Dr. Burce Tobin helped guide Mona Strelaeff through her four-hour trip on Nov. 6. (Provided by Spencer Hawkswell)

Dr. Burce Tobin helped guide Mona Strelaeff through her four-hour trip on Nov. 6. (Provided by Spencer Hawkswell)

Metchosin woman’s trauma treatment could be trendsetting

Experts say this could signal the broadening of who can access psilocybin therapy

Kendra Crighton/News Staff

A Greater Victoria resident is the first non-terminally ill Canadian to be allowed to use psilocybin therapy, which experts say could signal broader access for the treatment in the future.

“This is a very progressive step in the right direction from Health Canada and it signals their willingness to expand their mandate on who gets access to psilocybin beyond simply palliative care and end of life,” said Spencer Hawkswell, CEO of Therapsil, a Victoria-based coalition of health care practitioners.

Therapsil has been advocating for the therapeutic use of psilocybin – a drug naturally found in mushrooms that has a similar effect to LSD and other psychedelic drugs – in small doses for patients in palliative care.

Hawkswell says Mona Strelaeff’s, who lives in Metchosin, application to use psilocybin was more of a “test,” adding that the health authority seemed “perfectly willing” to allow the application through. Because Strelaeff was able to get an exemption even though she is not dealing with end of life distress, Hawkswell believes this could be the start of wider access to the drug, pointing to the recent move in Oregan to decriminalize personal use of drugs.

“That’s what we’re seeing the Canadian government responding to right now,” he says.

READ ALSO: Greater Victoria non-profit advocates for the use of psilocybin for terminal patients

Strelaeff, 67, had been dealing with an “awful lot of problems” leading up to Friday, Nov. 6 when she drank the psilocybin tea and underwent a four-hour trip.

Strelaeff left her home in Finland when she was 17, and says she suffered sexual abuse at different instances in her life.

“I tried everything, I took pills, and I did talk therapy,” she says. When nothing worked, Strelaeff turned to alcohol.“There were all these things that came up and I started drinking more and more. I’m an accountant and I mean, it was very difficult to be a drunk and an accountant.”

Strelaeff gave up accountin in her late 40s.

“I finally told myself, I can’t continue this kind of a thing … as soon as I had quit drinking, I found out I had breast cancer, and the breast cancer had metastasized into my lungs.”

Strelaeff says she was given the option of regular chemo or more drastic measures that would allow her to live a few more months. She chose the regular chemo and it worked.

READ ALSO: Oregon could become 1st US state to decriminalize hard drugs

“Some doctors told me I had a miracle happen, other doctors said that they had made a mistake – but in my psyche that made no difference whatsoever. I had already faced death,” she says. For the first year, Strelaeff was on a high, feeling she had “beat all those odds.” But then the “bottom fell out” and she went into a depression.

Her family spent approximately $60,000 on treatment in the U.S. Then, Strelaeff’s daughter died and things only got worse.

So on a Friday morning around 10 a.m., Strelaeff began her journey with Bruce Tobin, a North Saanich psychotherapist and founder of Therapsil, in the room guiding her. Throughout the trip, Strelaeff saw doors that needed to be opened to teach her something about her life. When all the doors were open, Strelaeff felt as if 50 pounds of weight had been lifted off her back. She says she now feels “unbelievably peaceful.”

Strelaeff believes psilocybin-assisted therapy could help anyone dealing with unresolved trauma and wants to see it become available for medical professionals to use for treatment.

Hawkswell agrees, adding that Therapsil has been inundated with requests from people in palliative care seeking access to the treatment.

Therapsil is in the process of training doctors and therapists to provide the treatment themselves. Hawkswell says expects once they can expand to people dealing with anxiety, major depression, or PTSD, there will be a “large uptick” in people applying.


 

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
kendra.crighton@blackpress.ca. Follow us on Instagram.  
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Treatment

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Willow, a kitten belonging to a Victoria family, was rescued by firefighters on Thursday after she got stuck in a basement drain pipe. (City of Victoria/Twitter)
Victoria kitten stuck in basement drain pipe rescued by firefighters

Willow the cat on the mend, owner feeling ‘enormous gratitude’

(Black Press Media file photo)
Blue-green algae bloom confirmed in Elk Lake, water-based activities not recommended

Blue-green algae can be lethal to dogs, cause health issues for humans

Victoria police arrested a man Jan. 15 after he rammed his minivan into an occupied police vehicle. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria man arrested for ramming minivan into occupied police vehicle

Man caught after fleeing, crashing into cement retaining wall

A fire sparked at an encampment between the Pat Bay Highway and McKenzie Avenue early Thursday morning. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Residents of Pat Bay Highway encampment to be relocated after early morning fire, site secured for clean up

Eviction notice issued in 2020, not enforced to allow BC Housing to connect with campers

Mayor Rob Martin and Costa Canna president Phil Floucault cut the ribbon on Colwood’s first cannabis retail store. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Cowichan Tribes’ Costa Canna cannabis store opens in Colwood

Cowichan Tribes has one-year deal to grow, sell cannabis

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Terry David Mulligan. (Submitted photo)
Podcast: Interview with longtime actor/broadcaster and B.C. resident Terry David Mulligan

Podcast: Talk includes TDM’s RCMP career, radio, TV, wine, Janis Joplin and much more

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virtually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government reinforces importance of anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality

Most Read