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Clinical Trials on Treating Addiction with Psychedelics Planned in BC

Yes, including opioid addiction.

Allison Tierney

Allison Tierney

Photo via Wikimedia

BC is often regarded as one of the most-affected areas hit by the opioid crisis in Canada, where about four people die a day due to drug overdose. But soon the province could be the site of experimental addictions treatment using another class of drugs: hallucinogens. The BC Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU) is planning on conducting clinical trials this year using drugs like psilocybin (from magic mushrooms), LSD, and ayahuasca if funding is secured.

The BCCSU is an organization set up by BC to explore addictions research, particularly that which could be beneficial to the public health crisis it is currently reeling from. According to Dr. Kenneth Tupper, a lead researcher and director of the organization, this kind of research could offer a potential solution for many people across Canada currently suffering from opioid addiction. Addiction to opioids, such as fentanyl or heroin, is a notoriously intense condition: withdrawal, also known as being "dopesick," can cause a slew of painful and unbearable symptoms for patients.

"It's a matter of life or death," Tupper told CBC. "There's an urgent need to explore all different kinds of options, and this is one that seems to be very promising."

For the prospective trials, a patient would have to undergo a screening process, which would include identifying mental health conditions such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, to see if they're eligible. Then, if chosen, they would be meeting with a therapist for one to three sessions who would talk them through a psychedelic experience after they take a substance.

"It's often very unremarkable in these sessions themselves. People are usually wearing a blindfold, listening to music, and encouraged to introspect and reflect on their lives," Tupper said.

But for someone suffering from addiction, which can be associated with issues such as childhood trauma, that kind of experience could have powerful outcomes.

"Therapeutic outcomes are often correlated with a mystical or a spiritual-type experience. People often have deep insights about themselves and their relationships with others and with god," Tupper said, "and sometimes, as a consequence, have significant behavioural changes."

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