Vancouver Island University has plans to expand its psychedelic-assisted therapy program by providing a graduate certificate program in the use of psychedelic drugs, such as psilocybin, in mental health care. This will make it the pioneer accredited university in Canada to do so.
This program was developed by Professor Pamela Kryskow and Shannon Dames, a nursing professor at the institution; both individuals have years of experience with a separate program that uses psychedelic-assisted therapy to manage end-of-life distress.
Dames’ interest in these therapies arose after her experience using psychedelics to process her own childhood trauma. Dames revealed that she had a life-changing experience with ayahuasca while in Peru. Researchers believe that ayahuasca, which is used in Indigenous ceremonies, could be effective in the treatment of complex cases of addiction and PTSD. Dames explained that the experience allowed her to get into her body and feel who she was outside of all the trauma and conditioning.
The ability to experience safety in one’s body is important because a principal technique in therapy is to bring individuals back to a sense of who they were before the trauma occurred. It is especially useful in individuals with treatment-resistant mental conditions in which the patients have no recollection of what happened prior to their childhood trauma.
With regard to the expanded therapeutic program, Dames stated that the researchers were focused on finding ways to maximize patient safety. The program will bring together various practitioners, thus encouraging a community of practice structure that will in turn create an environment that is effective and safe for the use of psychedelic drugs.
Vancouver Island University plans to collaborate with other institutions that are also carrying out similar works, including the University Health Network and the University of Ottawa. The University Health Network, which is based in Toronto, is in the process of opening the Nikean Psychedelic Research Center. The network was awarded a $5 million grant by the Nikean Foundation. In 2020, the University of Ottawa launched a psychedelics and spirituality study microprogram which it plans to expand this year.
Dames also acknowledged the significant contributions that Indigenous knowledge keepers had made, noting that they needed to be formally recognized in addition to receiving financial compensation for the role they played in the development process.
She believes that the movement towards research-driven, safe therapeutic treatment with psychedelics is both important and inevitable, especially after all the strides that have been made with regard to mental health these past few decades, including the medicine development work being done by companies such as Cybin Inc. (NYSE American: CYBN) (NEO: CYBN).
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