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Canada Issues a Medical Exemption for End-of-Life Psylocybin Use

TGB reader Linda Burdick sent this story from Victoria, British Columbia.

After being diagnosed with incurable cancer, Canadian Laurie Brooks found herself living in a world of anxiety, grief and anger, reports Anna J. James in The Capitol. A trauma therapist friend introduced Brooks to “magic mushrooms” or psilocybin.

”Within ten minutes, Brooks felt relief from the weight of her incurable cancer. The stress and depression had lifted. But psilocybin is illegal in Canada under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act—and has been since 1974.”

(It's up to you but I would read that “ten minutes” part with a grain of salt. Having used magic mushrooms myself for a similar reason, I know it takes longer than that for one's stomach to digest the mushrooms and to feel the effects.)

After her successful use of psilocybin, Brooks worked with a Canadian non-profit organization, TheraPsil, becoming an advocate for the use of the drug in palliative care.

The group helped Brooks, now in remission, petition the Canadian government for an exemption from the law prohibiting the use of psilocybin except in research.

”On August 4, 100 days after submitting the petition, Brooks became one of four Canadians to receive approval from Minister of Health Patty Hajdu to treat end-of-life anxiety with psilocybin.”

That is hardly legalization and it benefits just those four people for now, but it is part of a small-ish trend toward government approval of psilocybin particularly in treatment for end-of-life anxieties.

In July, my U.S. state, Oregon, confirmed that a measure to allow use of psilocybin in a state-regulated environment had qualified to be on the ballot in November.

According to KGW.com, Initiative Petition 34, if passed by voters, will not go into effect for two years, and allows psilocybin to be used in the following manner:

Licenses requirements to provide psilocybin therapy, cultivate psilocybin or own a psilocybin service center

Each therapy recipient goes through a three-step therapy process that includes a screening for risk factors, a supervised therapy administration session and an evaluation afterward to discuss what was learned

Psilocybin can only be taken under supervision at a licensed service center

People cannot leave the center while under the influence of psilocybin

People cannot grow or take psilocybin in their homes

Washington D.C. residents will also be voting on psychedelics in November. Initiative 81, would go much further than Oregon's proposal by decriminalizing psychedelic plants and fungi.

If the measure is passed in D.C., that city will join Denver, Colorado, Santa Cruz, California, and Oakland, California, in recently decriminalizing psychedelic plants and fungi. You can read more about at Washington Post.

Keep in mind that decriminalization is not the same as legalization. Decriminalization removes criminal sanctions but may still impose fines or other penalties. Legalization removes legal prohibitions against using a substance.

There is a growing body of evidence that psilocybin works well at reducing fear and anxiety involved with end of life issues. As explained in the KGW.com story,

”A five-year study conducted by New York University’s medical school, in which 29 cancer patients received a single dose of psilocybin or a placebo and nine psychotherapy sessions, found that psilocybin 'decreased cancer-related existential distress, increased spiritual wellbeing and quality of life, and was associated with improved attitudes towards death.'

“The study also found that more than half a year after treatment 'approximately 60–80% of participants continued with clinically significant reductions in depression or anxiety.'”

That's what I took, a single dose of psilocybin. You can read about that experience here and here.

What is important, I think, is that use of plants with psychedelic qualities are becoming acceptable and legal – however slow governments tend to work on such things.

From time to time I use cannabis to help me sleep longer than the three or four hours I get at night without help. It is legal in Oregon, available to any adult at local dispensaries. The “budmasters” behind the counter I have met all tell me that the majority of their customers are old people who use it for sleep or for various kinds of pain.

If psilocybin can help alleviate anxiety and fears of death as it did for me, I see no reason not to make it available. What do you think?


Without any basis for judgment from a personal perspective, I truly believe that if something can alleviate suffering, and it can be procured without detriment to others, then it's ok to make it available. Of course, I believe the same about love, and look at where we humans have taken that!

Wow! First I’ve heard of partial legalization here in Canada! That’s great!

Scripture, instead of schroomies, might help. Just saying, because psycho-drugs are known to open portals - that need to stay shut.

I couldn't agree more (as you know, I asked you for a referral!). It has been very hopeful, how studies at John Hopkins are showing how affective and powerful this treatment can be for anxiety, trauma based ptsd, and unfortunate that this treatment is so inaccessible at this point.

For Jeeks Raj ...you might like this.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ, was a French idealist philosopher who trained as a paleontologist and geologist.  He died in 1955 but left us this legacy.
"Someday, after we have mastered the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love.  Then for the second time in the history of the world man will have discovered FIRE."   

I think it's great that psychedelics are being re-evaluated and to some degree legalized after years of treating them as little more than poison. I hope that someday they will be available for wider use by people other than those facing incurable diseases. Anxiety about death, after all, is common among the old whether they are in the "6 months to live" category or not.

What I would especially like to see are service centers like those you mentioned where one could get psychedelics with the guidance of experienced and licensed professionals, thus guarding against a bad trip on adulterated substances. I would very much like to try the drugs but don't like the idea of having to clandestinely find someone reputable.

For the person who recommended scripture--not all of us believe in (biblical) scripture. Just sayin'.

Trump, pandemic, post office mess, I think we could all use a wider view of life, but for the suffering caused by end-of-life fear, I applaud the baby steps being taken toward more help being made available.

All for it, and I do not understand why it cannot be taken in one's home, if a qualified "service center" person is present. (AKA a "trip doc".) The setting is crucial to the experience and one's home may be the most reassuring, familiar setting. (I have experience, both personally and professionally.)

There are other methods for accessing higher consciousness but few persons can do that without extensive training to the point of mastery.

Honestly if I wanted to do mushrooms I’d rather find a college kid to find some for me.
The idea of taking psilocybin in a state controlled environment that I would not be able to leave is horrifying for me. But that’s just me.
I took psilocybin back in the late 60s and the benefits have stayed with me all these many years. A sort of oneness with the world. And basically a sense that I can’t explain.

Yes, like Rubye, I took some psilocybin, and to this day am glad. It taught me, in an experiential way, how I was a part of the earth, and the universe. Oh, very envious of those of you who, can, like Ronnie, use psilocybin in a good environment, with a guide. Hurrah for Canada! For me, and those I know who have experienced the benefits of psilocybin, the doors that opened so gently showed us what quantum physics and ancient spiritual masters have known.

I absolutely agree that plant based psychedelics should be available. I live in Colorado and use cannabis both for sleep and to look at my work (I’m an artist) with “new eyes.” Back in the day, I did mushrooms one time and like another person here, still have that je ne sais quoi feeling and memory. For end of life anxiety and fear, I think it would be wonderful.

A few days ago I acquired a used copy of "Food of the Gods: A Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge, A Radical History of Plants, Drugs and Human Evolution," by ethnobotanist Terence McKenna. My oldest son read this years ago, and warns me that I now may be on some sort of list for having purchased this, but I'm pretty sure he was joking. Maybe.

I've just started reading it, but I was child of the 1960's and I've been aware of psychedelics for decades, though I've never tried any. I've worried that my grip on reality may be a little too tenuous already, and so far I've found other ways of maintaining my equilibrium through challenging times and haven't felt the need. However, I've never had a life-threatening illness and been given notice of a finite amount of time, and I can imagine that scenario might create some intense emotions very different from any others I've managed.

McKenna argues that psilocybin mushrooms were responsible for the rapid growth and evolution of the human brain, but he also discusses the impacts of other plant-based substances, including sugar, caffeine and alcohol. There's a lot of easily accessible information about McKenna's studies and work, including YouTube videos and summaries of his book that can be easily found via Google. It's pretty interesting stuff, but there are other ways to have one's third eye opened, and it can be done without spending money, taking risks and ingesting chemicals. But I'm not judging anyone who chooses that route. Whatever gets you through life (and death).

If interested, instead of buying mushrooms from a college kid you have never seen in your life, I suggest you look for options more likely to result in a high quality product. Mushrooms are sold over the counter in the Netherlands and other countries...

Sometimes, a boutique in a legal cannabis state or country happens to have a knowledgeable person will put a known client in touch with a good source.

I've huge respect for Johns Hopkins but I don't think a sample of 29 is large enough to be terribly significant. And who's to say it wasn't the nine psychotherapy sessions that made the difference?

Nevertheless, if a terminal patient thinks they are being helped by a psychedelic drug (or only a placebo), I certainly wouldn't deny them. Other than that I'm not sure I want individuals running around or driving under the influence of mind-altering drugs. There are other ways to "heighten one's consciousness."

I think it should be allowed, as long as it is tightly controlled. Abuse would be all too easy and the ramifications of that could be devastating.

I'm a bit amused by fears of addiction to psychedelics. It just isn't an addictive experience and some of the aspects of ingesting, at least of the raw product are unpleasant. I think the plan you outline, Ronni, with a controlled environment and a mentor would provide insight and assistance for many human challenges. I do think a safe environment could be home with supervision but would counter the fear of people driving etc with the restriction to the place of treatment. I was of an age to have experimented with just about everything back in the day and would definitely say the results were positive!

Please be careful from whom you buy this stuff, there are unsavory people out there who will sell you junk - or worse.

As a real California hippie of the 60's, I also took psilocybin on 3 occasions and learned a lot from those experiences. However, at soon to be 75, I would not do it again without a guide. I think having someone with experience at my side would be tremendously helpful.

As I've mentioned in past posts, I also use cannabis to assist me in sleeping and for anxiety. I grow my own (allowed in CA) to assure it's 100% organic and to save myself a lot of money. I also make my own edibles. I prefer this plant alternative to putting chemicals in my body provided to me by Pharma.

As to "opening portals", if you don't open them in this life, when will you open them? Isn't that what living is about? Learning, experiencing, loving?

IMHO, and with full respect for Sue, organized religion is a panacea for the masses. Maybe we're due for a discussion on that topic during this transformative time for all of us, especially Ronni.

Although I completely agree that psilocybin, LSD, etc. should be available to competent adults, especially those facing end of life issues, I probably wouldn't go this route myself even with qualified supervision. Back in the day I had a horrendously bad experience with my one ingestion of LSD and vowed "never again!". Apparently, most people do not have the type of experience I had, and perhaps it would be different now. I also realize that psilocybin isn't LSD. Still. . .it's not worth the chance to me.

I don’t mean to be irreverent here or demean anyone but if it treats fear and anxiety I’m hoping they fast track making it legal if Trump gets re-elected

I wonder if psilocybin would help PTSD. And Sue, God made psilocybin too, I think you're ignoring the gifts we've been given.

Dear Celia, God also made that lovely tree, with the beautiful fruit - but unlike all the other wonderful trees in the garden - the fruit of this one tree was not to be eaten.
And yes, there is a passage in Scripture (cannot recall where it is) that strong drink can be given for people in acute pain and sorrow.
But the use of these to open the third eye portal? Yikes.

I’m all for anything that makes the anxiety about death better. I know I’d sure use it in those shoes.

The allegory of the fruit tree with the Adam and Eve story, was simply about the religious leaders during these ancient times, when this story was conceived, being concerned that the masses would have too many questions and want too much information and that they would lose control over them...similar to today, even still.

The feeling of oneness with the universe and all the wonderful life on our planet would be an awesome and calming feeling.

Those interested in the use of psychedelics as an adjunct to psychotherapy (clinical trials): check the site of MAPS- Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. The site includes research reports as well as those of persons who were subjects. See especially an account by Virgil Huston, an Iraq vet with PTSD.

In speaking of psilocybin, it is important to differentiate between mushrooms sold on the street and those used in medical facilities, which have access to purified active ingredients. What's sold in the North American market is not necessarily impure, it's just harder to determine the dose.

I think Canada has taken the right decision here, and a lot of people will applaud this decision. Some people are in dire need of psilocybin use, and now they can use it. I want to live in Canada.

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