VICTORIA, British Columbia, June 23, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- A new poll indicates that 59% of Canadians approve the use of psilocybin-mushrooms for terminally-ill patients. Currently, psilocybin is illegal in Canada and classified as a Schedule III drug under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, making it inaccessible for medical purposes. However, mounting evidence from world class research organizations such as Johns Hopkins, NYU and UCLA indicate that psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy is both a safe and effective treatment option for end-of-life distress.

“Given that mushrooms have been illegal for decades, it’s amazing that 59% of Canadians approve of compassionate access for the terminally ill. I believe that our laws are clearly unaligned with science and public opinion,” said Spencer Hawkswell, Executive Director at TheraPsil. “We are encouraged to see that the more Canadians learn about psilocybin, the more the public is accepting of this treatment option, and support it.”

TheraPsil, a non-profit advocacy group based in Victoria, BC is dedicated to facilitating legal access to medically-supervised, psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy for palliative Canadians experiencing end-of-life distress. The results of this poll validate the discrepancy between current policy regarding psilocybin mushrooms and the Canadian public’s opinion on their medical value.

The poll was conducted with an online sample of 1509 Canadian adults over 2 days in June 2020, and the results have been weighted based on age, gender and region to be representative of all adult Canadians.

When respondents to the poll were briefed that “the sale and use of psilocybin mushrooms – also known as magic mushrooms, psychedelic mushrooms, or shrooms – is currently illegal in Canada” - and then asked, “Overall, do you approve or disapprove of the federal government legalizing psilocybin mushrooms for medicinal use by people who are suffering from a terminal illness, such as terminal cancer?” 41% of respondents either somewhat or strongly agreed that psilocybin should be legalized for end-of-life care. When respondents who answered ‘ambivalent’ were included, the acceptance rating for legalizing psilocybin for terminally-ill Canadians increased to 63%. It can be generally assumed that those who are ambivalent are more likely to accept, than reject, the legalization of medical psilocybin.

However, when a follow-up question was asked, prefaced by this incontrovertible information: “Recent clinical studies have shown that psilocybin – the psychedelic compound found in magic mushrooms – has helped treat end-of-life distress for terminally ill patients….”, Canadians strongly responded with a 59% approval rating of this currently illegal treatment option. When respondents who answered ‘ambivalent’ were included, the acceptance rating for legalizing psilocybin for terminally ill Canadians increased to 78%. Again, It can be generally assumed that those who are ambivalent (i.e. do not have a strong opinion on the matter) are more likely to accept, than reject the legalization of psilocybin for end-of-life care.

The Poll provides compelling evidence that as Canadians become aware of the potential uses for psilocybin and the individuals asking for access, their opinion changes. Here is what Spencer Hawkswell of TheraPsil had to say about this:

“In addition to advocacy, TheraPsil has included public education and professional training to its mission. Public acceptance clearly increases as people learn more about psilocybin. We have a large number of clinicians who are eager to facilitate medically-supervised psilocybin-therapy for dying patients who are asking for this treatment option, but there is a roadblock: Psilocybin is illegal. The Hon. Patty Hajdu has the power to grant patients who have applied to use psilocybin through a section 56 exemption the right-to-try, but so far, she has ignored patient’s requests. With this new found information, and strong public acceptance, we urge the Minister of Health, to swiftly grant dying Canadians this treatment option, as per their exemption applications.” - Spencer Hawkswell, Executive Director, TheraPsil

All eyes are now on the Minister of Health, to respond to patient applications. We hope she will be compassionate towards palliative Canadians and grant them the right to try psilocybin.

Interested Health care professionals, and individuals experiencing end-of-life distress are invited to confidentially contact TheraPsil on the TheraPsil website.

For a full report of the poll, please visit: https://therapsil.ca/polling-results/

Media Contact: Holly Bennett, Director of Communications, holly@therapsil.ca

All other inquiries: Spencer Hawkswell, Executive Director, spencer@therapsil.ca

Pollara Strategic Insights - Psilocybin Acceptance Survey

Questions:

A1.  As you may know, the sale and use of psilocybin mushrooms – also known as magic mushrooms, psychedelic mushrooms, or shrooms – is currently illegal in Canada.

Overall, do you approve or disapprove of the federal government legalizing psilocybin mushrooms for medicinal use by people who are suffering from a terminal illness, such as terminal cancer?

RESPONSE OPTIONS

Strongly approve
Somewhat approve
Ambivalent – Neither approve nor disapprove
Somewhat disapprove
Strongly disapprove
Don’t know / Unsure

A2.  Recent clinical studies have shown that psilocybin – the psychedelic compound found in magic mushrooms – has helped treat end-of-life distress for terminally ill patients. The results of the studies showed that psilocybin produced large and significant decreases in depression and anxiety, and increases in measures of quality of life, life meaning, death acceptance, and optimism. 

Some terminally ill Canadians are asking the federal government for access to psilocybin. They argue that since Canadian law gives terminally ill patients the right to die with medical assistance, they should also give them the right to try psilocybin in an effort to improve their quality of life. 

Thinking about this... Overall, do you approve or disapprove of the federal government legalizing psilocybin mushrooms for medicinal use by people who are suffering from a terminal illness, such as terminal cancer?

RESPONSE OPTIONS

Strongly approve
Somewhat approve
Ambivalent – Neither approve nor disapprove
Somewhat disapprove
Strongly disapprove
Don’t know / Unsure

Methodology:

This study was conducted with an online sample of 1,509 adult Canadians on June 12th and 13th, 2020. Results from a probability sample of this size could be considered accurate to within ±2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Results have been weighted based on age, gender and region to be representative of all adult Canadians.

Results:

  • Un-aided or top-of-mind approval for legalizing psilocybin mushrooms for medicinal use is 41%. However, 63% majority show acceptance. One-in-four disapprove (23%).
  • After providing them with the additional information, approval significantly increases to 59% (+18 points) and acceptance increases to 78% (+15 points). Disapproval on the other hand falls to just over one-in-ten (12%; -11points).

When looking at approval scores, we also look at “acceptance” or tacit approval. We calculate acceptance by combining approval and ambivalence, as the ambivalents largely display more positive than negative views – and if forced to make a choice between approval and disapproval, those who are ambivalent would likely choose approval over disapproval as seen in some of our other surveys.