybin, LSD, ecstacy and mescaline to name a few. Across the border, in the US, the state of Oregon has already legalized psilocybin for therapeutic use. Meanwhile Cannabis has been legal for recreational use in Canada since 2018.
The use of psychedelics by indigenous peoples goes back centuries but Western researchers only started delving into their properties and potential uses in earnest in the middle of last century. In the 1960s however, that interest waned when the substances became symbols of the anti-establishment counter-culture movement.
During the last two decades, however, the persistence of some researchers, a mental health crisis and a shift in public opinion and more tolerance for the use of drugs have all paved the way for legalizing psychedelics.
Psychedelics have effects on mood and creativity and may present potential benefits for treating depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse and anorexia. Talking about this revolution in psychiatry, Alexandre Lehmann of McGill University in Montreal said, “There are new approaches to alleviating and curing serious and disabling mental health problems, which affect a large number of people, and for which there are currently no good solutions.”
Research and clinical trials that show promise are currently under-way to experiment how ell psilocybin can control treatment resistant depression and also the MDMA to treat post traumatic stress disorder.
At a recent Johns Hopkins University trial for psilocybin in addition to psychotherapy, it was proven that out of 24 participants, 71% showed a reduction of more than half of their symptoms after four weeks and half went into remission. An Imperial College research meanwhile showed that psilocybin was at least as effective as conventional antidepressants in treating severe mental illness.
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