The decision sets a precedent on how to regulate the substance for the rest of Canada, and potentially other countries.
Quebec became the first province to cover psilocybin-assisted therapy under health insurance last week. This is further proof of the medical benefits of psilocybin, the psychoactive compound in magic mushrooms, and another step in the push to legalize psilocybin and other psychedelics.
Psilocybin has shown tremendous potential in treating many conditions, including severe depression, alcohol and drug addiction, end of life anxiety, and more. Several magic mushroom shops have opened in Canada and the United States in recent times and have subsequently been to close— showing the growing demand for psilocybin therapy.
What are psychedelic mushrooms and psilocybin?
Quebec approves psilocybin therapy
Psilocybin is currently illegal in Canada, but physicians and researchers can apply to Health Canada for an exemption allowing them to study or prescribe psilocybin to specific people for medical reasons.
Two doctors, Dr. Houman Farzin and Dr. Jean-Francois Stephan, treated a patient with psilocybin in June 2022 and then managed to bill and receive payment for their services from the province of Quebec, according to a Press release of TheraPsil, a Canadian non-profit advocacy group for psilocybin therapy.
Dr. Stephan made the case for the medical benefits, safety, and efficacy of psilocybin in a letter, also signed by 15 other colleagues, to Quebec’s governing body of general practitioners, the Federation of Physicians. general practitioners of Quebec (FMOQ). The group then negotiated with the provincial government to change the legal codes necessary to allow psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy to be covered by medical insurance.
Since Canada has universal health care, psilocybin therapy was covered by the Government of Quebec, meaning that all residents of Quebec could have access to psilocybin – and potentially all Canadians in the future – s they deemed it medically necessary.
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Laws and access to psilocybin are lagging behind
Government recognition of the health benefits of psilocybin therapy is an important step in the push to legalize the substance and other psychedelics, although these substances are still federally illegal in Canada and the United States. .
“Quebec has chosen to align itself with science when it comes to psychedelic medicine,” Dr. Stephan said in a Press release. “It is encouraging to see them recognize the available evidence and make the necessary adjustments to support the financial aspects of treatment so that it is not a barrier to patient access.”
Nearly 70% of Oregon bans psilocybin, but clinics will still open next year
In the United States, laws have not kept up with the demand for magic mushrooms. In Portland, OR, a store selling magic mushrooms opened a few weeks ago and had lineups with wait times of up to five hours. Magic mushroom shops in San Francisco and Toronto have also been incredibly popular, but all three have recently closed. Another store in Hamilton, Canada was also closed recently, just a day after opening.
These stores were open to the general public, a far cry from the medical clearance needed to obtain and administer psilocybin in the case of Quebec, but the huge demand for psilocybin is unmistakable. Oregon will also have restrictions on the purchase of psilocybin and will not have stores open to the general public.
Access to psilocybin, even when legal, remains a major concern in Oregon, which is expected to open the clinic’s doors in early 2023. Psilocybin sessions can cost up to $1,000 or more per session, limiting therapy to wealthy clients. This high price is probably due to the huge cost of training the facilitators, which should be between $10,000 and $20,000.
As with cannabis, psilocybin laws are messy right now. Regardless of these complications, the case in Quebec is a positive sign that governments are beginning to accept the medical benefits of psilocybin and are changing their laws to allow access to the substance for their citizens.
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