The Canadian government has made a historic move by allowing people to use psychedelic mushrooms to treat ailments like depression. According to a report Vice World News, Health Canada has expanded its exemptions from the laws that prevent people from using psilocybin-containing mushrooms. In a matter of months, exemptions have been made for more and more treatments.
Canada's Controlled Drugs and Substances Act makes it illegal to produce, possess and sell psilocybin - the active ingredient in psychedelic mushrooms. Starting last summer, Health Canada began granting exemptions to this rule for people with terminal illnesses only. This was because of a growing body of research showing the therapeutic benefits of psilocybin, and it did not take long for those to extend beyond terminal patients. Now, a 67-year-old woman tells Vice that she believes she is the first person to get an exemption without a terminal diagnosis.
"I have struggled with anxiety, depression and addiction for years," said Mona Strelaeff of Victoria, British Columbia. "During my psilocybin therapy I went deep, way back to when I was a little girl and all those things that happened to me. All the unresolved trauma, it came back and I was beyond terrified, shaking uncontrollably and crying."
The study of psilocybin in a therapeutic context is relatively new, and was previously the only exemption made by the Canadian government. Many experts have touted the comfort and perspective it can provide to palliative patients, and a growing number see it as a legitimate treatment for things like depression as well. Strelaeff agrees based on personal experience.
"I conquered those tough memories and after a while I realized... I ain't scared of jack s-," she told reporters.
Policy changes like this are making their way slowly to the U.S. as well. In November of 2020, Oregon voted to legalize psilocybin-assisted therapy statewide, and Washington, D.C. voted to decriminalize the drug altogether. Meanwhile, the beginnings of a legitimate industry are cropping up around these therapies - several companies are rushing to offer the treatment wherever it is legal and advocate for its legalization where not.
In particular, Vice spoke to the people behind TheraPsil, which offers mainly palliative care psilocybin-assisted therapy. The non-profit has the first legal training program for doctors and therapists interested in practicing this kind of work. Whether or not more states will follow suit with decriminalization and legalization remains to be seen.