Prairie Post (East Edition)
Protecting Albertans and supporting innovations in health
New quality standards will ensure Albertans accessing psychedelic assisted therapy in Alberta are receiving high-quality care overseen by mental health professionals.
The emerging field of psychedelic assisted therapy shows promise in treating a range of mental health conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and treatment-resistant depression. Because of the mind-altering properties of psychedelics, patients have a heightened vulnerability during treatment and face an increased risk of mental and physical harm.
Alberta is the first province in Canada to ensure proper safeguards and expert medical oversight are in place for psychedelic assisted therapy. An amendment to the Mental Health Services Protection Regulation establishes new quality standards for psychedelic drug treatment for mental health conditions while continuing to ensure access to promising treatments.
“Alberta is the first province to identify and understand that psychedelics are the future area of treatment for so many Canadians struggling with mental health. There is an opportunity for Alberta to be a leader in this field, and this begins by recognizing the need to protect anyone undergoing these treatments. It’s incredible to see Alberta leading the way in psychedelic assisted therapy by making sure Albertans are protected and working on improving access to care,” said Dr. Robert Tanguay, co-chair, Alberta Pain Strategy and co-lead, Rapid Access Addiction Medicine Program, Alberta Health Services.
“The evidence is growing to support psychedelics as a treatment option for mental illness. CPSA supports the promotion of safe, effective and innovative approaches to health care. Protecting the public while supporting and guiding regulated members remains our focus to ensure the provision of safe, high-quality care,” stated Dr. Scott McLeod, Registrar, College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta.
“It is my hope that this announcement inspires other jurisdictions in Canada – and abroad – to follow suit by promoting evidence-based therapeutic approaches that can improve the health and wellness of veterans, and opens the door to additional communities that will stand to benefit from equitable access to legal, safe, regulated, and affordable psychedelic therapies,” explained David Fascinato, executive director, Heroic Hearts Project Canada.
Based on the advice of experts, the requirements for psychedelic drug treatment differ depending on the level of risk involved, such as the use of ketamine versus other psychedelic drugs, whether the service includes psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, and whether the dosage is likely to cause an altered state of consciousness.
With certain exceptions, clinics offering psychedelic assisted treatment in Alberta must be licensed and have the medical oversight of a psychiatrist. As well, patients undergoing psychedelic drug treatment must be monitored by qualified health professionals if the dosage of the drug brings the patient into an altered state of consciousness.
In developing Alberta’s regulatory framework for psychedelic drug treatment, the province consulted with experts in psychedelic-assisted therapy, regulatory colleges and professional associations, as well as Alberta Health Services.
These changes are another important step in building Alberta’s recovery-oriented systems of care. Alberta spends more than $1 billion annually on addiction and mental health care and supports, including more than $58 million in mental health and addiction funding provided in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve expanded access to affordable counselling and accessible mental health supports; added more than 8,000 new publicly funded treatment spaces; eliminated daily user fees for residential addiction treatment; launched the Digital Overdose Response System (DORS) app; and expanded evidence-based opioid agonist treatment.
• Psychedelic drugs include psilocybin, psilocin, MDMA, LSD, mescaline, DMT and ketamine.
• Outside of a controlled clinical setting, psychedelic drugs are associated with an increased risk of mental and physical harms, including anxiety, panic attacks, accidents and self-harm. In addition, improper dose management can have devastating long-term impacts for some people.
• Alberta’s new requirements for psychedelic drug treatment for mental health disorders do not apply to clinical research trials. They also do not apply to psychedelics prescribed for the treatment of conditions other than psychiatric disorders, such as pain and cancer.
• With certain exceptions, the amendment requires that:
✦ Clinics providing psychedelic drug treatment must be licensed under the Mental Health Services Protection Act and appoint a psychiatrist to serve as medical director.
✦ Only a psychiatrist, or an appropriately trained physician in consultation with a psychiatrist, can prescribe psychedelic drugs used in treatment.
✦ Patients undergoing psychedelic drug treatments that induce an altered state of consciousness must be monitored by qualified health professionals for the duration of their treatment session.
• Albertans experiencing addiction or mental health challenges can contact 211 Alberta for support, information and referrals.