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London health practitioners explore potential clinical benefits of magic mushrooms

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A campaign to recruit medical practitioners in advocating for the clinical use of psilocybin took aim at London, Ont. this week.

Better known for its recreational name, magic mushrooms, some hope the drug can find its way into the medical mainstream to treat mental health.

“I started doing some deep research into other healing modalities. First it was through cannabis, and then reaching into psilocybin, and realizing there’s other ways for our body to heal,” explained Amelia Holden.

The social worker was taking part in a week-long series of workshops teaching those in the health and wellness professions about how to use psilocybin to treat trauma, depression, end of life distress, and other mental health conditions.

Clinical psychologist Dr. Zafire Fierro also took part in the sessions. She’s interested in how psilocybin can help those who are hurting.

“The research shows the increase in wellness in people who are using it for treating their mental health,” she said.

The training is being conducted by Therapsil, which bills itself as a non-profit advocating for legal, regulated psychedelics in Canada.

Instructor and psychotherapist Rich Tyo said psilocybin has medicinal properties that haven’t been fully explored.

“There was a lot of research in the 50s and 60s, and then because of the war on drugs it was all shut down,” he said. “People who are needing to access these medicines for medical reasons or psychological reasons should have a right to do that.”

While advocates aim to promote what they believe are the psychotherapeutic benefits of psilocybin, one of Canada’s leading researchers says the potential is there, but the proof is not.

“Psilocybin is a powerful drug. It may have potential towards PTSD, depression, etcetera, but a lot of it remains unproven,” explained Dr. Jibran Khokhar.

An associate professor at the Schulich School of Medicine, Khokhar also serves as the Canada Research Chair in Translational Neuropsychopharmacology.

He also advocates for further research into the drug, and for its decriminalization. He warns, however, that without clinical testing and regulation it can be dangerous.

“Especially if you have a family history of psychosis, these drugs can exacerbate or worsen psychoses. In addition to that, in some cases instead of being helpful they can actually exacerbate the condition they are being used to treat,” he said.

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