Broad Support in Canada for Psilocybin Use in Palliative Care, New Study Reveals

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LOS ANGELES — A recent Canadian study, published in the medical journal Palliative Medicine, has revealed significant public support for the use of psilocybin, a psychedelic compound, in treating existential dread among end-of-life patients. Conducted by a team led by Michel Dorval, a researcher at CHU de Québec-Université Laval Research Center and a professor at Université Laval’s Faculty of Pharmacy, the study highlights a growing acceptance of psychedelic-assisted therapy in palliative care.

The study, carried out between November and December 2022, surveyed 2,800 Canadians, including 1,000 residents of Québec and 1,800 from Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia. It probed public opinion on the administration of psilocybin without Health Canada’s approval, its coverage under the public health system, and the broader legalization for medical purposes.

Results indicated that 79.3% of participants consider psilocybin a reasonable option for palliative care patients experiencing existential distress. This support extends to the coverage of psilocybin-assisted therapy by Canada’s public health system, with 84.4% in favor, and 63.3% supporting its medical legalization.

Dorval noted that familiarity with psilocybin and personal experiences with end-of-life situations might contribute to this openness. The study also found that only 18.7% of participants were aware of the government’s Special Access Program, which permits limited access to certain controlled substances, including psilocybin, for specific medical cases.

These findings come at a time of growing global interest in psychedelic-assisted therapies. In the United States, Oregon legalized psilocybin use in January 2023, with 715 individuals seeking treatment in psilocybin centers by the end of the year. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs announced funding for studies on psilocybin and MDMA to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and depression in veterans.

In related research, a study in Molecular Psychiatry used Zebrafish, sharing 70% of their genes with humans, to examine psilocybin’s effects. The fish exhibited stimulatory and anxiolytic behaviors post-exposure, suggesting potential insights into the substance’s impact on the human brain.

In a historical context, a genomic diversity study by the University of Utah and the Natural History Museum of Utah traced the origins of the psilocybe genus back over 65 million years, coinciding with the asteroid impact that led to the dinosaurs’ extinction.

This Canadian study represents a significant step in understanding public perception of psychedelic-assisted therapy, potentially influencing policy and healthcare practices in palliative care, both in Canada and globally.

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