4 Psychedelic Medical Findings from the Canadian Catalyst Summit

4 Psychedelic Medical Findings from the Canadian Catalyst Summit

Last weekend I attended the Catalyst Summit, a psychedelic conference in Kingston, Ontario. There, I heard from leaders of psychedelic medicine companies, researchers, politicians, representatives of Health Canada – the Canadian version of the FDA – trained psychotherapists, and patients who have been helped by psychedelic drugs.

Through panel discussions, networking events, and even a ship party, I left Kingston with a more holistic understanding of Canada’s progress toward the introduction of psychedelic drugs to treat a variety of mental disorders.

The overarching message I left with is that studying psychedelic medicine has institutional support, at least in Canada. Assuming that later-stage clinical trials remain as positive as earlier-stage trials, it is only a matter of time before these drugs are legalized in specific medical contexts.

However, to understand this overall impression, I must first divide it into the four key things I learned from the conference.

1. Canada is leading the way

A topic that was constantly debated was how Canada is leading the world in research into the potential use of psychedelics as a drug. That was the sentiment we heard not only from Canadian researchers, business leaders and former politicians, but also from international participants.

Here, the person with the greatest authority who held this view was the Rev. Crispin Blunt, a British Conservative MP who is co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on drug policy reform in the UK Parliament.

In a panel that included Canadian Independent Senator Larry Campbell – who had previously confessed to his wife he secretly dispensed coffee with microdoses of psilocybin to treat his depression – Blunt praised the evidence-based approach taken by Canadian regulators to experiment and study.

An example of this can be seen in Canada’s Health Special Access Program (SAP), which is beginning to address a limited number of patients with chronic conditions, such as depression, who have tried unsuccessfully to treat their condition several times in the past. receive psilocybin therapy.

2. Culture has shifted

In democracies, there is an ideal that our politicians will be guided by the will of the people. In other words, for a major policy change, the nation’s culture must first be on the side.

And that’s exactly what’s happening.

In Canada, the public seems to be increasingly in favor of legalizing psychedelic drugs in specific circumstances. For example, there has been a lot of discussion at Catalyst about the recent Nanos Research surveyconducted for Psychedelic Association of Canadawhich found that 78% of Canadians “would support a government that has legalized psilocybin-assisted therapy to improve the quality of life of palliative and end-of-life patients.”

The boisterous mood stemmed in part from the understanding that the public was before the government and that the government understood this.

Another clear sign of the transformation of the cultural landscape was the celebrity Paul Stamets, a mycologist and psychonaut. One of the main attractions of this event was that hundreds of people traveled from all over North America – and some still from a distance – for the opportunity to meet the now legendary psychedelic pioneer. While Stamets has long been famous in the psychedelic underground, the fact that it has achieved mainstream popularity is a sign of a changing culture. Damn, in the new one he even has a character based on him Star Trek: Discovery TV show: Paul Stamets, astromycologist.

3. The government is watching (in a good way)

Perhaps the most interesting part of the Catalyst Summit was how large the Canadian government was.

Not only were many Health Canada representatives and an acting Canadian senator present, but the influential former health minister even gave a keynote address. Dr. Jane Philpott was Justin Trudeau’s Federal Secretary of Health from 2015 to 2017, and her many successes included legalizing cannabis.

Although she is no longer a member of the governing party –has been started after refusing to hit the party line in an ethical scandal, Philpott made it clear that the current government was closely monitoring the development of psychedelic drugs.

Also during a panel discussion entitled Health Canada: In ConversationRegulatory authorities have made it clear that, although they can proceed slowly to ensure that health policy is in line with current scientific evidence, the Authority is closely following developments. The aforementioned SAP program has already been modified to allow access to psilocybin to a limited number of people and has not stood in the way of research conducted by both private companies and universities.

As the evidence becomes clearer with larger clinical trials, access to psychedelic drugs will increase. In other words, there will be no political interference in deciding what medicines will and will not be allowed. This will be based on the best available scientific evidence.

4. There is still a lot to find out

Despite the above enthusiasm, Catalyst has confirmed that we are still closer to the beginning of our journey than to the end, and we need to find out a lot before we reach legalized healing psychedelics.

First, it’s science. Although many positive clinical studies have been performed, we still do not have the answers to many questions. For example, what is the perfect dose for a psychedelic such as psilocybin? What is the perfect therapeutic regimen? Under what circumstances can one psychedelic be better than another? How often should a patient receive psychedelic therapy?

These questions – and hundreds more – are all still speculative, and we will need dozens, if not hundreds, of other major clinical trials to answer them. Although not all of them must be answered 100% before medical legalization, it is essential that we are armed with as much science as possible before we extend psychedelic treatment to hundreds of thousands or even millions of people.

Another is the question of financing. Funding for finding answers to the above questions will be very expensive. Like potentially expensive hundreds of millions of dollars. Where does this money come from? Some come from private investors, but the public sector is being tortured right now. How much should the government pay the bill? They can certainly finance some of this, but governments are currently facing many parallel crises and expecting huge investments is probably out of the question. Therefore, in order to complete the science that convinces regulators, the psychedelic industry needs to be better funded.

Finally, there is also the issue of ethics. In the shade scandal with MAPS, where several participants in clinical trials claim that there has been abuse, how do we ensure that future trials are conducted not only in accordance with the highest possible standards of ethics, but also conducted as transparently as possible? It is essential that we obtain this right to ensure that there are no persistent questions as we move towards medical legalization.


After I left the Catalyst Summit, I am more confident in government and regulatory ways to legalize psychedelic drugs in Canada.

If clinical trials for the treatment of mental disorders continue to be positive – which is no guarantee – then it is only a matter of time before medical treatment takes place. During this period, however, we must ensure that all stakeholders in the psychedelic movement, including for-profit companies, research institutions, patients, psychedelic advocates and government employees, work to answer the open questions examined above.

At the moment, there seems to be an institutional determination to at least take into account data from the powers in the Canadian political leadership and from the medical bureaucracy. This is important because without it, even all the positive data in the world would not change our current system. Of course, we must continue to study the possibilities of psychedelic drugs in the most controlled and transparent way possible, but the Catalyst Summit has left me with very positive feelings about the future of psychedelic drugs.

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