Federal Court ruling sets back health workers seeking psilocybin mushroom access
VANCOUVER – Darryl Greer – The Canadian Press Sept. 30, 2023
Megan McLaren thought her future career was in law enforcement, but her path radically shifted thanks in part to psychedelic drug therapy, she says.
McLaren left a civilian position with the Vancouver Police Department in 2019 for a job in counselling with the Surrey School District and is now a registered clinical counsellor with a practice in Squamish, B.C.
When the pandemic hit and her position was cut from the school district, she began researching psychedelics, eventually signing up for a three-month group therapy program involving the use of ketamine in mid-2021.
Now, she and dozens of other health care professionals across the country are fighting the federal government in court for legal access to psychedelics, namely psilocybin mushrooms, in order to offer such therapeutic treatments in their practices.
Before they can offer patients these drug-assisted therapies though, doctors, psychologists, counsellors, and nurses want a special exemption from Canada’s Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
The exemption would allow them to take magic mushrooms themselves in “experiential training” before they’re qualified to offer the treatments to patients.
“We’ve got people in Canada right now who are being approved for medical assistance in dying, and those same people are being unapproved for taking mushrooms,” McLaren said in an interview.
“We’re in a little bit of a backwards moment when Canada is more willing to end people’s lives than to give them a chance of surviving or dying with dignity, dying with less anxiety.”
McLaren is part of a group of more than 60 other health care professionals that applied this month to the Federal Court of Canada to overturn a decision denying them the needed exemptions.
A ruling in a nearly identical case filed in 2022 involving almost 100 other health care professionals was dismissed on Sept. 25 by a Federal Court judge who upheld the decision denying them the exemptions.
The judge found “there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate a need for, or benefit of, experiential training with psilocybin.”
“The evidence does not establish that psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy by an experientially trained practitioner is safer and more effective, and the decisions do not prevent patients from accessing psilocybin under their own exemption or accessing psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy,” the ruling says.
Ottawa-based human rights lawyer Nicholas Pope said Friday that he’ll be appealing the ruling all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada if necessary.
He said he’s confident that case law and precedents are on the side of both patients and health care workers seeking legal access to psilocybin mushrooms.
Pope said it’s a “unique situation” where case law related to pre-legalization cannabis litigation set the stage for legal battles involving mushrooms now.
“Here we have a safer substance, a substance that there’s more evidence for its efficacy and we have two decades of law (established) that says people have a right to access this, so it’s just a matter of time before we get these cases before the right courts,” he said.
Pope said it is an “absurd situation” where anyone can easily access psilocybin mushrooms from illegal dispensaries that have popped up across the country, while people with “serious and pressing medical issues and health concerns” are fighting for legal access.
“That’s why I’ve been taking on a lot of these cases and doing them pro bono because this is just something that needs to change,” he said.
Pope said a lawsuit filed on behalf of several patients in July 2022 is the most pivotal, challenging Canada’s prohibition on psilocybin as unconstitutional.
“That’s sort of the big glacial pace action that seeks to strike down the whole system,” he said.
Thomas Hartle, one of eight plaintiffs in that case, said in an interview in August that access to mushrooms isn’t necessarily the problem, but rather access to qualified therapists who can administer the treatment.
Diagnosed with colon cancer eight years ago, Hartle was one of the first people in the country allowed to consume mushrooms legally under what’s known as the special access program, but he had to fly to B.C. from his home in Saskatchewan to undergo the treatment.
Travelling anywhere is both physically and financially draining, he said, but with no qualified psilocybin therapists closer to home, he’s had to spend thousands on travel, food and accommodations to receive the therapy out of province.
Hartle said Friday that his stage four cancer is still progressing, but mushroom therapy sessions have been effective in lightening the end-of-life anxiety associated with it.
He said the lawsuit moves “like a glacier,” as he grapples with an uncertain future.
“I do kind of these days feel like the legal case will probably outlive me,” he said. “I am not at this time anticipating seeing a resolution to that. I would really like to, but the pace that things are going I don’t think that is a realistic expectation for me.”
Story from – BC CTV
Hamilton’s first magic mushroom store opens
Dispensary is pushing for legalization; police are investigating
By Ritika Dubey – Spectator Reporter
Tuesday, December 13, 2022
Hamilton’s first-ever psilocybin mushrooms store opened Monday on Main Street East.
Catching up on the trends on the West Coast, and more recently, Toronto, the Mushroom Cabinet is part of “the cause” — pushing to bring legal psychedelic reforms and reducing stigma around the substance, said Matthew Francis, the store’s spokesperson.
“We’re interested in pushing forward and getting into legalization,” he said.
Before the mushrooms store front took over, the location was a provincially licensed cannabis store, the city said.
Francis, a Hamiltonian who makes a living through standup comedy, compared the psilocybin mushrooms store to the illegal cannabis market before the legalization of the substance, calling it “a grey area.”
“I know it’s technically not a grey area,” he said, “but Health Canada is approving medicinal (psilocybin) and that’s how it happened with cannabis too. I see it being the same thing.”
For their part, Health Canada says, “At this time, there are no approved therapeutic products containing psilocybin in Canada.” Health Canada also contests Francis’ suggestion that cannabis followed a similar path, saying that therapeutic uses of cannabis were not approved before legalization.
In 2020, the federal Health Ministry started exempting some palliative patients with end-of-life distress to use medical psilocybin for treating their mental health. But since 2021, the process came to a halt leading some patients to later sue the minister of health over access to mushrooms.
Health Canada’s website lists mushrooms as illegal, but acknowledges “increasing interest” in therapeutic uses of the drug. Among risks, Health Canada lists “bad trips,” “flashbacks” and the potential for side effects when consumed with other substances.
He was also involved in unlicensed cannabis stores and dispensaries prior to the cannabis legalization, which later closed down after the substance was legalized. “That was the goal to get things legal. It wasn’t for money,” he said.
Hamilton police said they’re investigating the store after receiving a tip through the city’s Crime Stoppers earlier on Monday.
“Police are investigating as psilocybin is considered a Schedule III drug, which means it is illegal to distribute the substance,” police spokesperson Jackie Penman said.
Francis said he isn’t “necessarily worried” about the newly opened store being shut down, drawing a comparison with cannabis stores prior to legalization. “Psilocybin will be no different. It’s a charter issue … and as an adult, you should be able to control what you put into your body.”
Story from – Hamilton Spectator
A Legal Play for ‘Shrooms in Canada Could Make Waves in the US
Tiffany Kary – August 8, 2022
Welcome to The Dose, a weekly newsletter on cannabis and psychedelics. It’s clear from many pitches in my inbox that the psychedelics industry is optimistic the new Netflix series, ‘How To Change Your Mind,’ will spur more interest in the still-illegal drugs. But what are the actual prospects for a legal market to buy and sell them? Here’s a look at a lawsuit that some say has a shot at real change.
Canada’s big case
A Canadian lawsuit over magic mushrooms could help spur the wave of liberalization the nascent industry has been pushing for. So just who is behind it, and what are its prospects?
Filed in late July, the lawsuit challenges the Canadian federal government to make it easier for medical patients to get access to psilocybin, arguing that current regulations violate their constitutional rights. Brought on behalf of eight individuals with conditions such as depression, cancer and chronic pain, the lawsuit came together with the help of TheraPsil, a Victoria-based nonprofit that helps patients access psychedelic drugs through Canada’s current bureaucratic process of applying, one patient at a time, for government approval.
The case isn’t expected to see trial for another year or so, but if it succeeds, it could force Canada to set up a legal framework for medical psilocybin, similar to the one it established for medical marijuana in 2001. And, just as with Canada’s early adoption of medical marijuana, it could be a harbinger of more open access in the US and beyond.
“It doesn’t take a genius to look at what happened with cannabis,” said Spencer Hawkswell, TheraPsil’s chief executive officer.
The legal challenge came about collectively through the nonprofit’s board, which is made up of patients and healthcare practitioners who questioned how to speed up access to psilocybin for patients who don’t have long to live, Hawkswell told me. TheraPsil estimates its waitlist of people seeking help who are in palliative care is around 900. It has had about 2,000 requests in total.
One patient and plaintiff in the case is Thomas Hartle, a 54-year old former IT specialist with stage four colon cancer. He’s found psilocybin helps manage his anxiety about his condition. But after taking it about four times through Canada’s legal avenues, he’s having a hard time getting more, Hartle said. (Even though some people are “one and done,” he said he needs it about every six months to reset his frame of mind.)
The case could do more than just help Hartle and other Canadian patients. It’s part of a broad movement of advocacy that’s coming both from individuals and foundations.
“I think every step forward for psychedelics anywhere in the world helps every other jurisdiction that wants to legalize,” said Sanjay Singhal, a Canadian entrepreneur whose Nikean Foundation has donated to TheraPsil. He noted that while Nikean is an “enthusiastic supporter” of the legal action, as a charity, it can’t participate in legal or lobbying efforts. Singhal, who co-founded Audiobooks.com, recently sold that company.
Other TheraPsil donors include David Bronner, the CEO of Dr. Bronner’s soap, who’s been instrumental in US marijuana legalization and whose company donated more than $1 million to Oregon’s psychedelics legalization efforts. There’s also the Evolve Foundation, which describes itself as a philanthropic organization focused on the US and China. It has made more than 40 grants to organizations, many in the psychedelics and mindfulness space, according to its website.
Pushing for Changes
As efforts expand to legalize psychedelic treatments, an initiative in Oregon, which counted Bronner among its supporters, has found success.
It has the state on course to start legalized use for wellness starting in 2023. Some cities, such as Seattle and Detroit, have decriminalized psychedelic substances, which may improve research and an underground market, but doesn’t do much for legal products. Other efforts have fallen a bit flat — like a regulatory change in Canada earlier this year that has aimed to improve access for patients but has been criticized as too slow by TheraPsil and others.
Given Canada’s proximity to the large and influential US market — and the path of marijuana across North America — Canada’s psilocybin lawsuit has spurred some high hopes.
“If the lawsuit prevails, it’s going to be a revolution,” said Marc Goldgrub, a Toronto-based lawyer with Green Economy Law who specializes in psychedelics. Narrow medical use may pressure Canada to allow more widespread use for wellness — similar to Oregon’s approach.
“Money talks. I think if they open an individualized medical program, so much money is going to come up to Canada,” he told me. “And that money will push for a lot more.”
From there, the pressure would be on to the US to move forward with its own versions of legalization to stem an outflow of cash and talent to Canada, he predicted.
“We’re already seeing that money here,” he said. “I’m already getting calls from Americans who want to get involved.”
Story from – Bloomberg News
1st patient in Quebec gets approval from Health Canada for magic mushroom therapy
Montreal clinic becomes 1st in province to treat depression with psilocybin
When Thomas Hartle indulges in a session of psilocybin treatment, the end-of-life anxiety, distractions and noises associated with his terminal colon cancer go away.
“Before the treatment, it’s like you’re sitting in your car. It’s summer. You have your windows down, You’re stuck in rush-hour traffic. It’s noisy. It’s unpleasant,” said Hartle, who lives in Saskatchewan.
“Your favourite song is on the radio, but you can’t actually appreciate any of it because all of the other distractions are preventing you from even noticing that the radio is on. After a psilocybin treatment, [it’s like] you’re still in your car, in traffic, but you have the windows up, the air conditioning is on and it’s quiet. It’s just you and the music.”
Hartle, 54, is one of the very few Canadians to have received legal psychedelics psychotherapy for a mental health condition since Health Canada made it easier in January for health-care workers to access psilocybin — the hallucinogenic compound found in some mushrooms.
In Montreal, meanwhile, a pioneering clinic in the emerging field of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy is about to become the first health-care facility in Quebec to legally treat depression with psilocybin.
“It’s a privilege to be able to accompany people in the exploration of their psychological distress and to offer something different than conventional treatment such as antidepressants,” Dr. Andrew Bui-Nguyen, of the Mindspace by Numinus clinic, said in a recent interview.
Bui-Nguyen said his clinic received Health Canada’s approval on May 5 to care for a patient who had undergone several unsuccessful treatments for depression.
“There’s a rigorous screening procedure,” Bui-Nguyen said, adding that Quebec’s health insurance plan doesn’t cover the treatment. “We look at the diagnosis, the medical history, if there’s a risk of addiction, what treatments have already been tried. There must have been a lot of treatments done beforehand so the application is solid.”
Health Canada on Jan. 5 restored its “Special Access Program” — abolished under former prime minister Stephen Harper in 2013 — allowing health-care experts to request access to restricted drugs that have not yet been authorized for sale in the country.
Before January, people could only access psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy through clinical trials or medical exemptions. Now, licensed experts can file applications on behalf of patients with mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety, but for whom conventional treatment has failed.
Health Canada says it has received 15 requests for the use of psilocybin or MDMA — a psychedelic drug with stimulant properties — since resuming the program.
In April, a clinic called Roots To Thrive, in Nanaimo, B.C., became the first health centre in Canada to offer a legal psilocybin group therapy program, in which Hartle took part.
“The therapy part has a capital T in this whole process,” Hartle said. “It isn’t just taking psychedelics. It’s just a tool in the process; the therapy is crucial to getting a good outcome.”
Psychedelic-assisted treatment, Bui-Nguyen explained, requires multiple therapy sessions before and after patients experience the drug. Patients will consume psilocybin while they are supervised by two psychotherapists and remain in the clinic-secured environment for up to six hours.
“It’s not miraculous,” Bui-Nguyen said. “You don’t take psilocybin and that’s it, a psychedelic trip and after the depression is cured — no! The patient has a lot of work to do. But it opens perspectives; it creates new paths in the brain that we aren’t used to taking. The patient then explores new roads to get out of depression.”
In the world’s largest study on psychedelics’ affect on the brain, released in March in the journal Science Advances, lead author Danilo Bzdok said psychedelic drugs might just be the next big thing to improve clinical care of major mental health conditions.
“There’s something like a renaissance, a reawakening of psychedelics,” Bzdok, an associate professor with McGill University’s biomedical engineering department, said in a recent interview.
He said the evidence-based benefits are very promising. Patients, he said, say they have experienced up to six months of lasting effects after a single psychedelic-aided therapy session. They have also experienced a reduction of symptoms associated with mental health conditions, Bzdok said, adding that there were fewer side-effects compared to antidepressants.
Mindspace by Numinus CEO Payton Nyquvest said psychedelics have the potential to become a widespread treatment. As Health Canada continues to approve more requests, he hopes the recognition will make the treatment much more accessible.
“We haven’t seen significant innovation in mental health care in probably over 40 years,” Nyquvest said in a recent interview.
“We’re at a time where new and better treatments for mental health are needed now more than ever. No matter what you look at, depression, anxiety, and suicidality … these are all rates that continue to go up with no clear line in terms of how we’re going to address these massive societal issues. Psychedelics represent an opportunity to make a significant impact.”
Hartle’s own experience echoed those hopes. “The improvement in my mental health is so night and day that it would be difficult to say all of the things that it does for me,” he said.
“I still have cancer. I still have difficulty with what it physically does, but there are days when I don’t even think about it. What would you do to have a day where you just feel normal?”
Story from – CBC.ca
Terminally ill B.C. patients the first in Canada to consume legal supply of magic mushrooms
“Having this approval, I feel like the luckiest person. I know a number of people with cancer who have died waiting for one.” — Thomas Hartle
Psychedelic-inspired approaches for treating neurodegenerative disorders
This Review article is part of the special issue – Psychedelics & Neurochemistry
Psychedelics are increasingly being recognized for their potential to treat a wide range of brain disorders including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and substance use disorder. Their broad therapeutic potential might result from an ability to rescue cortical atrophy common to many neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases by impacting neurotrophic factor gene expression, activating neuronal growth and survival mechanisms, and modulating the immune system. While the therapeutic potential of psychedelics has not yet been extended to neurodegenerative disorders, we provide evidence suggesting that approaches based on psychedelic science might prove useful for treating these diseases. The primary target of psychedelics, the 5-HT2A receptor, plays key roles in cortical neuron health and is dysregulated in Alzheimer’s disease. Moreover, evidence suggests that psychedelics and related compounds could prove useful for treating the behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD). While more research is needed to probe the effects of psychedelics in models of neurodegenerative diseases, the robust effects of these compounds on structural and functional neuroplasticity and inflammation clearly warrant further investigation.
For more information: OnLine Library – Wiley.com
Download PDF here: PDF
People ‘microdosing’ on psychedelics to improve wellbeing during pandemic
Addiction expert says findings of survey suggest small doses of drugs being taken to treat health issues – December 2021
There has been a shift towards recreational drug users taking tiny doses of psychedelics, such as LSD and magic mushrooms, to improve their wellbeing and mental health during the pandemic, a leading addiction expert has said.
People were microdosing to self-medicate rather than following the trend, popularised in Silicon Valley, of consuming small amounts of psychedelics to enhance creativity, Prof Adam Winstock, the founder and director of the Global Drug Survey, said.
The 2021 survey found that among those respondents who both microdosed and took psychiatric drugs almost half reported reducing or stopping their prescribed medication.
Winstock, a London-based consultant psychiatrist and addiction medicine specialist, said the findings suggested people had been experimenting with microdosing during the pandemic, perhaps due to increased waiting times for mental health services.
The report also found people were experimenting with a wide variety of psychedelics. About a third of those who microdosed with LSD or magic mushrooms (psilocybin) reported also trying other substances, including ecstasy (MDMA), ketamine, a dissociative anaesthetic, and ayahuasca, a strong hallucinogenic plant-cocktail revered by indigenous faith healers.
While a tripping dose of LSD is about 100 micrograms, ambitious tech workers from Silicon Valley have eulogised the effect of taking 10 to 20 micrograms every few days on their creativity and productivity, with people in the UK reporting doing so for similar reasons.
“In the past people were using microdosing for performance enhancement and creativity,” said Winstock. “Now, I think people are shifting towards using microdosing to enhance wellbeing and to address mental health distress.”
Of the fifth of microdosers who said they were taking psychiatric drugs, about a quarter reported they stopped taking their medications altogether and another quarter reduced their intake.
“This, for me, is microdosing shifting into treating mental health,” added Winstock, who is an honorary clinical professor at the Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care, University College London.
More than a fifth of respondents to the survey who had used LSD and magic mushrooms in the last 12 months reported having microdosed either drug during that period.
Three-quarters of them reported no side-effects, while about 10% reported unwanted mental effects and 8% physical effects.
Winstock was cautious about the findings, noting that the majority of research on psychedelics and mental health involved full doses of the drugs.
He said he hoped the survey would encourage mental health services, the psychiatric establishment and policymakers to engage positively with microdosing, adding that if the practice remains illegal vulnerable people could be exploited or accidentally take hallucinogenic and harmful doses.
The largest placebo-controlled trial into psychedelics to date by researchers at Imperial College London found that the mood uplift reported by microdosers might just be the placebo effect.
One of the lead researchers on that study, Dr David Erritzoe, clinical director of the university’s Centre for Psychedelic Research, said he supported further clinical trials into the possible benefits of microdosing.
But he added that the hype around the practice was leading people to report inflated positive effects.
“The problem is that it’s a bit counterculture and from something as cool as Silicon Valley. You have bestselling books by really cool people writing about how their lives have been transformed. And it taps into scepticism about medical expertise and big pharma. All that adds to people’s expectations and a potential placebo effect.”
The 2021 Global Drug Survey, which received responses from more than 32,000 people from more than 20 countries between December 2020 and March 2021, also noted the impact of Covid, with a slight drop in the use of recreational drugs.
While the use of psychedelics had dropped slightly over that period, Winstock said data from the previous six years showed an upward trend in their use.
Many people also reported that they had taken further precautions when taking drugs socially during the pandemic.
Of the 14,000 respondents who reported using cannabis, 42% said they less frequently shared a joint, vape, pipe or bong with other people during the pandemic.
Just under a quarter (24%) said they were more likely to use joints, pipes and bongs prepared only by themselves, while a fifth reported increasing social distancing while using cannabis.
Of the respondents who reported using cocaine, 26% said they were less likely to share a straw or snorter with another person, while a fifth said they were less likely to snort a line racked up by someone else.
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Story from The Guardian
Metaphysics and mushrooms: Psychedelics can change how you think about the universe
Research shows that psilocybin leads people away from materialism and toward transcendentalism. Apparently, mushrooms teach metaphysics.
Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that deals with “being.” A new study finds that a single trip on a psychedelic can cause lasting changes in a person’s metaphysical beliefs. Overall, people moved away from “hard materialism” to more transcendental, idealistic, and supernatural views of the cosmos.
After decades of being shunned, psychedelics are enjoying a biomedical renaissance because many of them show great promise in treating a variety of mental health conditions when used in tightly controlled environments. Now, a new study, soon to be published in Scientific Reports, claims that psychedelics can change a person’s beliefs about metaphysics.
Of metaphysics and mushrooms
Everyone has metaphysical beliefs, even if they are unaware of them. For example, many people have an intuitive belief in mind-body duality (that is, the mind and body are separable) even if they have never heard of the term. These beliefs are often associated with certain behaviors as well, with dualists taking less care of their bodies than physicalists, who argue that the mind is part of the body. Similar relationships between metaphysical beliefs and human behavior can be found elsewhere. Those who believe in free will are less likely to lie, cheat, and be aggressive.
Sharpening one’s understanding of metaphysics can be accomplished with various methods, such as meditation. Near death experiences often do the same. One commonly discussed but less investigated method is psychedelic drug use. While many anecdotes suggest that psychedelics cause people to adopt a non-materialist view of the cosmos, hard data was lacking. After all, it could just be that those already predisposed to idealism — the notion that fundamental reality is mental rather than physical — are also more likely to try these drugs.
In the first attempt to confirm and quantify these effects, a team of researchers led by Dr. Christopher Timmermann of the Centre for Psychedelic Research at the Imperial College London gauged the metaphysical stances of several hundred people before and after they tripped in a ritualistic setting.
Philosophy, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll
The study came in two parts. In the first, nearly 900 volunteers who signed up to attend a psychedelic ceremony were recruited to answer a series of questions — for instance, on realms of existence — aimed at determining their baseline metaphysical beliefs. After the ceremony (in which psilocybin was used), the volunteers were asked to complete the survey again four weeks and six months later.
In general, users reported moving away from belief in materialism or physicalism — that is, the idea that the universe is primarily physical rather than mental or spiritual — and toward other views such as transcendentalism, non-naturalism, or idealism. Effects were seen at both four weeks and six months, and the effects were largest for those who were taking the drug for the first time. Another important change was the drift from hardline stances of any kind toward more mixed or moderate views. Participants also reported improved mental health.
The clinical trial was similar but involved only 60 participants. Half were given escitalopram (an antidepressant) and the other half psilocybin. The results were largely the same, with the psilocybin group experiencing a shift away from hard materialism toward more transcendental, idealistic, and supernatural conceptions of the universe.
Overall, the psychedelic experience moved people away from a “hard materialist” view. However, regardless of belief (in materialism or dualism), people tended to moderate their views after taking the drug — as if psychedelics made people more tolerant of uncertainty.
In an email to BigThink, Dr. Timmermann summarized the findings by explaining:
“…[t]hat we provide evidence for the first time that psychedelics shift beliefs concerning the nature of reality. These beliefs are central to the way human beings organize society and may correspond to deeply rooted worldviews. Specifically, we found that people rejected the notion of physicalism (the idea that the world is made up of material, as opposed to mental or spiritual things) after a single psychedelic experience, endorsed the notion of fate more, and also the idea that all things in the universe are conscious, what we call panpsychism. Importantly, we found that these changes were related to improvements in mental health.”
The authors note that it is beyond the scope of the paper to draw any conclusions regarding which metaphysical system is best for mental health. They do speculate that very stringent beliefs of any kind about metaphysics are unhealthy. Finally, the authors advise that future studies involving psychedelics warn participants that their worldviews may be altered by their participation. Caveat emptor: Acid might change your perspective on panpsychism.
Story from Big Think
Mark Messier on leadership, trust and magic mushrooms
The hockey icon talks with Marie-Danielle Smith about mental health, hockey violence—and what he’ll do when the New York Rangers call
By Marie-Danielle Smith – October 21, 2021
He’s a six-time Stanley Cup winner, the second most prolific playoff-points scorer ever, a two-time most valuable player in the NHL, a 15-time all-star and the only person ever to captain two different teams to Stanley Cup championships—the Edmonton Oilers, even after the departure of his great friend Wayne Gretzky, and the New York Rangers.
First he was “the Moose,” then he was “the Messiah,” according to New Yorkers—that’s a play on his last name—for ending a 54-year Stanley Cup drought in 1994. He’s an officer of the Order of Canada. And he’s now the author of a memoir he hopes will convey the lessons he learned along the way.
Mark Messier chatted with me ahead of the release of No One Wins Alone, authored with writer Jimmy Roberts. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: Your book is a meditation on leadership as much as it is a memoir. What’s the biggest lesson you’re hoping people will draw from it?
A: One of the questions I get all the time is: what’s the single most important lesson of leadership? I’m not sure there’s an answer because it’s so multidimensional. I do know that earning trust is just massive and earning the right to lead the people is critical. You know, Abe Lincoln said no man can govern another without his consent. You can’t expect to lead people unless you’ve earned that right.
Q: How do you earn it?
A: It always starts with trust. One of the most important things I did with the players I played with was getting to know them on a more personal level. Taking the time to understand where they came from. Understanding who they are as people and spending as much time as possible with them away from the rink so you develop a relationship that is deeper than a professional relationship.
John Wooden, a great basketball coach, said great coaching is being able to give correction without resentment. When you’ve got to be honest with a player and he might not like it but he doesn’t hold it against you or think you have something against him as a person. As a leader you’ve got to be able to go home at night and put your head on the pillow and know it’s up to him to resolve the issue.
Q: You talk about the importance of connection between teammates. Your relationship with Wayne Gretzky shines through as a critical one.
A: It’s not very often that you can look at someone eight days younger than you and look at them as a role model. Normally you get that from folks who are much older than you, who have been around with much more experience. But our best example was the same age as us. We’re all grateful that the stars collided and that we all came together at the same time.
Q: How important is it to see your teammates as friends?
A: When we talk about being brothers, I don’t think we reference each other like that lightly. Maybe you don’t need to have that in order to win, I don’t know—I didn’t have that experience on the teams I was fortunate enough to win with. Maybe you can win without that real tight level of friendship.
Q: How important is it to believe you’re going to win, and to be able to say that out loud?
A: I don’t think you can be afraid to fail. I think you really need to be forthright in your objective. For us in hockey at a professional level, you have a very defined goal of what success is. You can have smaller goals along the way and celebrate those goals, but ultimately you’re there for one reason and that’s to win a Stanley Cup. It might take some time to build a team and get some experience and put the pieces in place to do that. But you always have to have in the back of your mind on a day-to-day basis: are we closer to winning a Stanley Cup or are we further away?
And making sure that everybody in the organization, whether they’re on the ice as a player, or with a trainer or a doctor, physicians, therapists, equipment managers, managers, coaches, everybody is there with the same goal in mind, believing in the philosophy and the vision of the team and the culture the team created. Then you just start chopping wood and carrying water toward that goal.
Q: You probably get this question all the time, but is there a moment you would pick out as your ultimate career highlight?
A: To come to New York and win a championship that hadn’t been won in 54 years was incredible. And it’s pretty remarkable what happened in Edmonton, coming from an expansion team to winning the Stanley Cup, and going on to win five cups in seven years. I just can’t compartmentalize one moment in a career over 26 years. There’s too many special moments and they’re all different in their own rights.
Q: The game has changed a lot since you started playing, especially in the physicality. What do you think of how hockey has evolved?
A: I’m happy the game has evolved in so many ways. They’ve made changes to the game to get the speed and the finesse and the artistry back into the game, instead of hooking and clutching and holding and grabbing. They opened up the game to more excitement for the fans. It’s a better product when the game is played like that. There’s still plenty of physicality.
The equipment has changed. Technology has entered into hockey like every other sport, not only with the equipment but with the training. The players are making incredible use of science now to train all year round. So many things have advanced in the sport, but ultimately in the end the game is still won on the ice between the boards. It always gets down to a test of will, and that’s what makes hockey so great.
Q: There’s a scene in the book where your son is looking at old videos and he says something like, “You’d be in jail for some of those hits if they happened now.” How do you talk to your kids, and young people, about how things used to be and how much has changed?
A: I think we all recognize that as the game evolved and concussions started to enter into sports, if things didn’t change, the game wouldn’t last. So the game had to evolve and I’m glad both the NHLPA and the NHL took a collaborative effort to do that, and the players took the responsibility to change the way the game was played.
I don’t think anybody’s proud of some of the things that happened back in the day, but it was a different landscape back then. Intimidation was a huge part of hockey. [The game] evolved into something that is acceptable with all the social media applications and video reviews. You can’t get away with anything.
Some of our games back when I first started playing professional hockey weren’t even televised. There wasn’t even a camera in the rink. And we’ve brought the fans closer to the game. The fans are more knowledgeable about what’s going on, not only on the ice but also behind the scenes. The culture of professional sports is more exposed than ever.
Q: There seems to be no room for error with social media. What do you think about what young players are dealing with today?
A: There’s a different kind of pressure on the players now that we were never exposed to, socially, politically, and the choices they make and the way they represent not only the team but also the league and the community.
What it really boils down to is character becomes high-stakes, or of very high importance. To be able to handle it all. We don’t expect anybody not to make mistakes, mistakes are part of life, it’s how you learn, it’s how you grow, it’s how you evolve. So I think there’s some forgiveness for a mistake but there’s not forgiveness for a history of certain actions that aren’t acceptable anymore.
Q: Are you worried that forgiveness isn’t always extended to people who might deserve it? The online mob kind of picks its targets.
A: If you go down the rabbit hole of getting acceptance from people online, that’s a dangerous place to be. I don’t think it’s a good idea for anybody to be looking there for self-worth or validation, acceptance, because as we know there are people who just don’t have anything better to do who will be hurtful. It’s not a good place to be looking for that kind of information.
Q: Younger athletes are applauded today for talking about the pressure they’re under, and prioritizing their mental health even if it means taking time away from competing. Do you think that’s a good thing?
A: Everybody needs help no matter what position you’re in, no matter where you are in your own life. The biggest thing that has come out of all of this is that there’s no shame in admitting any problem, and seeking help has been very productive and helpful for a lot of folks.
Q: You talk in the book about conquering negative self-talk and learning to think positively about yourself. Were there times when that was hard for you?
A: I didn’t think about it much as a young player, to be honest with you. I had a lot of confidence. But everybody struggles. Even at the peak of my career I would struggle at times. I was fortunate enough that we had sports psychology seminars at a very early age, basically the first year of my career when I was 18 years old. I kept it with me my whole career.
Self-confidence is huge and a big part of that is self-talk—when things aren’t going well, not to be negative. You have to figure out what went wrong so you’re able to move on from any failure.
Q: You describe taking magic mushrooms at 19 as a transformative experience. Tell me more about how your perspective expanded.
A: Well that’s what it did for me. I had no idea the mind was that powerful. And how could eating a natural mushroom that was organically grown create that kind of stimulus? Obviously it turned out to be an amazing experience, but more important was the question afterwards: wow, how can I use my mind to empower myself to be a better player, to be a better person, to have more energy, to create a better aura?
So then I became interested in Eastern philosophy, meditation, Buddhism, the spirituality of Indigenous peoples. The power of the mind.
Q: Is spirituality still a big part of your life?
A: It’s always been a big part of my life. I grew up Catholic but was interested in a lot of Eastern philosophy. So I think spirituality became more important to me than the so-called religion I grew up with.
Q: You obviously took leadership lessons from these philosophies. You even end the book with a quote from a Hindu text.
A: There are so many powerful lessons to be learned about the goodness that lives in everybody’s heart. And creating a culture that is just so rich with humility and passion and creativity and all the things that make it fun to come to the rink, or to come to work. It’s the essence of a team that can go all the way. A unique environment with the diversity of the players, of where they come from, and their ideas. And really acknowledging that and letting people shine in their own ways.
Q: You talk about the importance of diversity and making people feel comfortable, but people of colour haven’t always felt comfortable in the NHL. What are your thoughts on that?
A: I know a huge mandate—from the NHL, the NHLPA and everybody involved with the league—is to grow the game. Diversify the game. Give more kids—more girls, more boys—access, opportunity. And it just makes sense. The Kingsbridge [Armory] project I was doing in the Bronx, that’s what it was for, to grow the game and its diversity by creating access and opportunity that are just not there right now. The NHL has immersed themselves in communities and they’ve taught boys and girls the game of hockey who’ve become fans and who are going to continue to get more people of colour involved in the game.
Q: Do you think that in the past there were failures of leadership on this?
A: I can’t speak to that myself. I don’t know enough to say yes or no. I think creating access and opportunity is a huge first step.
Q: Would you be tempted to get involved in the NHL again as a coach or a manager?
A: I think I’ve always felt I could help an organization in many ways. But it’s important to be with people who believe you can help. If it happens, great. If it doesn’t happen, that’s okay as well. If the occasion ever came where someone thought I could help them, I would be more than happy to have that conversation.
Q: If the New York Rangers called, would you go for it?
A: I don’t work in hypotheticals. If the right person thought I could help their team, I’d be more than willing to listen.
Story from – MacLean
Ketamine and psilocybin, better known as party drugs, showing promise for treatment of mood disorders
Chad Derrick, W5 producer and Avery Haines, W5 correspondent
Saturday, October 23, 2021
TORONTO — It’s been more than a decade since Bruno Guevremont returned to Canada from his military deployment to Afghanistan. Like so many other veterans, Guevremont’s combat experiences took a mental toll.
During his second tour in 2009, Guevremont was part of a team that dismantled IEDs, or improvised explosive devices.
One incident, in particular, changed him. Guevremont says he was the first Canadian soldier ever to defuse a suicide vest on a living person. But it wasn’t the high degree of danger in that situation that affected him.
“The suicide bomber was mentally challenged. He had been told that if he doesn’t do this, then they were going to kill his family,” Guevremont told W5 correspondent Avery Haines. “So that started playing with my mind.”
After his return to Canada, Guevremont suffered panic attacks and suicidal thoughts. He was diagnosed with PTSD, depression and anxiety.
When talk therapy and anti-depressants didn’t help, Guevremont sought alternatives in an attempt to recover his mental health. He joined an Arctic expedition with other veterans in 2014, captained Team Canada at the 2016 Invictus Games, and became a mental health spokesperson for Bell Let’s Talk Day.
Then, in March, 2020, the COVID-19 lockdown sent Guevremont into a tailspin, and he contemplated suicide again.
“I started getting really depressed, started getting dark thoughts,” he told W5.
That’s when Guevremont learned about an unconventional treatment for severe depression and PTSD, involving the drug ketamine.
Ketamine is notorious for being a hallucinogenic party drug nicknamed Special K, a veterinary tranquilizer and an anesthetic that’s been used in hospitals for over 50 years. But at sub-anesthetic doses, the drug has shown an ability to quickly reduce symptoms of depression and suicidal thinking, within weeks to hours.
“The magnitude of improvement on the symptoms approaches in many studies between 40 to 70 percent improvement within a couple of weeks,” noted Dr. Roger McIntyre, a professor of Psychiatry and Pharmacology at the University of Toronto. In 2018, McIntyre founded the Canadian Rapid Treatment Center of Excellence (CRTCE) – Canada’s first private clinic to offer ketamine treatments for depression.
The Canadian Mental Health Association reports that approximately five per cent of Canadians are affected by major depression and more than 4,000 Canadians died by suicide in 2019.
“This is truly a breakthrough,” said Dr. McIntyre.
In November 2020, after his bout with depression, Bruno Guevremont travelled from his home in Victoria, B.C. to Field Trip Health, in Toronto – for orally administered ketamine treatment.
While ketamine’s anti-depressant effects are well documented, therapists at Field Trip Health also aim to maximize the psychedelic qualities of the drug and combine it with psychotherapy.
“The transformation doesn’t happen within the session itself. That happens before and after, when you are working on your trauma, when you’re actually making sense of it,” said Guevremont.
In 2020, Health Canada approved a ketamine-derived nasal spray for treatment-resistant depression and has allowed off-label use of the drug when administered intravenously or orally by health care professionals.
But a host of other illegal psychedelics and party drugs are also being studied for their therapeutic value. Among them, psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms. Clinical trials with psilocybin have shown an improvement in symptoms for patients battling a range of disorders including depression and anxiety.
Though scheduled as a controlled substance, in 2020 Health Canada started offering what are known as Section 56 exemptions to patients with end-of-life distress so they could undergo therapeutic sessions with the drug.
Meanwhile, clinics that treat depression with ketamine are opening up across Canada. There are currently at least 12 private facilities and several hospital-based programs.
But ketamine treatments are not a “cure” or even suitable for everyone with mood disorders. Patients may be ineligible for treatment if they exhibit a history of psychosis, hypertension or substance abuse.
A typical ketamine treatment regimen involves 4 to 6 sessions over a two-to three-week period. Patients often need booster doses and the long term effects are still unclear, though researchers say there is little evidence to support addiction to the drug when it’s administered under medical supervision.
Also, the cost of private treatment isn’t cheap — $750 per ketamine session and $250 for each psychotherapy appointment at Field Trip Health, and approximately $850 per intravenous infusion at the CRTCE.
But for patients like Bruno Guevremont, treatments with ketamine have offered a renewed outlook.
“Life is actually enjoyable, which is amazing,” he said. “I didn’t want to be here. Now I do.”
Story from – CTV website
Music an essential part of psilocybin assisted therapy, research suggests
Liam O’Dowd – October 6, 2021
Danish scientists at the European College Of Neuropsychopharmacology have found that psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, significantly changes the emotional state of people listening to music.
Psilocybin assisted therapy is being developed as a treatment for depression and other mental health conditions, with pre-selected music playlists being a common feature in therapy settings. The study, to be presented at the ECNP Congress in Lisbon, shows that enhanced emotional processing may be a positive outcome of combining psilocybin with music, suggesting that music should be an active component of psilocybin therapy.
In the study, 20 healthy participants were tested on their emotional response to music before and after given psilocybin. 14 of these participants were also tested after being given ketanserin, an anti-hypertension drug commonly used as a comparison in psychedelic experiments. Whether ketanserin or psilocybin was given first was randomly selected and each person was thus able to report on the changes effected by both psilocybin and ketanserin. At the peak of drug effects, participants listened to a short music program and rated their emotional response.
Lead researcher Associate Professor Dea Siggaard Stenbæk said: “We found that psilocybin markedly enhanced the emotional response to music, when compared to the response before taking the drugs. On the measurement scale we used, psilocybin increased the emotional response to music by around 60%. This response was even greater when compared to ketanserin. In fact, we found that ketanserin lessens the emotional response to music. This shows that [the] combination of psilocybin and music has a strong emotional effect, and we believe that this will be important for the therapeutic application of psychedelics if they are approved for clinical use. Psilocybin is under development as a drug to treat depression, and this work implies that music needs to be considered as a therapeutic part of the treatment.
“Our next step is to look at the effect of music on the brain while under the influence of psilocybin in data material we have already collected, using an MRI”.
While the results of the study are unlikely to surprise any recreational user of psychedelic drugs, it is significant in the development of clinical settings for psilocybin assisted therapy. Commenting on the study Professor David Nutt of Imperial College, London said: “This is further evidence of the potential of using music to facilitate treatment efficacy with psychedelics. What we need to do now is optimise this approach probably through individualising and personalising music tracks in therapy”.
The emotional response to the music in the study was rated according to the Geneva Emotional Music Scale. The music used was a short programme comprising Elgar’s Enigma Variations no 8 and 9, and Mozart’s Laudate Dominum, together lasting around 10 minutes. Interstingly, Elgar was encouraged to write some of the music used as a way out of depression by his close friend Augustus Jaeger. “We’re pleased to see it used again to help understand more about mental health” Professor Stenbæk added.
Story from Leafie UK
Alison Myrden submits to the Minister of Health a s. 56 application to grow 50 grams/ day of psilocybin mushrooms
Cannabis & Psychedelics Law Group LLP have submitted a s. 56 application on behalf of Alison Myrden to the Minister of Health seeking a 50 grams/ day exemption which would also allow Ms. Myrden to grow her own psilocybin. Henria Stephens has done some terrific work in assisting with this application.
Ms. Myrden suffers from Bilateral Trigeminal Neuralgia which is a vicious condition that causes chronic and excruciating pain on both sides of her face, as well as painful facial tics. The trigeminal nerve is the source of the pain. It leads to eye pain that causes cluster migraines. Some sufferers describe it as getting electric shocks to the face. This condition “is one of the most characteristic and difficult to treat neuropathic pain conditions in patients with multiple sclerosis.” It has caused her to suffer from severe facial pain 24 hours a day which starts as soon as she is conscious in the mornings.
Ms. Myrden also suffers from Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis (PPMS) which is the worst type of MS. Her MS has gotten worse and worse. She suffers from constant nerve pain, fatigue, balance issues, vision problems and speech problems. The psilocybin helps with all of these.
Ms. Myrden has tried a long list of drugs and treatments. Many of these drugs have caused further health problems. Cannabis has helped. However, nothing is as effective at reducing the pain as psilocybin. This is similar to the cluster headache sufferers who have obtained relief through psilocybin. Ms. Myrden requires 50 grams of psilocybin mushrooms a day. She has developed somewhat of a tolerance to psilocybin mushrooms so she needs a bit more than the average person. She also needs psilocybin mushrooms all through the day as her pain is with her all through the day.
Ms. Myrden is seeking to grow her psilocybin herself. Psilocybin mushrooms do not grow in the wild where Ms. Myrden lives. Also, she is cautious about inadvertently picking mushrooms that are unsafe for human consumption. She would prefer to have control over her medicine. At the Ontario Court of Appeal found in Hitzig v. Canada, the right to use a drug is useless without a legal supply.
The decision to grant a s. 56 exemption must be made in a manner consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Supreme Court of Canada, in PHS Community Services Society v. Canada 2011 SCC 44, at para. 117, said
The discretion vested in the Minister of Health is not absolute: as with all exercises of discretion, the Minister’s decisions must conform to the Charter: Suresh v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship & Immigration), 2002 SCC 1,  1 S.C.R. 3 (S.C.C.). If the Minister’s decision results in an application of the CDSA that limits the s. 7 rights of individuals in a manner that is not in accordance with Charter, then the Minister’s discretion has been exercised unconstitutionally.
Ms. Myrden believes the Minister of Health will do the right thing and grant Ms. Myrden an exemption. As various courts have held over the years, no person should have to choose between their health and the law.
Alison gets great relief from Psilocybin found in various types of “Magic Mushrooms” …