While the wave of support for plant medicines is growing, the use of sacramental and medicinal plants and fungi dates to prehistory. In the midst of Canada’s overdose and mental health crises, decriminalizing plant medicines will create greater access to much-needed treatment modalities informed by ancient and Indigenous knowledge.
Why decriminalize plant medicines?
- In Canada, 50 per cent of the population will experience a mental health issue by the age of 40. In a given year, 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental illness or addiction.
- There is a growing body of research to show that medicines derived from plants and fungi can provide an alternative solution to anti-depressants.
- Decriminalizing plant medicines would allow for safe access for all Canadians seeking alternative treatment for a range of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and addiction.
- In addition to research, plant medicines and the ceremonies associated with them have been practiced for thousands of years, highlighting the healing potential these plants have always possessed.
- The use of sacramental and medicinal plants was recognized internationally by the United Nations nearly 50 years ago under the Convention on Psychotropic Substances (1971), which exempts them from the law in cultural and social circumstances.
- Plant medicines are non-addictive and in the right set and setting, can be a safe path to recovery.
What are the experts saying about treatment with plant medicines?
- "This is an area that could potentially bring about major changes in people, without a sort of chronic-disease model where people would be forever on an expensive [pharmaceutical] medication... It's a totally different model: it's not one pill every day, it's one experience and we're going to try to heal you."
- Dr. Evan Wood, B.C. Centre for Substance Use (source)
- “Our research has shown that a single experience with psilocybin can produce personally meaningful experiences accompanied by enduring positive changes in attitudes, mood and behaviour.”
- Dr. Roland Griffiths, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (source)
- “Properly used, [ayahuasca] opens up parts of yourself that you usually have no access to. The parts of the brain that hold emotional memories come together with those parts that modulate insight and awareness, so you see past experiences in a new way.”
- Dr. Gabor Maté, addictions expert (source)
What are some recent studies on plant medicines?
- Ibogaine treatment for opioid dependence
“A single ibogaine treatment reduced opioid withdrawal symptoms and achieved opioid cessation or sustained reduced use in dependent individuals over 12 months.” (source)
- Psilocybin produces substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety
“A single dose of psilocybin produced substaintial and enduring decreases in depressed mood and anxiety along with increases in quality f life and decreases in death anxiety in patients with a life-threatening cancer diagnosis.” (source)
- Ayahuasca sessions lead to increases in “acceptance” capacities
“Findings suggest that a small number of ayahuasca sessions can be as effective at improving acceptance as more lengthy and costly interventions.” (source)
- Mystical experiences occasioned by psilocybin increases openness
“Results indicate that a high dose of psilocybin administered under supportive conditions produced increases in openness... Qualitative research has documented sudden and dramatic changes in attitudes, values, and behaviours following spontaneous mystical or spiritual experiences.” (source)
- Assessment of alcohol and tobacco use among religious users of ayahuasca
“In a large population sample, current levels of alcohol and tobacco dependence were lower in ayahuasca users compared to the general population, even though previous drug use was higher among this group prior to becoming church members.” (source)
- Rapid antidepressant effects of ayahuasca in treatment-resistant depression
“We found evidence of rapid antidepressant effect after a single dosing session with ayahuasca when compared with placebo… Improvements in the psychiatric scales in the ayahuasca group were significantly higher.” (source)
- Pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamics aspects of peyote and mesacaline
“Addiction and dependence are practically absent and it is clear that most intoxications appear to be mild and are unlikely to produce life-threatening symptoms.” (source)
- Ibogaine detoxification transitions opioid and cocaine abusers between dependence and abstinence
“Given that traditional approaches to develop new treatments for opioid use disorder have not been advanced by the pharmacaeutical industry, ibogaine may be a non-addictive alternative that deserves fast-track review as a possible solution to the current opioid drug crisis.” (source)