TheraPsil Seeking Patients for Psilocybin Compassionate-Use Application

Article by Bruce Tobin, Ph.D.
February 6, 2020

TheraPsil, a non-profit group dedicated to creating legal access to psilocybin for medical purposes, is expanding.

To augment our core team of seven clinicians, we have now acquired a group of excellent support and administrative people, including new Operations Director Spencer Hawkswell, Research and Evaluation specialist Andras Lenart, and advisors Ken Tupper and David Hurford.

We are still in discussion with Health Canada regarding our three-year-old application, which requests authorization to provide psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy to certain dying cancer patients.  These patients suffer from end-of-life distress (EOLD) – that combination of anxiety, depression, demoralization and hopelessness that often sets in following the diagnosis of a terminal illness.

Two landmark clinical studies, one from Johns Hopkins Medical Center, one from New York University, showed clearly in 2016 that treatment of EOLD of terminal cancer patients using psilocybin is both safe and effective.  It led to immediate, substantial, and sustained decreases in depression, death anxiety, cancer-related demoralization and hopelessness.   It resulted in increases in quality of life, life meaning, and optimism.  These changes have now persisted for several years after treatment.

However, though the results of such phase 2 clinical trials with psilocybin to treat end-of-life distress are robust and promising, it may still be another ten years before psilocybin makes it to market as an orthodox prescription medicine.  In the meantime, several thousand suffering patients need relief now.

This need has led us to pursue the interim goal of compassionate treatment.  Compassionate use allows patients who have life-threatening illnesses to receive promising but not yet fully studied or approved therapies when no other treatment options exist.

We are now recruiting patients who are willing to attach their names to patient-specific applications.  We are especially interested in working with patients whose psychological distress has not responded to other treatments.  Our inclusion criteria are posted on our website (thera-psil.ca).  If you think you might meet these criteria, we would like to hear from you. https://thera-psil.ca/contact-us/  

“Canadians now have the right to die”, says TheraPsil founder Bruce Tobin.  “But if we have the right to die, surely, we must have the right to try – to try psilocybin in trying to live better.”

Once we have identified our patient-partners, we’ll soon be moving into incorporation and a fund-raising campaign.  Our quest may well end up in Federal court if these patient applications are refused by Health Canada.  The high courts have ruled that that the absolute prohibition of medical cannabis violates Canadians’ Charter of Rights and Freedoms rights to liberty and security of person.  They have also ruled that “liberty includes the right to make decisions of fundamental personal importance, including the choice of medication to alleviate the effects of an illness with life-threatening consequences”.  We will show these rulings to be equally relevant in the case of psilocybin.

Our website, https://thera-psil.ca, contains more information on our team’s mission, values and personnel.  Check out the scientific, legal and ethical reasoning underlying our initiative.
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Bruce Tobin, PhD, is Program Director of TheraPsil. He is also a Registered Clinical Counsellor (BC) and Registered Psychologist (NWT). He received his doctorate from University of Washington in 1983, specializing in philosophy of psychology. He taught clinical skills for 25 years at University of Victoria, and worked under contract with Health Canada for 20 years providing psychological services to First Nations communities in the Victoria area. He is interested in the interface between psychology and spirituality, and the role that altered states of consciousness play in enhancing clinical processes.