Psychedelics approved for medical use in Canada a ‘step in the right direction’ but not far enough, say experts


Bruno Guevrémont served 15 years in the Canadian armed forces, with two traumatic tours of Afghanistan under his belt.

“I concluded my career as a counter IED which means I was dismantling roadside bombs over in Afghanistan,” said GuevrĂ©mont.

But the toll of what he saw overseas, followed him home.

“I was diagnosed with PTSD in 2012,” said GuevrĂ©mont.

GuevrĂ©mont had the best of the best medical help at his fingertips. But some trauma, he still couldn’t shake.

“I was a hard knock guy. I served 15 years in the military. I was straight-laced. I was not into that party drugs. So even when I was told about them by a psychologist, I was pretty much turned off by it,” said GuevrĂ©mont.

Despite his misgivings, he gave it a go, and it worked.

“It did help. It made a world of difference,” said GuevrĂ©mont.

Guevrémont was one of the few Canadians who took part in clinical trials of MDMA, psilocybin, and ketamine in a therapy setting with a psychologist present.

As of Feb. 5, Health Canada has expanded the treatment option to more Canadians. Doctors can now apply for special access to psychedelics on a ‘case-by-case basis.’

“They made some changes to the S.A.P. (Special Access Program) to allow these patients who used to have to go to the street to get these drugs, which is good. It’s a step in the right direction,” said TheraPsil CEO Spencer Hawkswell, a B.C.-based non-profit coalition dedicated to helping Canadians access legal psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy to treat end-of-life distress.

It’s opening the door to the legal prescription of drugs like MDMA, psilocybin, and ketamine for things like anxiety, depression, PTSD, and even cluster headaches.

But generally, Special Access Permits are granted as a last resort, to those with severe or life-threatening conditions, where other therapies have failed.

And historically, the permits have been difficult to ascertain.

“We currently have thousands of Canadians trying to get access to psilocybin,” said Hawkswell.

Health Canada is aiming to stop the wait, promising to respond in 48 hours to a request from a health care professional to use psychedelic therapy.

It also is ensuring users in need, a safe supply from Health Canada certified companies that manufacture the medication.

However, there are many questions around how the government is granting these exceptions.

“What is this process, where is the transparency? And who is making these decisions? Because the answer should never be a bureaucrat, deciding whether or not you have access to medication. It should be your doctor,” said Hawkswell.

Meanwhile, GuevrĂ©mont says this move to ‘regulate the industry’ by the Canadian government, will be life-changing for many others.

“I wanted to learn how to let go of my trauma. And the medicine let me let go.”

RELATED: Experts says Health Canada’s update on psychedelic therapy drugs a positive step in mental-health care

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Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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