Alberta will be the first Canadian province to regulate psychedelic drugs for therapeutic use, government officials announced on Wednesday. Under the plan, the provincial government will regulate the psychedelic drugs psilocybin, psilocin, MDMA, LSD, mescaline, DMT, 5 methoxy DMT and ketamine as a treatment for psychiatric disorders.
Psychedelic drugs show promise as breakthrough therapies for mental health conditions including anxiety, depression, PTSD and substance misuse disorders. The drugs are still illegal in Canada, although physicians and researchers are permitted to apply to Health Canada for permission to use psychedelics in clinical research or provide special access to patients for therapeutic use.
“Some of the strongest supporters are among first responders and veterans who suffer from high rates of PTSD and other mental health conditions,” Mike Ellis, Alberta’s associate minister of mental health and addictions, announced at a press conference on Wednesday. “As a former police officer myself, I want to ensure that if there are promising practices to make life better for people with these conditions that we are supporting them in a professional way.”
Before using administering psychedelic drugs to patients with mental health disorders, medical doctors would be required to apply to the province for a license. All treatment with psychedelic drugs would require the oversight of a psychiatrist. The new regulations also require that only qualified professionals administer the drugs in a healthcare facility, unless the patient is in palliative care. Staff must monitor patients while they are in an altered mental state caused by the drugs and are required to report any serious injuries or deaths to the government immediately. The regulations are less restrictive for ketamine and doses of other drugs too low to cause psychedelic effects.
‘A Massive Win For Patients’
Ronan Levy, CEO of Field Trip Health & Wellness, a company that provides ketamine therapy to treat depression and anxiety at clinics in Toronto, Vancouver, Fredericton, New Brunswick and eight U.S. cities, says that the Alberta government’s decision to regulate psychedelics is “a massive win for patients.”
“For the first time anywhere, people will have access to legal, doctor-supervised psychedelics and psychedelic-assisted therapies across just about all classic psychedelics,” he writes in an email, adding that the move could spur further efforts to reform the laws governing psychedelic drugs.
“The Province of Alberta– the most politically conservative province in Canada– is unilaterally creating its own system for psychedelics,” notes Levy. “This is a tectonic shift in the cultural relevance and awareness of psychedelics, and is almost certainly a major catalyst for both legal and regulatory change in the industry. Almost certainly other jurisdictions will follow suit.”
Dr. Rob Tanguay, a psychiatrist who specializes in addiction medicine and pain medicine, said patients are vulnerable while taking psychedelics and need to be protected from potential risks.
“The risk is much lower with a regulated psychologist who is registered with their college than someone who printed [a certificate] off the Internet, and then went on to the Internet to advertise, ‘I’m a psychedelic therapist, come see me,’” Tanguay said at Wednesday’s news conference.
Alberta’s new regulations for the therapeutic use of psychedelics are scheduled to go into effect on January 16, 2023.