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Patients with a terminal diagnosis want to access psilocybin in the UK

Patients Hands

“I want to live as well as I can, for as long as I can. Because my life may end early but I’m not dead yet!” 

In a report published today, patients set out their case for Compassionate Access to Psilocybin in the UK calling for the UK government to redraw its rules around psilocybin therapy.

Terminal patients are calling for compassionate access to be granted for psilocybin — the psychedelic substance found in fungi known as ‘magic mushrooms’.

They point to a wealth of research which shows that psilocybin therapy is safe, effective and can vastly improve life-quality for people with terminal disease who also live with existential distress as a result of their prognosis (this is also known as palliative distress or ‘end of life anxiety and depression’).

They point to legal access in Australia, Canada and Switzerland and to existing compassionate access permissions in the UK, such as the Early Access to Medicines Scheme (EAMS). Drawing on the example of recent government proposals to ‘grant exceptions’ to restrictive legislation on the scientific study of psychedelic substances, like psilocybin — patients are calling for a similarly progressive approach to be taken on compassionate patient access.

They argue that patients living in the final stages of life, due to terminal disease, should be able to access the drug as a therapy for ‘existential distress’ — a collective term for mental health disorders which includes depression, anxiety, and feelings of hopelessness, demoralisation, fear, dread, rumination, angst, anger, confusion and even hallucination. This distress has a terrible impact on the quality of patients’ remaining lives, and can leave them further isolated from family and loved ones.

Access, the group argues, should be granted before full and final medical approvals are given to the therapy, highlighting that such flexibility is currently being considered in other areas of science and medicine — and with the UK government proposing to loosen legislation around the study of psilocybin and other psychedelic substances, in order to better explore their medical potential.

Patients live in fear of ‘going public’ about their psychedelic healing as they often fear social consequences steeped in stigmatisation. 

We recently spoke to Mary (full name redacted) who agreed that patients ought to be able to access this medicine in the UK:

I’m living with a terminal breast cancer diagnosis and won’t live long enough to see full approval being granted in the UK. I’ve only had to use psilocybin once. Yet the treatment is still allowing me to live well with my prognosis, nine months on. It has removed the overwhelming anxiety and fear from my situation and allowed me to be present, happy and ‘there’ for my children in a way that felt impossible before. It has given us a much better life, for the time I have left.

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