Health Canada delays on psilocybin, patients and advocates claim


Nathan Kruljac is a 25-year-old young man who felt short of breath while driving in Surrey, British Columbia. He went to a walk-in clinic. A few minutes later, he was taken to the hospital. After a week of testing, the doctor made a diagnosis: follicular non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Although the treatment eventually resolved the cancer, Kruljac said he never really recovered.

Fifteen years later, he is still suffering from trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I still watch [the cancer] As a time bomb instead of success,” he said. “I am afraid and afraid of it happening again.

Kruljac said that traditional antidepressants and counseling can only help a lot. Now a husband and father, he feels that he often fails his four-year-old daughter.

“I want to feel humanity again. I want to be able to look at my front door without being afraid,” he said.

Last August, when Kruljac read that the Minister of Health Patty Hajdu had granted Saskatchewan cancer patient Thomas Hartle legal immunity, allowing him to use psilocybin as an adjunct to psychotherapy, he saw a glimmer of hope.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu has granted dozens of exemptions to patients and even some therapists, allowing them to use psychedelic compounds in magic mushrooms. (Adrian Wilder/Canada Press)

This is the first of dozens of exemptions granted by Hajdu to patients and even some therapists for the psychedelic compound commonly known as the magic mushroom. Xelosibin was banned in Canada in 1974. According to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA), it and the mushrooms containing it are still illegal.

However, psilocybin is also at the forefront of the revival of psychedelic therapy, partly because of persuasive research by institutions such as Johns Hopkins University and the University of California.

Peer-reviewed studies have shown that psychedelic drugs like psilocybin not only have antidepressant effects, but also allow patients to face fears and feelings with the help of well-trained therapists, otherwise these fears and feelings will cause Too much trauma.

With the help of TheraPsil, a BC-based non-profit organization, Kruljac applied for an exemption in March, and the organization persuaded Hajdu to grant the first psilocybin exemption.

“What is the worst possible scenario?” he said. “It doesn’t work, I’m back to square one.”

But more than four months later, Krulyak did not receive any response from Hajdu or her department. Many other applications also seem to be in trouble.

Laboratory staff extract psilocybin at the Numinus Laboratory in British Columbia. It is one of the few institutions licensed by Health Canada. (Camille Vernet / Radio-Canada)

The previous exemptions—mostly granted last year, with about three dozen people and 19 therapists—usually completed within a few weeks, some even within 48 hours.

“What disturbs me is that there are 50 people in this country who have been exempted and can choose their own path of recovery. I am treated differently, which violates our Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” he said. “This is what really makes me uneasy now, because not only myself, but other people.”

One of them is Jim Doswell. The 67-year-old from Victoria survived colon cancer and T-cell lymphoma. However, as a negotiator and senior adviser to the Federal Deputy Minister, he endured the consequences of that battle and some difficult years.

“I suffer from anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder,” Doswell said. “I have quite a serious anxiety disorder.”

Two months ago, Doswell directly applied to Hajdu for an exemption from the use of psilocybin. He is still waiting for a reply.

“Out of respect for the minister, I don’t need her,” Doswell said. “I can go down the streets of Vancouver [black-market] Pharmacy and purchase the product. “

The psilocybin in the capsules seen here can have an antidepressant effect and can allow patients to face traumatic fears and feelings with the help of a well-trained therapist. (Melissa Tobin/Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)

However, Doswell said that without the minister’s permission, no therapist might help him.

Even some exempted people feel that they have done something wrong. In St. John’s, a successful teacher said that the system for granting exemptions was opaque and arbitrary, making him afraid to reveal his name.

“I think my biggest concern is my career,” he revealed, because the exemption seems to be in a gray area-only legal under certain conditions, and because the minister said so.

“I expect some potential impact,” he said.

Neither Hajdu nor Health Canada spokespersons could explain why the application for approval has stalled.

In a recent statement, Health Canada stated that it is “committed to thoroughly reviewing every request for exemption…on a case-by-case basis, taking into account all relevant factors.”

Krulyak was not satisfied. On Monday, lawyers paid by TheraPsil served documents in federal court in an attempt to force Hajdu to respond.

Spencer Hawkswell, CEO of TheraPsil, stated that it is more important than a person’s ability to legally use psilocybin.

“The vast majority of Canadians support the development of regulations for people who need to use medical psilocybin,” he said, referring to the results of a poll conducted for TheraPsil last month.

TheraPsil hopes to see psilocybin and mushrooms removed from the CDSA and regulated like medicinal cannabis 20 years ago.

“We want to make sure that we get justice for those who need to visit. Because, you know, you can always fight the government in court. But this is not what an effective government does. An effective government listens to people. .”

Hajdu’s office did not respond to requests for interviews regarding TheraPsil’s legal actions. A spokesperson for Health Canada said that more time is needed before commenting.



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