The Canadian Government has granted four terminal cancer patients permission to use magic mushrooms to ease anxiety, the first time the country has passed a legal exemption for patients to use a psychedelic substance.
The four patients first petitioned the government in April to grant them a legal exemption to use psilocybin, the psychedelic compound found in so-called magic mushrooms, which studies have shown can help alleviate anxiety and depression.
Therapeutic Psilocybin (TheraPsil), a Canadian non-profit organisation representing the four patients, announced that the country’s Health Minister Patty Hajdu had approved the request on Tuesday. It means the four patients will be the first Canadians to legally use the substance since it was criminalised in 1974.
TheraPsil said it anticipated the ruling would lead to “many more applications made” for an exemption under the Canadian Drugs and Substances Act.
Laurie Brooks, who is being treated for a recurrence of colon cancer, said the decision was an important first step. “The acknowledgement of the pain and anxiety that I have been suffering with means a lot to me, and I am feeling quite emotional today as a result,” she said.
“I hope this is just the beginning and that soon all Canadians will be able to access psilocybin, for therapeutic use, to help with the pain they are experiencing, without having to petition the government for months to gain permission.”
While psilocybin has shown promise in relieving anxiety in palliative cancer patients, it can also produce negative effects such as hallucinations and extreme paranoia and is unlikely to be made widely available to the public until further clinical trials are completed.
There has been renewed interest in psychedelic compounds and their potential to treat a range of complex mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression in the last few years and several US cities have taken a more relaxed approach to use of the substance.
Last year Denver became the first US city to loosen restrictions on the personal use and possession of magic mushrooms, followed by Portland and Oakland.
Johns Hopkins University’s School of Medicine also launched a Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research in September after receiving a $17 million donation to research the potential use of psychedelics in treating mental health conditions.
Despite the recent decision in Canada, possession, production, or sale of magic mushrooms or any other substance containing psilocybin remains illegal unless authorised “for clinical trial or research purposes,” according to the Canadian Health Department’s website.
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