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With mounting evidence, psilocybin related therapies gain new ground in Canada.
There are a handful of countries on the worldwide spectrum that have fully embraced and legalized psilocybin, and psilocybin containing mushrooms. Canada, however, is not one of them. While the medicinal mushroom dispensary can be easily found online, and are openly tolerated by law enforcement officers, research geared towards better palliative treatment is still largely stifled by archaic and outmoded laws. But in late 2020, this all began to change. Canada engaged in a landmark decision as the Minister of Health, Patty Hajdu, openly and lawfully condoned the medical use of psilocybin to treat end-of-life mental distress and anxiety in terminally ill patients. Putting a new emphasis on the importance of mushroom dispensary function, regulation, and legality.
Of the total 11 patients that were granted the ability to undergo psilocybin related treatment for mental duress, among them was the first non-palliative patient. Mona Strelaeff was earmarked as the first non-terminally ill patient to receive the exemption to a long standing law against the use of psychedelics, in order to help her contend with ongoing trauma that led to debilitating anxiety, depression, and addiction. Which could prove to be building a stronger foundation for psychedelic therapeutics in patients with non-terminal mental illness. For many, signaling a future in which psilocybin can be used to treat a number of mental health issues that only continue to mount in modern society.
While the country is still a long way from recreational use, or allowing citizens to just go buy shrooms, Canada has long been an advocate for more realistic drug and recreational substance policy. As showcased by the national legalization of marijuana, which occurred in 2018. More than just looking forward to a more reasonable future regarding drug laws and related incarceration operative costs, Canada seems to be pressing for a better standard of living. A peace of mind that can be wholly accessible to all of its citizens.
Psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms, has been once again making headlines owing to its seemingly miraculous effects when it comes to the functioning of the human psyche. For people struggling with treatment resistant depression, alcoholism, and extreme anxiety facing terminal illness, psilocybin therapy has been consistently shown to be not only useful, but in many cases— transformative. With more than one report of it being the only treatment to have ever worked to alleviate the trauma and turmoil brought on by persistent mental health difficulties.
Moreover, anecdotal evidence has been pouring in regarding its effect on more common and less disruptive types of mental duress, including mental fatigue, generalized anxiety, and even seasonal depression. Using much smaller and more frequent doses to help tackle marginalized populations that suffer from mental distress that doesn’t necessarily require aggressive treatment. Allowing for clearer cognitive processes, greater energy levels, and modulation of mood.
What Psilocybin Can Do for Mental Health
If the anecdotal evidence has proven anything, it’s that Canadians are keen to take greater personal responsibility for their mental health practices and personal maintenance. While the newest exemptions to Canada’s drug laws have been largely doled out to those suffering from the anxiety and depression that comes with staring your own mortality in the face, the accompanying research could help to disseminate psilocybin therapeutics to a much wider population. Particularly as they have shown great promise in improving the mental states of those that have been historically difficult— if not impossible— to reach.
End-of-life care has always been a difficult space to navigate, specifically as patients grapple everyday with losing their lives. This type of impending and unrelenting trauma leads to anxieties and depressions that, while totally understandable, are extremely difficult to treat effectively. Or it was, until psilocybin therapy provided huge breakthroughs to many patients who underwent the process. During the 1950s and 1960s researchers began to implement psychedelic therapies to individuals struggling with addictions, mostly alcohol. Even then the treatment showed incredible results, but much of the research was shut down prior to reaching fruition.
Which, if psychedelic therapies show such immense promise in these difficult to treat populations, it stands to reason that the drug could be applied to more general populations, who are still struggling with their mental health, but in a less dramatic way. It’s expected that in a year, one in five Canadians will suffer with some kind of mental illness. And that all Canadians will be affected by mental illness in some way throughout their lifetime. Of those that suffer from it directly, nearly half have never gone to see a professional about their issues. Because of social resistance to treatment, those suffering often go undiagnosed and untreated. However, with the relatively high therapeutic index of psilocybin, microdosing could be easily brought into the homes of patients, circumnavigating stigmas that result in seeking treatment.
Could Microdosing Be Next?
To first understand how microdosing could have such a beneficial impact, particularly in the underdiagnosed and untreated populations, you’ll have to understand “what is microdosing?”, in the first place. Microdosing involves taking very small, sub-hallucinogenic doses of common psychedelics. These can range from the naturally occurring substances, like psilocybin and mescaline, to synthetic ones, like LSD and MDMA. The idea behind taking small doses is to reap the benefits of the psychoactive chemicals, without experience in the often uncomfortable or unfamiliar “highs”, or psychogenic effects.
This means that these individuals aren’t exhibiting drug-seeking behaviors, but instead show a genuine and invested interest in their own mental health. Moreover, substances like psilocybin are non-habit forming and rarely cause negative effects when used in such small quantities. Microdosing creates a unique paradigm, in which affected populations won’t just go recreationally buy shrooms, Canada instead seems to believe that interested populations will instead purchase pre dosed capsules or focus on medicinally minded variations in order to better adjust dosing to desired benefit.
Which means that should microdosing prove to provide the benefits that have continually been reported, that places like Canada could well be setting a sterling example of how to engage an entire populous in their own mental wellbeing, as well as put the transformative power directly in their hands.