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HEALTHCARE | Alternative Medicine
therapsil.ca

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Founded Year

2019

About TheraPsil

Therapsil is a coalition of professionals dedicated to providing access to Psilocybin Therapy for Canadians with a palliative diagnosis.

TheraPsil Headquarter Location

2031 Store St

Victoria, British Columbia, V8T 5L9,

Canada

Latest TheraPsil News

Sara McDonald: I was diagnosed with ALS over 18 months ago and the disease has relentlessly progressed

Aug 31, 2021

Opinion: A friend told me about psilocybin as a potential end-of-life therapy. However, psilocybin is illegal (since 1974 in Canada); a federal exemption is required to access the drug for therapeutic purposes Author of the article: It is a struggle to stay upbeat when my body is incrementally losing function in a way that greatly impacts quality of life, writes Sara McDonald, who was diagnosed with ALS 18 months ago and hopes psilocybin will improve her emotional sense of well-being for her remaining time. Photo by Courtesy, Sara McDonald) Article content I’m planning a trip — not to Paris or Rome — not that kind of trip. This will be a journey to explore my inner world with the help of psilocybin (magic mushrooms). Advertisement Article content I was diagnosed with ALS over 18 months ago and, since then, the disease has relentlessly progressed. A friend told me about psilocybin as a potential end-of-life therapy. I knew nothing at all about it; although I came of age in the 1970s, I never dabbled in hallucinogens. We apologize, but this video has failed to load. Try refreshing your browser, or Sara McDonald: I was diagnosed with ALS over 18 months ago and the disease has relentlessly progressed Back to video Psilocybin works by activating serotonin receptors, most often in the prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain affects mood, cognition, and perception. This will be a therapeutic journey for me, not recreational. The treatment involves pre-session therapy, therapy during the psilocybin experience and an integration process afterward. I am working with an experienced psychiatrist. In Michael Pollan’s book, How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression and Transcendence, he states, “existential distress is what psychologists call the complex of depression, anxiety and fear common in people facing a terminal diagnosis.” Advertisement Article content Apparently, there have not been very successful ways of treating this existential (or end-of-life) distress, which contributes to a sense of demoralization and hopelessness. In studies at NYU and Johns Hopkins, “some 80 per cent of cancer patients showed clinically significant reductions in standard measures of anxiety and depression,” leading to an increased quality of life, life meaning, death acceptance and optimism. In the two studies mentioned, most patients rated their psilocybin experience in the top 10 experiences of their lives, which is remarkable. So how does it work? My understanding is that psychedelic drugs don’t “add,” they “clear away” what is unnecessary. The drugs are not the healing; rather, they help the patient do the healing themselves. Advertisement Article content We all have habitual ways of thinking; psilocybin helps to break these habits of thinking and offers opportunity for a reset — of feeling more in the present and more connected. Patients in the two studies mentioned above typically described the experience as mystical and spiritual. However, psilocybin is illegal (since 1974 in Canada); a federal exemption is required to access the drug for therapeutic purposes. B.C.-based non-profit TheraPsil last August helped a cancer patient secure the first exemption under Canada’s drug laws to use magic mushrooms for psychotherapy. Since then, Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu has used her powers under Section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to grant exemptions from the law. Advertisement Article content The process for applying and proving a medical need to use psilocybin is not clear, and the criteria used by Health Canada appears arbitrary. This is an inconsistent process; some people have been given exemptions and others have not, with no clear reasons for the decisions. The process is dependent on political party positions, elections or change in ministers. There is a need for government to come up with reasonable and transparent regulations for making psilocybin legal and available for medical purposes. TheraPsil continues to assist and advocate for patients wishing to access the drug. I have received an exemption from Health Canada, and I was surprised to learn from TheraPsil that I am the first Canadian with ALS to receive an exemption. Advertisement Article content So why would I want to have this experience? I try very hard to stay positive and be proactive concerning all aspects of my health, including my emotional state. But it’s hard, and it’s getting harder. It is a struggle to stay upbeat when my body is incrementally losing function in a way that greatly impacts quality of life. Simple tasks like dressing and moving around are becoming exhausting. Since losing the ability to speak, it has become a challenge to stay connected to others. Now I can only type with one hand, further reducing my ability to communicate with a keyboard — it is slow and tiring to peck away with one finger. Loss of connection, isolation, feeling left out — these are constant struggles, along with trying to get the #%&* mucus out of my mouth. These challenges can easily feed into depression. Advertisement Article content Even though I may think and believe in a particular point of view that is positive and hopeful, as I try to do, unfortunately my feelings may not always align with that perspective. While I make these constant shifts as my body weakens in phases, my emotions fight against these changes. So why wouldn’t I want to access a treatment that can improve my emotional sense of well-being for my remaining time? I believe that psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy can help me to gain perspective regarding my future and create greater self-awareness and sense of connectedness. The research is solid and feedback from participants is extremely positive. I am grateful for TheraPsil, which can be found online at therapsil.ca, for providing this opportunity. Advertisement Article content My “mushroom trip” is booked for early September. I will report back after, but don’t expect any souvenirs. An ALS, disability and psilocybin advocate, Sara McDonald is also an artist, proud mother and grandma who lives in Kelowna. Follow Sara’s journey online at sarasalslife.wordpress.com . Letters to the editor should be sent to  sunletters@vancouversun.com . The editorial pages editor is Hardip Johal, who can be reached at  hjohal@postmedia.com . Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email  vantips@postmedia.com . Share this article in your social network Share this Story: Sara McDonald: I was diagnosed with ALS over 18 months ago and the disease has relentlessly progressed

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