LSD is no longer the property of hippies. Since the beginning of the year, cases of the use of psychedelic drugs prescribed to help end-of-life patients have aroused the interest of therapists, such as that of Health Canada. These substances would offer promising avenues in the treatment of mental disorders.
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Abandoned following the various bans and pilloried in the 1960s, psychedelic therapies offer many avenues within the framework of the care pathway of the patient at the end of life such as a patient struggling with a chronic illness or a difficult mental situation. .
What is psychedelic therapy?
Psychedelic therapy, sometimes called psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, is a type of psychotherapy that uses plants and compounds that can induce hallucinations to treat certain mental disorders, such as depression or post-traumatic stress.
Several therapists have introduced this practice in the “west”. One of the most notable was Dr. Timothy Leary. American essayist, psychologist and ardent promoter of the use and therapeutic and spiritual benefits of LSD, Dr. Leary was involved in various research projects on the subject at Harvard from 1959 to 1963.
He even popularized the slogan “Go ahead, tune in, and pick up” (in English: Turn on, tune in, drop out).
The use of these drugs therefore returns to the medical fold, more than 50 years after the beginning of a prohibition initiated by the Controlled Substances Act of 1971 in the United States.
For neuroscientist at McGill University and psychedelic science advisor to NPOs, Alexandre Lehmann, Ph.D., three major drugs are used for therapeutic purposes:
One of the actors of the practice in Quebec and Canada, the MindSpace clinic, and its founder and director, Dr. Joe Flanders, considers that these therapies have many advantages.
He explains that “with current health care systems not equipped to handle the rising global rates of mental illness, psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy comes to offer a new path through trained psychedelic therapists and counselors accompanying patients on their journey. , combining traditional psychotherapy with psychedelic medicine”.
Dr. Flanders adds that “by taking into account the traumas experienced by the patients and by integrating their experiences into the latter's psychedelic journey, these therapies help the patient to overcome or better understand their traumas”.
Dr. Lehmann, Ph.D, meanwhile, points out that “these therapies may be particularly beneficial for patients resistant to conventional treatments. They are non-toxic substances for the body, which are not addictive, unlike antidepressants which must be taken every day.
Strict regulations set to evolve
Since the beginning of January, Health Canada has allowed doctors to make a request to prescribe these psychedelic drugs for restricted use, when other conventional treatments have failed, or could not be adapted for the patient, or are not available in the country. .
Apart from this access under this special program, their use is still illegal.
As part of this amendment published in the Canada Gazette on January 5, Health Canada recognizes the therapeutic benefits for treating anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder or post-traumatic stress.
The request is then assessed on a case-by-case basis, “taking into account the level of evidence regarding the safety and efficacy of the proposed use, as well as the patient's disease and clinical condition”.
For Dr. Lehmann, Ph.D, “we must not forget that ketamine is already present in the hospital environment where it is used in higher doses as an anesthetic, and that since 2020 approximately sixty Canadians at the end of life have already been able to benefit from access to psilocybin through exceptional authorizations granted by the Minister of Health.”
“This recent modification will therefore allow more patients to benefit from these treatments before they are brought to market,” adds Dr. Lehmann, Ph.D.
Finally, it should be noted that according to the specialist, “MDMA and psilocybin could receive their US marketing authorization by 2023 and 2025 respectively”.
Faced with such medical developments in our American neighbours, the current law here could still be subject to change.