Prairie Post (East Edition)

Protecting Albertans and supporting innovation­s in health

- Contribute­d

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.

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