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Can illegal drugs solve Canada’s mental health crisis?

Last Updated Jan 22, 2021 at 1:33 pm EDT

CITYNEWS

In recent years. there’s been an explosion of research conducted by scientists studying the benefits of psychedelic drugs like magic mushrooms, MDMA and LSD. Several researchers say they maybe breakthrough treatments for a variety of mental health disorders.

In a series of reports and in an upcoming documentary, CityNews is investigating what’s being called the psychedelic revolution. A major push is underway to move these drugs from underground to mainstream backed by powerful and well credible research studies. Many mental health experts believe these drugs, which are still illegal to prescribe in most cases in Canada, could revolutionize mental health treatment and solve what many argue is a growing crisis.

“In terms of the current state of mental health in Canada, this is arguably among one of the biggest health and social challenges that our society faces,” said Dr. Evan Wood a B.C.-based world renowned addictions specialist.

“Whether it’s the pandemic or new things that have come to be a part of our daily lives, like negative affects of social media, mental health will continue to be a huge challenge,” Wood said. “Young people are contributing to record high rates of depression and anxiety or are having growing problems with substance use disorder.”

“There’s two main indications that are being explored with psilocybin. It’s being used for both substance use disorder and for depression and anxiety”

Wood says the current approved treatments for depression and anxiety aren’t working for everyone.

“When you actually really dredge through the research around antidepressant treatments, while some people may benefit, just as many people will not benefit.”

Which is why researchers like Wood have been looking for something new. Is the answer in powerful mind-altering plants and fungi, also known as psychedelics? Wood says based on recent research and his own observations, these drugs could be the missing key to treat mental health.

“I’ve had patients who have gone out on their own volition independently and sought out different psychedelic treatments in the underground psychedelic world. And I’ve had those experiences where a patient will come back in and they’re so much better.”

Several studies have been done by world-renowned research centres like Johns Hopkins University, and the results are promising.

“When you look at the data, sometimes it looks like it’s been faked because it’s so compelling in terms of these dramatic improvements that are being seen,” said Wood.

So now researchers like Wood are further studying psychedelic drugs like magic mushrooms which contain the psychoactive compound called psilocybin.

“There’s two main indications that are being explored with psilocybin. It’s being used for both substance use disorder and for depression and anxiety,” Wood said.


RELATED: The Psychedelic Frontier


In 2020, Health Canada allowed some end of life patients to access psilocybin to treat the mental distress associated with a terminal illness. But for anyone else, the drugs are currently illegal. The question remains if ongoing clinical trials will change that.

“New York University has been exploring psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy for alcohol addiction. And there’s other international research that’s being done in the context of cocaine addiction as well. Psilocybin assisted psychotherapy is also being used for depression. And there’s really exciting data that’s coming out for that,” Wood said.

Wood recently joined a Canadian company called Numinus, based in Nanaimo, B.C., one of the first companies to receive approval from Health Canada to study psilocybin.

In a new documentary, called “The Psychedelic Frontier,” airing on Citytv, our cameras will take you inside their newly launched lab.

From there, we go to an underground lab, where for the very first time a B.C. man, selling mushrooms illegally, is risking it all to share his story hoping to help others.

The documentary will also follow the journey of a Hamilton war hero, who is suffering from PTSD after his time in Afghanistan. Our cameras document his full experience with a psychedelic drug to see if it helps treat his disorder.

Veracity: The Psychedelic Frontier airs Monday, January 25th at 10pm, only on Citytv.