Podcast aims to raise awareness about future of psychedelic treatments

·3 min read
Legal magic mushrooms in a dispensary in Ottawa (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
Legal magic mushrooms in a dispensary in Ottawa (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

A podcast about drug policies and drug awareness called Drug Buds is coming to Halifax for a live taping.

Hosts say they hope the event will better inform people about psychedelic treatments and what legalization in Nova Scotia might look like someday.

Recent studies have identified the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics such as psilocybin (magic mushrooms), LSD (acid)  and MDMA (ecstasy) to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and addiction. 

However, psilocybin is considered an illegal substance under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

In order to get an exemption, Health Canada requires doctors to show that their patient has "serious or life-threatening conditions" and requires psilocybin "for the purpose of emergency treatment."

Justin Andrews is the co-founder of the Halifax Psychedelic Society, a non-profit organization that advocates for safe and legal psychedelic treatments that is co-hosting the event.

Andrews says that while the public is beginning to understand the potential of psychedelics as a groundbreaking treatment, it's important not to lose sight of the issues that can make the treatment difficult to access. He says more discussion is needed around regulation, cost, availability, patient and health-care practitioner education, as well as harm reduction.

Mike Stack
Mike Stack

"So it's taking that optimism [about psychedelic treatment] and taking all the hype the media puts out about psychedelics, and actually filtering that through a practical framework … just having people really understand the actual landscape and not just fall into the hype."

The event is a collaboration with Drug Buds, a podcast by the Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy (CSSDP). It is a grassroots network of youth and students concerned about the impact Canada's drug policies have on individuals and communities.

Andrews said a big part of the event will be public engagement where guests can ask questions and also share their experiences. Tickets are pay what you can but people can also attend for free.

Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy (CSSDP)
Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy (CSSDP)

"I think public participation is important and what I don't want to see happen is like cannabis — a system gets rolled out and changed and then that takes years of advocacy," said Andrews.

"So by having these conversations early, hopefully, we can have a system that works a little better, that we don't have to then try to change in the next few years."

Recently CSSDP started a campaign called #GetSensible to engage young people in conversations about drug education. The program aims to provide information and to support adults in having non-judgmental conversations about cannabis.

Heath D'Alessio is a youth advocate with lived experience of drug use and mental illness. D'Alessio is the program manager for the #GetSensible campaign will be in Halifax for the live taping.

Together they'll be discussing drug regulation as well as the stigma that characterizes psychedelics as party drugs with no real benefits — a stance that advocates say is taken by many in the medical field and drug community alike. They also plan to examine how the successes and failures of the medical cannabis movement might be able to offer insight into the future of the psychedelic movement.

"The big goal is sparking interest in people to start the conversation so that they, ideally, continue having this conversation," said D'Alessio.

Andrews said he hopes events like this will encourage people to voice their concerns more often about how they'd like to see psychedelics regulated because public input could make a difference in how psychedelics are legally introduced to the province.

"We're still at the stage where we don't have our policies and frameworks established, yet there's still room for people to get involved in this conversation and shift the trajectory," said Andrews.

The event is tonight at 6 p.m. at the Bus Stop Theatre on Gottingen Street.


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