Neuma and ATMA partnership brings psilocybin research trials to Kingston

Portsmouth Historic Town Hall is home to Neuma, Kingston’s first psychotherapy and wellness centre focused on the use of psychedelics as part of the therapeutic process. Photo by Sean Marshall.

A Kingston facility specializing in psychedelic community wellness will be the first Ontario site for advanced training programs and clinical trials of psilocybin assisted therapy.

Neuma Centre, which opened its doors in September and began offering psychedelic sampler classes focused on frontline healthcare workers, is expanding upon that work with this new partnership with ATMA Journey Centers Inc., Canada’s leading psychedelic-assisted therapy training providers.

A news release from ATMA says the partnership will allow mental healthcare professionals and aspiring psychedelic therapists in Ontario and eastern Canada easier accessibility to training in the area of psychedelic therapy.

While details surrounding practitioners and locations are being finalized, ATMA and Neuma are looking for participants for Phase II of clinical trials.

ATMA’s N500 Phase II clinical trial was approved in September after a Phase I trial provided evidence of the efficacy and safety of psilocybin. Psilocybin has still not been legalized in the country, but the medical potential has been increasingly recognized, and Health Canada provided ATMA with a No Objection Letter for its clinical trials, according to the agency.

Psychedelics, such as Psilocybin (magic mushrooms), have been studied for their applicable health benefits increasingly over the past decade. Photo by Pretty Drug Things.

The Phase II trial looks to expand the program with a focus on the wellbeing of healthcare practitioners, looking to help alleviate anxiety, depression, and feelings of burnout arising from COVID-19 and other job-related stress. Participants have the chance to cross participate in the psilocybin clinical trial and receive training in using psychedelics for therapy purposes.

As psychedelic therapy being used as a commonplace medical treatment in the United States and Canada becomes closer to a reality, the trials can introduce healthcare workers to the experience which patients themselves will undergo.

Neuma’s co-founder Cory Firth says this trial being dedicated to frontline workers has the benefit of both proving that the treatment can be effective on healthcare workers, and giving those same workers an experience that will help to train them for the expansion of psychedelics in the medical mainstream. Firth says this program goes beyond what Neuma previously offered to frontline workers through the use of cannabis, helping to prepare potential practitioners while still giving them access to the benefits.

“The frontline healthcare worker program that we had started to develop was a way to support them versus train them,” Firth says.

“This is now adding a deeper level of training that goes along with the support. Not only are they getting the actual psilocybin experiences through this trial, they’re also going to get a level of training that helps them to become a better facilitator if that’s something they’re interested in.”

Firth says while it could be an added benefit, the main goal of the program isn’t to create practitioners, but to show participants what it’s like to be in a psychedelic experience. In his opinion, future practitioners having firsthand experience with psychedelic medicine is crucial, he says.

“We need to make sure that this moves beyond the labs, and we move it into actual, practical, experiential learning,” says Firth.

“I think it’s important that individuals that are supporting at the highest level of our healthcare systems know what the experience is like so that it’s properly administered, it’s properly prescribed, and it’s properly understood.”

Firth says he hopes that showing the effectiveness of psychedelics on a larger scale will show Health Canada that they are a safe and reputable mental health treatment.

ATMA is based in Calgary and will now look to expand its research into the larger populations of Ontario and Quebec. CEO David Harder says this partnership with Neuma will make that easier to accomplish.

“We are excited to expand our in-person training and clinical trial sites to Ontario,” he said in a statement.

“Pharmaceutical medical options to cure trauma rooted from human experiences are not widely effective. As psychedelic medicine becomes available, there is a huge opportunity to help those who have not had success with pharmaceutical medicine. The need for qualified, certified therapists who fully understand how to prescribe, facilitate, and work with psychedelic medicine is essential to support patients.”

Firth notes that local partners have come on board for Phase II, which is expected to be announced soon.

ATMA is seeking healthcare professionals interested in participating in its Phase II trials starting in April or September 2023, followed by a retreat late in the year in Kingston. More information on eligibility for participating can be found on ATMA’s website.

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