Magic mushrooms are even more magical than you thought, as the main hallucinogenic ingredient, psilocybin, has recently aided 12 longtime smokers to stop smoking and completely kick the habit.
In a study enacted by John Hopkins University, 15 different people (10 men, 5 women) all of whom regularly smoked for over 30 years, were given a dose of psilocybin, then chilled out in a relaxed and supervised setting for 6-7 hours.
Over eight weeks, three of these 'shroom' sessions occurred, with the strength of the dose increased after each subsequent session. Weekly counselling encounters also occurred over the eight weeks, and participants also kept a daily diary to document their personal cravings and progress.
Once the study had finished, 12 out of 15 participants had no urge to smoke and allegedly quit smoking entirely, making for an 80% success rate.
If you're a smoker who wants to quit, this isn't a valid excuse to ingest a bunch of shrooms and go on a 6 hour vision quest up the mountain. The researchers stress that the experiment merely showcases how controlled use of psilocybin "can lead to deep reflection about one’s life and spark motivation to change" which sounds about right to anyone who's had a shroom-induced revelation about their life before. I guess the epiphanies stick when your trip is a little more controlled and less about zany swirling patterns.
For more on all things Montreal, follow Michael on Twitter @MDAlimonte
Youth vaping continues to rise in Canada, despite youth smoking being at its lowest level in decades, according to Health Canada.
The health authority says vaping could lead to tobacco use, threatening Canada's efforts to lower the number of people who smoke.
"Research shows that flavoured vaping products are highly appealing to youth, and that youth are especially susceptible to the negative effects of nicotine - including altered brain development, which can cause challenges with memory and concentration," says Health Canada.
Health Canada's proposed ban — which is open for consultation until September 2 — would prohibit all sugars and sweeteners in vape juices, as well as the majority of flavouring ingredients, with limited exceptions to allow for tobacco and mint or menthol flavours.
The regulatory changes would also include "sensory standards" to "prevent a sensory perception" of flavour other than one that is normal for tobacco and mint flavours.
Health Canada expects that the new changes would make vape products less appealing to young Canadians while providing adult smokers with a small range of flavours to transition to vaping, which it says is a less harmful source of nicotine than cigarettes.
The health authority says businesses that sell vaping products would not suffer an administrative burden from the proposed changes — but they would have to limit their product ranges, potentially resulting in less revenue.
"It doesn't make sense or have any scientific justification," said Flory Doucas, spokesperson for the CQCT.
"Menthol is the second most popular flavour among youth, tied with mango [...] If the goal is to protect youth from the underhanded tactics of the vaping industry, this proposed regulation does not get a passing grade."
Meanwhile, the Coalition des droits des vapoteurs du Québec (CDVQ) said Health Canada's proposals could cause thousands of vapers to reconsider their decision to quit smoking, arguing that the variety of vaping flavours currently available has been key to helping smokers ditch cigarettes and adopt vaping instead.
"Its success lies in its effectiveness in combating smoking insofar as the products to be consumed are pleasant to the taste, whereas that of tobacco reminds them too much of cigarettes," the CDVQ said of vape flavours.
Imperial Tobacco Canada echoed the CDVQ's statement, saying that the proposed changes would only push consumers towards cigarettes.
"The reality is that many smokers are looking for a lower-risk alternative to smoking that they will enjoy. So flavours and nicotine levels play an important role," said Eric Gagnon, vice president of corporate and regulatory affairs for Imperial Tobacco Canada.
"Isn't it the government's duty to provide a reduced-risk product that satisfies these needs so that consumers don't return to smoking?"
Jessica Cadoch, executive director of the Montreal Psychedelic Society, told MTL Blog that momentum really "mushroomed — for lack of a better term" when Michael Pollan’s book about the science of psychedelics, How to Change Your Mind, came out in 2018, the same year recreational cannabis became legal in Canada.
With 2020 (mostly! finally!) behind us, Quebecers are looking to the future, wondering, "What's next?" — particularly, in the world of health and wellness.
The psychedelics movement is one answer. But it's also more than that. According to Cadoch, it's "a revolution."
Field Trip Health, a psychedelics-centred wellness company, co-founded by former Montrealer Joseph del Moral, describes psychedelic medicine on its website as "various techniques using psychedelic molecules for improving mental health and overall wellbeing."
The most commonly used molecules come from psilocybin, which can be found in "magic" mushrooms, and other molecules in drugs like MDMA and ketamine, which produce varying degrees of psychoactive effects.
Field Trip is also in the process of developing its own psychedelic molecules to be used medically.
FT-104, for example, aims to be as potent as psilocybin with a shorter trip time — useful in medical settings when patients don't want to be holed up in a clinic for hours while high.
"There really hasn't been much advancement in the treatment of chronic mental health conditions, especially depression, in the last 30 years," del Moral told MTL Blog.
"The science behind psychedelics shows very high response rates on the order of 50 to 70% and the effects are often long-lasting. Ketamine on the order of weeks to months. Psilocybin and MDMA on the order of months to years."
What would a psychedelic-assisted therapy patient experience?
Del Moral described the process for a patient being treated with ketamine at a Field Trip clinic — located in Toronto, New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago — step-by-step.
The patient is screened by a psychiatrist to make sure they're suitable for this treatment.
The patient comes in for an initial meeting with a therapist who prepares them for their psychedelic experience.
The patient comes in for their first dosing day. At the appointment, del Moral says "they're sitting in this super comfortable zero-gravity chair that reclines all the way flat, they have an eye mask on, they're listening to a specially curated list of psychedelic music, they have a weighted blanket on them. They're in this experience with their own thoughts for an hour... we spent a lot of time and effort designing the clinics to be beautiful comfortable spaces."
When the patient comes out of that part of the experience, the therapist — who's in the room with them — engages them in a light form of therapy called "exploratory therapy," during which they discuss thoughts the person had under the influence. A course of ketamine-assisted therapy is typically six doses over three to four weeks.
The insights patients develop during the psychedelic experience are written down by the therapist and used in future therapy sessions. This is called integration therapy.
"What we hear most often from our patients is they thought about the [life experiences causing them suffering] in a whole new way. They looked at it from a different angle they'd never been able to consider before," del Moral said.
What’s currently available in Montreal?
At this point, ketamine is the only psychedelic drug doctors can legally prescribe in Canada, so it's the only form of psychedelic-assisted therapy being offered in the country.
Earlier this month, Mindspace, a Montreal-based wellness clinic, announced it was launching the first psychedelic-assisted therapy program in Quebec with plans to begin treating patients using ketamine before the end of 2020.
Mindspace founder Dr. Joe Flanders told MTL Blog the clinic is administering doses of ketamine using SPRAVATO, a nasal spray recently approved by Health Canada.
This is the first time ketamine has been approved for this purpose.
"It allows us to start helping our clients by enhancing therapy with a psychedelic compound, but doing it in a totally legit and above-board context," Dr. Flanders said.
Mindspace has also been offering "Psychedelic Harm Reduction and Integration" for the past year-and-a-half.
This program coaches people who "intend to or have had psychedelic experiences" on their own time, but does not provide access to psychedelic compounds.
"What we’re really waiting for is the green light to use psilocybin and MDMA because those are the most impactful tools," said Dr. Flanders.
He estimated that we’re three to five years away from "totally mainstream above-board access" to psilocybin and MDMA.
First, the drugs need to "cross the finish line" of phase three clinical trials, then be approved by the FDA and Health Canada.
After that, Dr. Flanders said there will be an enormous need for mental health professionals trained to deliver this new kind of psychotherapy.
Then there's the question of how these drugs will be regulated in Quebec.
"The rest of Canada tend[s] to land in similar places around regulating certain medical practices. Quebec always sort of does its own thing and it’s very hard to predict if they’ll be ahead of the curve or behind the curve," Dr. Flanders said.
In addition to medical use, del Moral said Field Trip is preparing for the non-medical wellness uses of psychedelics.
The company is growing and studying 25 species and strains of magic mushrooms in Jamaica through a partnership with the University of the West Indies.
They want to learn how to make extractions and quantify amounts of psilocybin in the mushrooms so people know how much they're dosing.
"That was an investment we made thinking that sometime in the next five to 10 years there might be a wellness market opening up around the world [...] but these jurisdictions are opening up much faster than we had anticipated," he said.
Dr. Flanders agreed in terms of hoping psychedelics become available to a broader spectrum of people, including those who are "really stressed out" or facing "the kinds of ups and downs many of us face without qualifying for a psychiatric disease."
Cadoch told MTL Blog psychedelics could lead to a paradigm shift, "forcing us to reimagine concepts of care."
"The difference... is that we live in a world where [patients say], "Hey, I have a symptom. Treat my symptom.' But with psychedelic therapy it’s, 'Let’s get to the root cause of things,'" she explained.
"Psychedelics do not fix you. [...] Psychedelic-assisted therapy with proper preparation, proper integration and the proper tools to make sense of your experience can provide you with an opportunity to start working on yourself. But you still have to do that work."
Cadoch said activists in the psychedelics community are worried about for-profit companies entering this grassroots space without concern for existing morals.
She said she'd like to see professionals in the field sign the North Star ethics pledge, a promise to focus on shared values and ethics when making psychedelic products.
Cadoch also said she hopes for equal access to treatment — something Mindspace committed to in launching its accessibility program.
This type of therapy isn't currently eligible for insurance coverage. Between the cost of new drug formats and hours of specialized therapy, "it is a really expensive process," Cadoch said.
While some are ubiquitous to all major cities, there are a few that truly make Montreal, Montreal.
The Busker Who's Way Too Good To Be Busking
You get out of the metro car and a mellifluous melody echoes through the station, stopping you in your tracks. Walking up the stairs, you spot a busker, playing for the uninterested passersby as if they're headlining Osheaga.
And really, they should be headlining Osh because this busker is way too good to be busking. Drop a few dollars and stick around for a tune next time you see them.
The Person Smoking A Joint While Waiting For The Bus
If the person smoking a cigarette three feet away from you wasn't enough, some person decides that the only way to make this bus come faster is if they spark up the biggest, ugliest joint you've ever seen.
Bonus points if the entire bus smells like weed after Cheech gets on.
The One Who's Going To A Music Festival
Decked out in the finest floral headwear and H&M clothing, the music festival goer is blissfully unaware of you trying to go to work and also sunscreen.
I get it, you're super excited to be standing next to 20,000 people for the next six hours to see Kendrick Lamar, but since you're already going to a music festival, why start one in a crowded metro?
The Off-Duty Bus Driver Who's Very Much On-Duty
Often found in a Tim Horton's line, the off-duty bus driver who's very much on duty has as much right as anyone to get their mid-day caffeine fix.
Their jobs are gruelling, after all.
But you try explaining empathy to a bus full of confused-looking commuters growing angrier by the second.
The Westmount Mom
As she juggles her ungrateful kids, shopping trips to Holt Renfrew, yoga and manicure appointments, the Westmount mom is never far from her Range Rover, always ready to carpool at a moment's notice.
The Westmount mom is fashionable, works hard, and might yell at a customer service employee from time to time, but she's pretty cool overall and isn't afraid to show it.
The Hot Cop
Also often found in a Tim Horton's line, the hot cop seems to only exist in Montreal, at least in my experience.
Characterized by a healthy scruff and a utility belt that seems to accentuate certain assets a little too well, the hot cop won't hesitate to give you a silly ticket but you'll feel fine about it.
Wait a minute, SPVM, is this by design? Get back to me.
The American Frat Boy Who Doesn't Know How To Drink
Hailing from a school you've never heard of in Vermont, this annoying caricature of a dude-bro wants to challenge you to an arm-wrestling contest in the bar and chugs beer like he's Stone Cold Steve Austin. Unfortunately, he's 18 and this is his first time drinking.
And no, I don't know what the best strip club in Montreal is.
The JMSB Bro
The JMSB bro wears a suit to class and walks around with an air of confidence that belies the fact that he's incredibly stressed out about competing with 400 other aspiring accountants for a handful of jobs.
The Habs Player
It's exciting the first time you see Brendan Gallagher at a restaurant and I'm sure he doesn't mind respectfully being asked for a selfie, but don't ask him every single time you see him somewhere.
Chill out, he's just a hockey player!
The Headphones In, Texting Cyclist Who Almost Ran You Over
I have nothing against cyclists, but some of you are just flat-out dangers to society.
Nothing says "I don't care about anything" than a cyclist who's blasting down the Maisonneuve bike path in the middle of the day while texting and listening to music. How you have not had a huge crash yet is astounding.
The UQAM Student
The UQAM student is from les régions, studies at the Concordia Library, goes out with Anglophones, protests about literally everything and is actually really good at sports.
The UdeM Student
The UdeM student is actually from France, doesn't go out with Anglophones, won't stop talking about how much better the food in France is, secretly thinks the food is actually very good here, and never complains about being broke because it's "not polite to talk about money."
The Concordia Student
The Concordia student is actually from one of the coasts, says they know all the best study spots downtown, is obsessed with "the arts," wears vintage clothing and lives in a $1,500/month Mile-End four-and-a-half apartment with seven other people.
The McGill Student
The McGill student is actually from the U.S., will outdrink you, studies at the Concordia Library, has a driver's license, wears all brand names, and complains about being broke while living in a condo downtown.
It could be the middle of the day and out of nowhere a group of sweaty first-years covered in paint and wearing neon shirts comes stampeding down the street, consuming every drop of alcohol in their path.
Better move out of the way quick before you're swept up in their wake and end up downing several test tube shots at a club on a Wednesday night.
The Construction Worker Smoking A Cig While Watching 4 Of Their Coworkers Dig A Hole
All you can do is shake your head at them because they get paid a lot of money to not give a damn that they are the sole reason you're stuck in an endless line of traffic.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Narcity Media.
McKinnon pulled out cigarettes during the skit, so as to imply a stereotype about Montrealers and smoking that doesn't exist.
The trope is more suited to mimicking Parisians from France, who are known for their smoking fetish. (If they wanted to point out Montrealers' love of smoking, they should have used our legal weed instead.)