Goodbye antidepressants! Psilocybin, the active ingredient in hallucinogenic mushrooms, is increasingly used to overcome anxiety, reduce inflammation, or treat drug addiction. When the psychedelic and scientific universes come together.
Exterior images are prohibited from the Numinus Wellness Laboratory, located in Nanaimo, Vancouver Island. This is because the first legal producer of hallucinogenic mushrooms in Canada wants its location to be kept as secret as possible.
Here, researchers are busy cultivating mushrooms to extract psilocybin and analyzing the different species from all angles, from DNA extraction to passage in liquid nitrogen at minus 200 degrees Celsius.
The goal is to create a
format that is standardized and stable and to find the appropriate dose so that it is used in the same way as an Advil or a Tylenol, specifies the chief physician of Numinus Wellness, Evan Wood.
Research into extracting the active substance from mushrooms, which grow much more easily in nature, is sometimes ridiculed, says the latter, a specialist in drug and alcohol addiction treatments.
“ Some don’t understand that we are talking about something very, very serious that is likely to transform the way mental health care is delivered today. «
evolving science , as he says, which is also lucrative, as Numinus Wellness has made over $ 70 million in earnings since going public in 2020.
The » Mushrooms » revolution
Now that cannabis is legal from coast to coast, the new fight for businessman and promarijuana activist Dana Larsen is the legalization of hallucinogenic mushrooms . He even took advantage of the famous pot mass in Vancouver last April to offer free microdoses of psilocybin.
This psychotropic drug creating auditory and visual hallucinations is still far from being offered to everyone, but a first step was taken in August 2020 when Health Canada allowed a handful of palliative care patients to use it.
Psilocybin is now classified under
Schedule III of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA), which means that it is illegal to have it in your possession without a license, prescription, or exemption from the drug. Federal Ministry of Health.
Mona Strelaeff was the first non-terminal cancer patient to receive an exemption for the consumption of magic mushrooms as part of assisted therapy.
The Vancouver Island resident, who was sexually abused as a child, tried different therapies and a variety of antidepressants to overcome her trauma, but with little success.
Having suffered from alcoholism, she was diagnosed with cancer in her fifties, with slim chances of remission. She survived it, but then fell into a deep depression.
The former accountant was sent to a center in the United States to treat her addiction and depression issues. The treatment, at a cost of $ 10,000 per week, helped her somewhat, but she continued to take medication, the side effects of which were terrible.
“ My family was terrified that I was going to kill myself. «
It was with the help of her psychologist, Bruce Tobin, founder of TheraPsil, a non-profit organization whose goal is to facilitate access to psilocybin, that Mona took the steps to have the right to use hallucinogenic mushrooms.
In November 2020, she was finally authorized to consume it, as part of a session guided by her psychologist, one of the 19 professionals approved by Health Canada, to date, to provide this type of therapy.
As she lay down, listening to music and blindfolded, her four-hour psychedelic journey took her to dark corners of her past, but she walked out with a sense of inner peace.
My anxiety has disappeared and, even today, I feel at peace […] It has been seven months since I was healed without any medication. This treatment is second to none , explains the 67-year-old woman.
The effect of mushrooms on depression and addictions
Mark Haden is currently leading clinical trials at the Psygen lab. He does not hide his enthusiasm for the properties of psilocybin.
“ Psychedelics may be more effective and have fewer side effects than antidepressants. «
Mark Haden, who is the former supervisor of the BC Substance Use Center’s Psychedelic Project, even believes that
psilocybin could transform psychiatry, psychology, social services, and nursing .
Dr. Evan Wood believes that psychotherapy assisted by hallucinogenic mushrooms could indeed lead to a new approach in treatment for mental health. The drugs that are prescribed today are aimed at alleviating the symptoms.
Unlike traditional medicines, psilocybin helps build inner strength in order to overcome difficulties and allows you to move forward from a different perspective , explains the chief medical officer of Numinus Wellness.
A study by British researchers from Imperial College, published in the scientific journal Nature , carried out in 2017 on 19 patients suffering from major depression, demonstrated, thanks to magnetic resonance images, the positive effects that psilocybin can have on the body. brain.
New connections are formed. The brain becomes more malleable. People think of the world in a different way because the brain essentially has the ability to rewire itself , says Mark Haden.
Researchers from the American Johns-Hopkins University analyzed the effects of psilocybin on 15 smokers in 2014. After a single experience of assisted psychotherapy of this psychotropic substance, 80% of participants quit smoking.
This transformed the participants of this study , argues Mark Haden, adding that the effects of the treatment are long-lasting.
The initial data from several research studies on the treatment of alcohol dependence on opioids would also be very promising, he said.
There are many people who find that taking mushrooms helps to eliminate and reduce their dependence on other substances , notes Dana Larsen of customers at her café and sales outlet, Coca Leaf. However, he remains cautious:
It is not that simple. Just because you start taking mushrooms does not mean that all your problems are eliminated.
The use of magic mushrooms is not without risk, the consumption of high doses can cause what is called a bad trip, a bad trip in English , or unwanted effects of paranoia, sometimes leading to dangerous behavior. , and this for several hours. It can sometimes cause persistent psychotic reactions in people with a family history of psychosis.
The risks relate to the environment in which [hallucinogenic mushrooms] are used and the vulnerability of patients says, Dr. Wood.
Hence the importance that the person be supported by a competent therapist.
The gray area
Although people with an exemption can legally consume it, the sale of hallucinogenic mushrooms remains illegal. That’s why Mona Strelaeff had to get them on the black market in order to move forward with her therapy.
Zoomers in Vancouver was the first outlet in the country to offer
Jack Lloyd, who is one of his attorneys, says Zoomers’ mission is
to encourage people who might benefit from access to psilocybin to apply for the right to have it in their possession .
This outlet’s website also offers capsules of 100 to 300 milligrams, known as microdoses, which are about the equivalent of a tenth of a
normal dose of magic mushrooms .
These microdosing capsules are the most popular at Coca Leaf Coffee by Dana Larsen, who specifies that in order to be able to buy them you only need to be an adult, but a doctor’s prescription is required for larger doses.
Simon, a software designer who has been taking microdoses for about a year and prefers to remain anonymous for professional reasons, says these tiny amounts of psilocybin allow him to have greater productivity and a more positive mind.
I work as a software developer, and it helps me a lot to stay focused , says someone who ingests a 100-milligram capsule a day for three days, followed by a two-day break.
We do not feel the hallucinogenic effect.
Despite the beneficial effects reported by consumers, scientific studies on the effects of consuming microdoses are scarce and inconclusive.
According to a study conducted by Imperial College, in Great Britain, and published in the scientific journal Nature last January, microdosing would not be more effective than a placebo.
Dana Larsen compares its effects to those of cannabidiol (CBD).
Just like there are a lot of people who don’t want to get marijuana high , I believe a lot of others don’t want to have too much of a psychedelic experience but will find microdosing benefits for their mental health , says. -Hey.
Along with the trend of microdosing on the West Coast is growing interest in legalizing certain psychotropic drugs, particularly in the US state of Oregon.
This authorized the use of psilocybin for therapeutic purposes for a period of two years in order to allow the development of centers for assisted psychotherapy.
This is an opportunity for Numinus Wellness, which intends to establish itself in the United States.
However, the Canadian company, founded in 2018, is not alone. About twenty companies specializing in products based on hallucinogenic substances entered the stock market in just over a year.
The marketing of the product is complex, since, unlike antidepressants which can be consumed alone at home, the presence of a therapist is essential for the use of psilocybin in high doses.
The way we see this market evolving is that we will be able to set up clinics to accommodate these psychedelic psychotherapies , says Payton Nyquvest, CEO of Numinus Wellness.
In December 2020, Health Canada expressed its intention to revise the rules of the program for access to psychedelic therapies.
We are just waiting for the official changes , says Payton Nyquvest.
While Health Canada has approved a series of small-scale clinical trials, that’s not enough for Evan Wood.
There is political paralysis that prevents desperate patients from benefiting from this treatment option , he argues.
And while research into the scope of hallucinogenic mushrooms still appears to be in its infancy, stakeholders in the field say a real revolution in the world of mental health is about to materialize.