Pubdate: Wed, 09 Sep 2015
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2015 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Nick Eagland
Page: 3


Health Care: Researchers Say Substances May Help Treat Addiction, 
Depression, Anxiety

A trip to the doctor's office could someday mean a trip inside the 
doctor's office, if researchers calling for further study into the 
use of psychedelics for treating illness get their way.

Dr. Evan Wood, co-director of the Urban Health Research Initiative at 
the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/ AIDS, is one of four medical 
researchers behind an analysis published Tuesday focusing on the 
resurgence of research into psychedelic substances for treating 
illnesses, including addiction, depression, anxiety and 
post-traumatic stress disorder.

Wood said that while motivational interviewing and cognitive 
behavioural therapy can lead to change in a patient, the use of 
psychedelics can bring about a "transformative spiritual experience" 
and new level of insight where those traditional methods come up short.

"The pharmaceutical industry would like to see a model where people 
are labelled with a chronic disease and they take a pill every day," Wood said.

"What's being considered here is a total paradigm shift, where we're 
talking about people having an experience and coming out the other 
side of that with a new skill set and a new way of thinking that can 
actually have them manage and move past some of those historical challenges."

For their analysis, published in the Canadian Medical Association 
Journal, the researchers looked at treatments involving classic 
psychedelics - many of which have been used for millenniums in 
spiritual or folk-healing rituals - such as psilocybin (magic 
mushrooms), LSD, mescaline, peyote and ayahuasca, as well as 
entactogens such as MDMA.

They cite several recent studies in which the use of psychedelics has 
proven effective, such as LSD-assisted psychotherapy in Switzerland, 
which reduced anxiety in terminally ill patients; psilocybin-assisted 
therapy in New Mexico, which helped reduce alcohol dependence; and 
the use of MDMA to treat chronic, treatment-resistant PTSD in the U.S.

Many of these substances are potentially harmful, however, with side 
effects such as psychosis or flashbacks, the researchers noted.

Historically, the use of psychedelics in therapy developed a bad rap 
for "egregious violations of ethical protocols," unsupported claims 
about their benefits and encouragement for non-clinical use by 
members of the research community.

Past attempts at using psychedelics to treat illness in B.C. have met 
with resistance from health authorities, including addictions expert 
Dr. Gabor Mate's shuttered ayahuasca project and pot-activist Marc 
Emery's Iboga Therapy House, an Ibogaine-assisted detox program.

But now, paired with psychotherapy and counselling, and conducted in 
a carefully controlled environment with health-care experts, the 
"re-emerging paradigm of psychedelic medicine may open clinical and 
therapeutic doors long closed," the researchers concluded.

They contend that increased investment into research of such 
treatments is warranted as a way to tackle growing sources of illness 
such as depression and anxiety.

Wood said such treatments could bring "massive" savings to the 
health-care system because patients would not require the long-term 
use of pharmaceutical drugs or "endless" therapy sessions - which may 
prove beneficial for taxpayers in B.C., where $1.38 billion is spent 
annually on mental-health and substance-use services.


MDMA to treat PTSD

Vancouver is one of four international sites where research into 
MDMA-assisted psychotherapy is currently underway.

Researchers with MAPS Canada (the Multidisciplinary Association for 
Psychedelic Studies), with the approval of Health Canada, 
administered their first session in Vancouver in February.

Mark Haden, chairman of the board of MAPS, said the study is in the 
second of three stages of clinical trials and"on track"for MDMA to 
become a legal prescription drug in about five years.

The research is based on an American pilot study in which 83 per cent 
of participants responded positively to such treatment, versus 25 per 
cent in a placebo group.

"It seems to be incredibly beneficial," Haden said. "It's a 
psychotherapeutic process, and so what happens is people experience 
healing, which isn't a word that often researchers are comfortable with."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom