TheraPsil launches psilocybin-therapy study alongside university researchers

The study aims to understand the impact of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy on Canadian patients who experience end-of-life distress.

Sam Riches 3 minute read November 10, 2021

Dr. Bruce Tobin, left, founder of TheraPsil, and Thomas Hartle, the first Canadians to legally consume psilocybin for medical purposes. / TheraPsil Instagram

TheraPsil, a B.C.-based non-profit, has launched its first-ever research collaboration as it continues to advocate for the legalization of psilocybin for medical purposes.

In collaboration with researchers from McGill University and the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London, the quantitative research study aims to understand the impact of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy on Canadian patients who experience end-of-life distress.

Over the past year, TheraPsil has supported more than 30 patients and 19 healthcare professionals in five different provinces to obtain Section 56 exemptions to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) so they can legally use and possess psilocybin.

This study is being conducted by Hannes Kettner, a Ph.D. candidate at Imperial College London, Dr. Kyle Greenway, a senior resident in psychiatry at McGill University, Dr. Ryan Patchett-Marble, a generalist physician experienced in providing psilocybin-assisted treatment for end-of-life distress in Marathon, Ont., and Dr. Shannon Dames, a professor of nursing at Vancouver Island University.

“This research is important as it aims to provide data on how psilocybin-therapy is actually being carried out in the ‘real world’ in Canada, outside of the more rigid conditions of randomized controlled trials,” Kettner said in a statement.

Participants in the study will complete a series of online questionnaires both before and after they undergo a legal, guided experience with psilocybin, ranging from two weeks before treatment to six months after.

Julia Joyes, director of research at TheraPsil, said the data gathered from this study will advance the scientific understanding of psilocybin and how guided sessions may induce psychological change in patients experiencing end-of-life distress.

“Major scientific subjects of interest include the impact of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy on mood, spirituality and the desire for medical assistance in dying. The results have the potential to help develop future controlled studies on psychedelics, including clinical trials, and to enhance the safety of participants in a psychedelic session,” Joyes said.

Last year, Thomas Hartle, a father of two who has been living with a terminal diagnosis since 2016, became the first Canadian to legally consume psilocybin for medical purposes.

Following the session, which was conducted in the guest bedroom of his Saskatoon home, Hartle said he enjoyed the best sleep he’s had in years and experienced a significant reduction in anxiety.

“I have had anxiety for so long, I had sort of forgotten what it feels like to not have it,” Hartle said. “To experience the lack of anxiety I have had this week is beyond words. It’s amazing. I have no idea how long this particular benefit will last, but so long as it’s here, it’s really, really amazing and good.”

A Canadian public opinion survey conducted earlier this year found that the majority of respondents were in favour of legalizing psilocybin therapy, with support increasing once respondents were informed of research into psilocybin’s therapeutic potential.

TheraPsil worked with YouGov, a market research and data analytics firm headquartered in the U.K., to conduct the poll of more than 1,000 adults across Canada.

“We found majority levels of support across all provinces, demographics and political groupings,” noted a summary of the survey results.

Currently, psilocybin is illegal to possess, obtain or produce in Canada and is listed as a Schedule III controlled substance under the CDSA, the third-highest level of offence.

Subscribe to Weekend Dispensary, a new weekly newsletter from The GrowthOp.