Approaches to Treat Opioid Use and Concurrent Mental Health Disorders in Canada: An Exploratory Analysis of Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapy




Johl, Jasmine

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The opioid crisis is one of the most significant public health and policy challenges facing Canadians today, with 94% of opioid overdose deaths occurring by accident, impacting not only individuals, but families, friends and communities involved. The research identified policy initiatives, legislative and regulatory approaches implemented in Canada to respond to the opioid crisis. In particular, the thesis focused on how these approaches have addressed opioid use disorders and concurrent mental health disorders. Research has identified that over 50% of those experiencing opioid use disorder also experience concurrent mental health disorders. Several studies have linked opioid use disorder to concurrent mental health disorders of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression, which have been clinically proven to be cured by psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy and in some cases, surpassing success rates of conventional psychotherapies. Currently, psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy is not a treatment option within Canada’s opioid crisis response and psychedelic substances are heavily restricted by the Government of Canada (only available for extenuating circumstances, such as end-of-life care). This research focuses on these and other policy, legislative and regulatory frameworks that could present barriers and/or opportunities for a complementary treatment option like psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy to treat opioid use disorder and concurrent mental health disorders. A comparative case study research approach was used for this research. A jurisdiction scan was conducted to explore the opioid crisis response to date by the Government of Canada and the five hardest hit provinces and territories – Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Yukon. Included in this scan was the legislative and regulatory frameworks that exist in Canada related to psychedelics and psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. In conclusion, jurisdictional successes from Saskatchewan’s focus on trauma-informed practice and Alberta’s recent regulation of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy are highlighted. Recommendations on next steps for the federal/provincial/territorial governments' approach to psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy are provided, including researching the efficacy and safety of psychedelics alongside opioid agonist therapy.



opioid crisis response in Canada, legislative and regulatory policy on psychedelics in Canada, psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, psychedelics and substance use disorder, psychedelics and opioid use disorder, psychedelics and mental health disorders