A Burnaby, B.C. company is forging ahead to give patients access to psychedelics hoping the substances can be used to help people with severe mental health issues.
Filament Health co-founder Ben Lightburn believes working with Health Canada to understand the potential benefits of substances like MDMA and magic mushrooms could expand treatment options for those with mental health issues.
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MDMA and psilocybin (the psychedelic compound in so-called magic mushrooms) are hallucinogenic substances that can alter a person’s senses, thinking and emotions.
According to Lightburn, Canada reinstated access to the substances through the Special Access Program, allowing some Canadians, with their doctors’ approval, to access drugs that haven’t been approved for sale in the country.
“It’s important to remember that the patients that are eligible for this program are patients that have tried and failed every available treatment and are in a serious or life-threatening condition,” he told CTV’s Your Morning on Wednesday.
Filament Health works with doctors and their patients to give them access to psychedelic medicines by creating the drugs and distributing them through the Special Access Program.
Here’s how psychedelics could help mental health
Despite some people gaining access, Lightburn says formal approval of the drugs is still far away.
“It’s important to remember, even though it might seem like these are approved treatments, and they’re legal, they are still quite a long way away from being such,” Lightburn said.
Over the last several months Health Canada has released guidelines pointing patients to clinical trials and how to access the substances through its program.
Lightburn says the government agency has strict guidelines on what patients can expect in psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy programs.
“For instance, you need to have two therapists present in the room,” he said. “These are common sense guidelines in order to protect patient safety and guide them towards legal and appropriate access for these substances.”
Health Canada told CTV’s Your Morning that it is prepared to use all “tools” when addressing the mental health of Canadians.
“While psychedelics have shown promise, in some instances, further research is still needed,” the statement reads.
Lightburn says he also believes more research is needed to ensure those accessing the drugs can do so safely.
“We need to have more clinical research, high-quality clinical research,” he said. “That’s really what our primary goal here is that Filament Health is to produce pharmaceutical-grade drug candidates so that we can actually have the high-quality clinical data available to show regulators and patients and doctors that these medicines can be approved and distributed as normal pharmaceuticals.”