Government of Canada invests nearly $3 million to study the potential benefits of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy
June 29, 2023 – Ottawa, Ontario – Canadian Institutes of Health Research
In Canada and around the world, there is increasing interest in the potential therapeutic uses of psychedelics to treat substance use and mental health challenges. However, more research evidence is needed to better understand if psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy is a safe and effective treatment option for people experiencing mental illness and addictions.
Today, the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health, announced a research investment of nearly $3 million through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to support three clinical trials that will examine psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy as a potential treatment option for alcohol use disorder, treatment-resistant depression and end-of-life psychological distress in advanced-stage cancer patients.
Psilocybin is a naturally occurring psychedelic compound in some species of mushrooms. The research will study the safety and effectiveness of psilocybin in treating specific mental health and substance use disorders in combination with psychotherapy.
This investment is in line with the Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy, the Government of Canada's comprehensive, collaborative, compassionate, and evidence-based approach to addressing drug and substance policy, including innovative approaches to treatment and harm reduction.
“With 1 in 5 people in Canada experiencing mental health or substance use challenges in any given year, it is important to explore new and innovative ways to help those struggling across the country. Today’s investment will help us to better understand the safety and efficacy of psilocybin, combined with psychological support, as a potential treatment option.”
The Honourable Carolyn Bennett
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health
“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
There is preliminary evidence demonstrating therapeutic benefits from using psychedelics in combination with psychotherapy to treat certain mental health and substance use challenges, but more evidence is needed in the form of randomized clinical trials.
A randomized clinical trial is an experiment in which investigators randomly assign eligible human research participants into groups to receive or not receive one or more interventions that are being compared.
Psychedelics are compounds that alter the state of consciousness of an individual, and psilocybin is one of the psychoactive compounds in psychoactive mushrooms.
The psychotherapy provided as part of this research will be administered by a regulated clinician or health care professional (e.g., psychologist, social worker, etc.) trained in psychotherapy.
There are currently no approved therapeutic products containing psilocybin in Canada or elsewhere.
In Canada, psilocybin is subject to both the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and the Food and Drugs Act. The researchers receiving funding through this funding opportunity will be required to seek appropriate authorizations under both Acts before initiating these clinical trials.
Office of the Honourable Carolyn Bennett
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
At the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) we know that research has the power to change lives. As Canada's health research investment agency, we collaborate with partners and researchers to support the discoveries and innovations that improve our health and strengthen our health care system.
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