Alberta first Canadian province to regulate psychedelics for therapeutic use

Dec 22, 2022

Earlier in October, it was announced that Alberta would become the first Canadian province to regulate the use of psychedelic drugs for therapeutic purposes. Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Mike Ellis has also introduced new regulations to limit who can prescribe high-potency drugs to people with difficult-to-treat opioid addictions.

Specifically, the changes were created with the goal of protecting the public and providing high standards of care to patients, while preventing high-risk drugs from entering the illicit drug supply.

According to Dr. Rob Tanguay, a psychiatrist specializing in addiction medicine and pain medicine, patients are vulnerable while taking psychedelics and need to be protected.

“The risk is much lower with a regulated psychologist who is registered with their college than someone who printed [a certificate] off the Internet, and then went on to the Internet to advertise, ‘I’m a psychedelic therapist, come see me,” he said at a news conference in Edmonton.

Over the last decades, research has focused on the use of psychedelic drugs such as psilocybin, LSD, and ketamine to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression conditions resistant to conventional treatments. While these drugs remain illegal in Canada, physicians and researchers can apply to Health Canada to use them in clinical trials, get special access for therapy, or seek an exemption that’s in the public interest.

Furthermore, Alberta’s new regulations require medical directors to apply for a license before treating patients with psychedelics for mental health disorders. Consequently, according to the regulations taking effect in January 2023, a psychiatrist would need to supervise any treatment. In addition, health professionals could not charge money for the drugs, and a qualified professional must only give patients the drug at a medical facility – unless the individual is in palliative care. Finally, staff must supervise the patients while they are in an altered mental state, and must report any serious injuries or deaths immediately to the government.

“For the first time anywhere, people will have access to legal, doctor-supervised psychedelics and psychedelic-assisted therapies across just about all classic psychedelics,” said Ronan Levy, CEO of Field Trip Health & Wellness, a company that provides ketamine therapy to treat depression and anxiety at clinics across Canada, in his email to Forbes. “The Province of Alberta– the most politically conservative province in Canada– is unilaterally creating its own system for psychedelics,” added Levy. “This is a tectonic shift in the cultural relevance and awareness of psychedelics, and is almost certainly a major catalyst for both legal and regulatory change in the industry. Almost certainly other jurisdictions will follow suit.”