Alberta becomes the first Canadian province to officially regulate psychedelic-assisted therapies, putting in place standards and requirements for practitioners.
The provincial government outlined that the psychedelic compounds that will fall under its remit include psilocybin, psilocin, MDMA, LSD, mescaline (peyote), DMT, 5 methoxy DMT and ketamine.
The requirements governing the practice of psychedelic-assisted therapies in Alberta will come into effect on 16 January 2023.
In a statement released earlier this week, the Alberta government acknowledged that “emerging evidence shows that psychedelic assisted therapy can lead to improvements for people with certain psychiatric disorders, including PTSD and treatment-resistant depression.”
As with many medicines, improper use has associated health and safety risks and as such, “proper safeguards and expert medical oversight are required to ensure patient safety.”
Why Regulate Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy?
The statement explains why regulations and expert oversight are needed in this emerging field of treatment, explicitly citing the heightened vulnerability of patients – following consumption of psychedelic compounds – and potential side effects that can occur:
- Research on the use of psychedelics to treat certain mental health disorders is still emerging. Further study of the long-terms impacts is required.
- Protecting the safety of Albertans undergoing psychedelic assisted therapy is necessary as the field continues to evolve.
- The mind-altering properties of psychedelics result in an increased risk of mental and physical harm.
- This can lead to dangerous situations like violence, accidents, abuse and suicide.
- Physical side effects include high blood pressure, seizures, numbness and tremors.
- Psychiatric side effects include intense hallucinations, anxiety and panic attacks.
- Severe side effects can lead to comas, multi-organ failure and death.
- Improper dose management can have serious long-term impacts.
- Expert medical supervision is required to ensure psychedelics are only administered in controlled clinical environments with proper dosing and after existing evidence-based care options have been considered.
Administrative Requirements for All Licensed Providers
All licenced providers will have to follow specific requirements, with the Alberta government mandating that practitioners will have to:
- Apply for and hold a licence under the Mental Health Services Protection Act.
- Appoint a psychiatrist as medical director
- Develop and maintain written policies, procedures and records
- Report on service utilization and complaints
- Ensure critical incident reporting and response
- Ensure staff meet qualifications and training requirements
Certain practitioners will be exempt from obtaining a license if treatment is part of an approved clinical research trial; if practitioners are offering ketamine outside of psychedelic-assisted therapy treatments; or if they are only selling or dispensing psychedelic medicines through a licensed service provider.
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