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

The District of Sooke has launched a new online community engagement platform, letstalksooke.ca, where residents can share feedback and stay up to date on projects and initiatives that are happening in their community. (Kevin Laird - Sooke News Mirror)
Sooke launches online engagement portal

The District of Sooke has launched a new online community engagement platform… Continue reading

Island Health declared a COVID-19 outbreak in two houses at the Mount St. Mary long-term care home on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of Google Earth)
Island Health declares outbreak at Victoria long-term care home

Resident, staff member test positive for COVID-19 at Mount St. Mary facility

A peacock struts by a pair of lamb siblings at the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm, which remains closed to the public. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
VIDEO: Victoria petting zoo optimistic about future after 13 months closed

Public helps non-profit Beacon Hill Children’s Farm with nearly $100,000 influx

Vancouver Island Connector and Tofino Bus is putting a 41-passenger electric bus through its paces in a three-month trial run between Nanaimo and Victoria. (Photo submitted)
Electric bus on trial run serving Victoria-to-Nanaimo route

Vancouver Island Connector and Tofino Bus trying out 41-seat electric coach for three months

Sewer construction will mean limited access to West Shore Parkway from Sooke Road for the next week. (Courtesy of the City of Langford)
West Shore Parkway access limited from Sooke Road

Crews working on sewer construction for the next week

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

A teacher-librarian in Nanaimo was fired in 2019 for checking out an age-inappropriate graphic novel to a student. The discipline agreement was published Wednesday, April 21. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo teacher-librarian fired for checking out too-graphic graphic novel to student

Teacher had been previously disciplined and suspended on two occasions

Aria Pendak Jefferson cuddles ChiChi, the family cat that ran away two years ago in Ucluelet. The feline was missing until Courtney Johnson and Barry Edge discovered her in the parking lot of the Canadian Princess earlier this month. Aria and her parents were reunited with ChiChi in a parking lot in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
An Island girl’s wish is answered as her cat came back

Courtenay family reunited with cat that went missing in Ucluelet in 2019

FILE – The Instagram app is shown on an iPhone in Toronto on Monday, March 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Judge acquits B.C. teen boy ‘set up’ on sex assault charge based on Instagram messages

The girl and her friends did not have ‘good intentions’ towards the accused, judge says

Kai Palkeinen recently helped a car stuck on the riverbed near the Big Eddy Bridge. While the car could not be saved, some of the driver’s belongings were. It’s common for vehicles to get stuck in the area due to significantly changing river levels from Revelstoke Dam. (Photo by Kai Palkeinen)
“I just sank a car’: Revelstoke resident tries to save vehicle from the Columbia River

Although it’s not permitted, the riverbed near the city is popular for off roading

Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, walks down the street with an acquaintance after leaving B.C. Supreme Court during a lunch break at her extradition hearing, in Vancouver, B.C., Thursday, April 1, 2021. A judge is scheduled to release her decision today on a request to delay the final leg of hearings in Meng Wanzhou’s extradition case. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rich Lam
B.C. judge grants Meng Wanzhou’s request to delay extradition hearings

Lawyers for Canada’s attorney general had argued there is no justification to delay proceedings in the case

B.C. Premier John Horgan announces travel restrictions between the province’s regional health authorities at the legislature, April 19, 2021. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sees 862 more COVID-19 cases Wednesday, seven deaths

Recreational travel restrictions set to begin Friday

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson is photographed following her budget speech in the legislative assembly at the provincial legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. budget lacks innovative drive, vision during uncertain times, say experts

Finance Minister Selina Robinson’s budget sets out to spend $8.7 billion over three years on infrastructure

Using panels kept cold by water circulating within them, B.C. researchers compared thermal comfort in 60 of the world’s most populous cities, including Toronto. (Lea Ruefenacht)
B.C. researchers use air conditioning to combat spread of COVID particles

Dr. Adam Rysanek and his team have proven a new worthwhile system – a mixture of cooling panels and natural ventilation

Most Read