What the future holds for medical psychedelics in Canada

Bruce Tobin became interested in psilocybin, the psychoactive compound in magic mushrooms, 10 years ago when he was approached by a woman who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

She was suffering from intense depression, anxiety and hopelessness and the prospect of imminent death. 

Fortunately, good treatment sent her cancer into remission. Yet she continued to experience these agonizing psychological symptoms, and conventional medical options proved ineffective in curbing them.

“The cancer was behind her, but there was this constant fear that it was going to return,” said Tobin, a psychotherapist based in Victoria, B.C., who has been practising for 35 years.

After exhausting other options, the woman tried psilocybin mushrooms. In a short period of time, her perspective drastically improved.

“She reported great gains in optimism, spiritual well-being, quality of life and an increased sense of acceptance of her death, whenever that happens,” Tobin said.

Her experience is in line with recent studies that have shown how psilocybin can help terminal cancer patients cope with anxiety stemming from their diagnosis. Other emerging research is showing the potential of psychedelics, some of which have been granted “breakthrough therapy” status by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, to possibly treat and cure a range of medical concerns from Alzheimer’s to depression to addiction.

Since his patients’ positive mushroom experience, Tobin has devoted himself to fighting for patient access to psilocybin and is willing to take his battle to the courts, similar to the way cannabis patients and advocates fought for access.

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