Canada Exempts 16 Healthcare Workers For Psilocybin

  • Health Canada will allow 16 health professionals working with Therapsil to take psilocybin for clinical and therapeutic purposes during their training.
  • Therapsil had requested exemptions under section 56(1) for its healthcare workers to legally use psilocybin.
  • Psilocybin exemptions have been granted to 14 palliative patients to deal with end-of-life distress since August 4.

In a landmark move, Canada’s Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu allowed 16 Canadian healthcare professionals to use psilocybin for clinical training on December 8.

Announced yesterday, the exemption was granted under Section 56(1) of the Canadian Drugs & Substance Act that would allow healthcare professionals to possess and use psilocybin for professional training during psilocybin therapies. Health Canada is permitting a combination of psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical counsellors, social workers, general practitioners and nurses to legally use the psychedelic substance.

“[Federal Health Minister] Patty Hajdu’s decision to grant 16 health care practitioners access to psilocybin for training is a major milestone and reflection of a progressive government. Getting clinicians properly trained is an important step in increasing patient access,” Spencer Hawkswell, CEO of Therapsil, tells Truffle Report in an email response. Therapsil is expecting a couple of more exemptions in a few days, making it a total of 18-19 healthcare professionals.

Therapsil — a non-profit organization of researchers, healthcare professionals and advocates founded in 2019—  has been working towards providing compassionate treatment for Canadians who are suffering from end-of-life distress. Since August 4 of this year, 14 palliative patients along with one non-palliative patient have been legally treated with psilocybin therapy by the Therapsil team. 

Noting that therapists with psychedelic experiences are able to empathize better with patients, Bruce Tobin, Therapsil’s founder and Board Chair, says in a statement, “Our government has recently become a world-leader in allowing patients access to psilocybin to treat end-of-life distress and with these new approvals for therapists, Health Canada now rightfully acknowledges that clinician experience with psychedelic medicines is an important part of their training.” 

As a part of the learning and training process, the healthcare professionals and trainees with Therapsil also consume psilocybin to be able to understand the experiences and emotions better with their hands-on personal journey.

Keeping this in mind, Therapsil had applied for an exemption for its professionals under Section 56(1) on June 18 of this year. The legal procedure took 166 days before the health ministry released its decision. 

Hawkswell shares some near-future plans with Truffle. “Now that these exceptions are granted we are focusing on rolling out our training program in the new year, and to do this we will need support from our stakeholders,” he says. The team is looking forward to raising at least $250,000 by the new year through fundraising to be able to launch its training program for professionals in 2021.

“We have just set up a fundraising initiative on our website so that we can continue to support patients and also launch our training in the new year. Our goal is to make sure that clinicians have the training they need for the safe delivery of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy,” Hawkswell adds.

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