Alberta will be the first Canadian province to regulate psychedelic drugs for therapeutic use. The provincial government plans to regulate psychedelic drugs such as psilocybin, psilocin, MDMA, LSD, mescaline, DMT, 5 methoxy DMT and ketamine as a treatment for a variety of psychiatric disorders. All psychedelics used as therapy would require the oversight of a psychiatrist before being administered to patients.
Furthermore, the regulations require patients to be monitored by staff while in an altered mental state caused by the drugs and are required to report serious injuries or deaths to the government immediately. The regulations are less restrictive for ketamine and doses of other drugs are too low to cause psychedelic effects. Alberta’s regulations for the therapeutic use of psychedelics are scheduled to take effect on January 16th, 2023.
What are psychedelics?
Psychedelic drugs (also known as hallucinogens) include things such as psilocybin, psilocin, MDMA, LSD, mescaline, DMT, 5 methoxy DMT and ketamine. Psychedelics are a class of psychoactive substances that produce changes in perception, mood, and cognitive processes. Psychedelics affect all the senses, altering a person’s thinking, sense of time, and emotions.
How are psychedelics currently regulated in Canada?
Psychedelics such as psilocybin and psilocin are controlled internationally under the United Nations Drug Control Conventions and, in Canada, under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA).
The CDSA is the federal law that controls drugs, substances, and chemicals. It’s a criminal code under which laws are made, prosecuted, and enforced by all levels of government in Canada.
The CDSA also includes schedules of substances that are prohibited, controlled, or restricted. There are a variety of schedules under the CDSA:
Schedule 7: Precursor Chemicals Used in the Production of Narcotic Drugs or Psychotropic Substances;
Schedule 6: Fentanyl;
Schedule 5: Cocaine;
Schedule 4 – Cannabis plants, cannabis resin, and extracts from these products;
Schedule 3 – Ecstasy (MDMA);
Schedule 2 – Opium derivatives such as heroin, morphine etc;
Schedule 1 – LSD/hallucinogenic mushrooms.
Access to psychedelics for therapeutic use
Health Canada recognizes there are times when access to unauthorized drugs may be appropriate. Patients suffering from mental health disorders should discuss potential treatment options with their healthcare provider. In some circumstances, with the support of a regulated healthcare practitioner, it may be possible for individuals to legally access psilocybin through one of three pathways:
- Clinical trials
- Special Access Program
- Individual subsection 56(1) exemptions from the CDSA.
Regulatory options for accessing Psilocybin:
Clinical trials and Health Canada’s Special Access Program are existing regulatory options through which a legal source of psilocybin may be accessed. These pathways should generally be pursued instead of an individual exemption under the CDSA unless it can be demonstrated that access to psilocybin is not possible or suitable through these existing legal routes.
Both clinical trials and the Special Access Program have safeguards and requirements in place to protect the health and safety of patients, help ensure the quality of the drug, and provide for administration and oversight by a qualified professional.
The Special Access Program and individual exemptions from the CDSA are not mechanisms to encourage the early use of unauthorized drugs, nor are they meant to be used as a means of circumventing clinical development or the established drug review and approval process.
How has Alberta Set the Standard?
Alberta’s decision to regulate psychedelics for therapeutic use is a massive win for patients who are suffering from mental health disorders that can benefit from psychedelic therapy.
Since the field of psychedelic therapy is still evolving with research still being done on who can be treated, the frequency of treatment, and dosing, strict measures will be in place to protect public health and the safety of those being treated. Despite criticisms, the Alberta government is credited for trying to get ahead of the curve and help those who may benefit from psychedelic therapy for the treatment of mental health disorders.
With Alberta setting the standard as the first province to regulate psychedelic drugs for therapeutic, a new chapter has been opened for many Canadians and their families. With this shift in legislation, we are seeing more people than ever before taking advantage of the medical benefits that may be offered by psychedelics. As with all medicines though, there are risks involved when using them without careful instruction from a doctor or other trained professional. Contact our Cannabis License Experts today to learn more!