Canadian Government Granting $3M For Clinical Trials For Psilocybin-Assisted Psychotherapy

The quest to advance psychedelic medicine in Canada received a big boost today. The Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Carolyn Bennett, announced an investment of nearly $3 million through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. This funding will support three clinical trials investigating the potential of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy as a treatment option for alcohol use disorder, treatment-resistant depression, and end-of-life psychological distress in advanced-stage cancer patients.

The goal is follow-through in growing government interest in the potential therapeutic applications of psychedelics for addressing mental health and substance use challenges. While additional research is needed, it is hoped that viable treatment options for individuals with mental illness and addictions is achieved.

We are beginning to see a resurgence of research on psychedelics as a potential therapeutic aid for a range of mental health and substance use conditions. Despite this, there are still many unknowns as to the safety and efficacy of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy. These three newly funded clinical trials represent the careful research that is urgently needed to build upon preliminary findings, and guide clinical practice in Canada.

Dr. Samuel Weiss
Scientific Director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction

This investment aligns with the Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy, an evidence-based and comprehensive approach implemented by the Government of Canada to address drug and substance policy. The strategy encompasses innovative treatment and harm reduction methodologies. While preliminary evidence suggests therapeutic benefits of combining psychedelics with psychotherapy for specific mental health and substance use challenges, more evidence is required in the form of randomized clinical trials.

Randomized clinical trials involve assigning eligible human research participants randomly to groups that either receive or do not receive one or more interventions being compared. The substance of research is psilocybin—a naturally occurring psychedelic compound found in certain mushroom species, which will be examined in conjunction with psychotherapy to assess its safety and effectiveness in treating specific mental health and substance use disorders.

In Canada, psilocybin falls under the regulations of both the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and the Food and Drugs Act. Researchers receiving funding for these clinical trials will be required to obtain the necessary authorizations under both acts before commencing the trials.

A breakdown of exactly where the money will be allocated to psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy studies, and to which trial, was not disclosed.

TDR will have additional coverage as warranted.

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