September 12, 2023
The Curative Powers of Psychedelic and Other Illegal Drugs

Mark Haden

Adjunct Professor of Population and Public Health, UBC

Mark Haden is a major figure in the field of psychedelic medicines, with a long list of past and present activities and responsibilities. Among — and beyond — these, he is the Clinical Supervisor for the Psychedelic Treatment Program at Qi Integrated Health and the Vice President of Business Development at Clearmind Medicine. He also teaches how to be a psychedelic guide with the ATMA psychedelic therapy program. Mark is also an advisor to Psy-gen – Canada’s largest manufacturer of psychedelics.

Mark served as the Executive Director for MAPS Canada for 10 years and is an Adjunct Professor at the University of British Columbia School of Population and Public Health. Mark has published numerous articles in respected journals, has presented at conferences and training events in many countries, and was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2013 for drug policy reform work. Mark also has a well-deserved reputation as an exciting speaker who never fails to engage and surprise audiences. You can read his latest publications and listen to his presentations at

Transcription of Presentation.

Peter Delaney formally introduced our speaker, Dr Mark Haden.

In a remarkable resurgence, psychedelics, a term rooted from the Greek for “manifesting of the mind,” have reclaimed their place in the spotlight of mental health treatment. While their historical use predates recorded human history, the 1960s saw them entangled with counterculture, prompting criminalization and impeding research. However, a recent renaissance in the field has ushered in a new era of understanding. There has even been a systematic review of systematic reviews affirming their profound mental health benefits. From aiding addiction recovery to alleviating end of-life anxiety and supporting trauma survivors, psychedelics have emerged as versatile tools in mental health care. Our presenter Mark Haden, an expert in the field and an advocate for the healing potential of psychedelics, shared compelling insights from previous and ongoing studies, current treatments, and progressive steps taken in acknowledging the therapeutic potentials of these substances by the government.

Haden marks the start of this renaissance at April 11, 2010, when the first mainstream article was published on the beneficial healing potential of psychedelic medicines in the New York Times. Now, as per the website, there are 128 current clinical trials looking at MDMA, 137 looking at psilocybin, 462 looking at psychedelics in general, and 1321 looking at ketamine. Psychedelics are categorized into three groups: classical psychedelics, empathogens/entactogens, and other. Classical psychedelics like LSD, psilocybin (magic mushrooms), mescaline (Peyote), and DMT (Ayahuasca) often give people a sense of spirituality which is
highly correlated with positive treatment. The measurement of a mystical experience through the MEQ (Mystical Experience Questionnaire) serves as a crucial indicator of effectiveness. Patients often report a sense of transition, enabling them to move beyond conditions like depression and addiction.

There has been a growing interest in psilocybin recently. The Vancouver Police Department has decriminalized the drug and there is very strong public support for legal access to the drug particularly for treating end of life anxiety. One study found that a whopping 80% of patients in a smoking cessation program successfully quit cigarettes after taking a single psilocybin dose.

Meanwhile, empathogens/entactogens like MDMA, MDA, and 3-MMC are pathogens that don’t give much of a spiritual experience but foster interpersonal bonding and a sense of safety, making them instrumental in trauma therapy. While most PTSD treatments are only effective 5-15% of the time, studies have found that MDMA-assisted Psychotherapy has a staggering 82% level of effectiveness. As a result, Health Canada has proactively made MDMA available through their Special Access Program and full legalization is expected next year. MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) will be training and licensing therapists to sell MDMA to facilities across Canada. The training requires two therapists and a lot of time for screening and integration which unfortunately will make this treatment fairy costly and presents an access problem for this highly effective and much needed treatment.

Haden currently runs a ketamine clinic. Because ketamine has an exceptionally low risk of fatality compared to opiate-based drugs, it was historically used as a dissociative anesthetic. However, physicians noticed that after undergoing surgeries with ketamine, patients often also reported improvements in their mental health. This observation eventually led to the approval of ketamine for severe depression treatment by the College of Physicians and Surgeons. Over time, the guidelines expanded to include all mental health conditions and chronic pain, allowing it to be used outside of hospitals in clinics like Haden’s. Qi Integrated Clinic offers
three programs. Helping Heroes, focused on first responders with PTSD; Kat (Ketamine Assisted Therapy), tailored for individuals with moderate to severe diagnoses of conditions like depression and anxiety; and Ketatation, combining ketamine with meditation for mild to moderate diagnoses. Unlike other psychedelics that have sometimes cause some initial anxiety that needs to be managed, ketamine immediately gives patients a sense of relaxation, which makes this treatment very easy for the clinic staff too.

Studies demonstrate that psychedelic treatments lead to immediate increases in positive attitudes towards life, self, and spirituality. Even more striking is the sustained improvement reported by patients 14 months post-treatment. Other compelling studies show that naturalistic psychedelic use may reduce recidivism rates among former inmates, even more so than the more generally agreed upon predictors of a stable family, housing, and employment. Although there’s more research needed, there is even some indication that micro doses of LSD may help patients with schizophrenia.

So how do psychedelics help with so many conditions? Psychedelics help increase brain connectivity and neuroplasticity. Haden presents a ski hill analogy. When you start to ski, you really have to think about where you’re putting your poles, how you’re holding your body, and where you’re going, but after some time, the movements become automatic and this skill slips into your unconscious mind becoming an automatic tape loop. Depression, anxiety, PTSD, addiction are also automatic tape loops. Psychedelics, like fresh snow falling on a ski path, make you have to take pause, bring that unconscious tape loop to the conscious and reconsider the path forward, helping to break habits. With a diverse range of applications and a growing body of research supporting their efficacy, psychedelics are poised to play an exciting and significant role in the future of mental healthcare.

Glenn Faris thanked Dr. Haden and presented him with the customary honorarium.