Drug policy group condemns psychedelic research association for responding to sexual assault allegations in British Columbia

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A national drug policy advocacy organization condemns the way a leading psychedelic research body responded to allegations of sexual and physical abuse of a British Columbia woman during clinical trials for assisted psychotherapy by MDMA.

The Canadian Drug Policy Coalition released a statement on Thursday expressing “unequivocal solidarity” with Meaghan Buisson and calling on the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) and its Vancouver-based affiliate MAPS Canada to publicly take responsibility for causing harm.

“While [Buisson’s] formal report of sexual assault should have resulted in prompt, thorough and decisive action, there are reports that it was instead ignored, downplayed, suppressed and used to coerce her into a position of extreme social and economic precariousness “, indicates the press release. .

He calls on MAPS and MAPS Canada “to urgently communicate and adopt remedies in broader research processes, collaborations and affiliations to proactively protect against the recurrence of such harms in medicalized practices and cultures of health.” ‘psychedelic use’.

The coalition represents over 50 organizations across the country, including MAPS Canada.

In response to the statement, MAPS Canada Executive Director Scott Bernstein referred CBC to a blog post from the beginning of the year, who described Buisson’s experience as “shattering and deplorable”. The message also indicates that MAPS Canada is developing policies to clarify its ethical standards.

CBC has also reached out to MAPS spokeswoman Betty Aldworth for comment.

“Signs of Institutional Protectionism”

Buisson participated in Phase II clinical trials for MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for post-traumatic stress disorder conducted by MAPS in Vancouver in 2015. Her therapists for these Health Canada-approved sessions were married couple, psychiatrist Dr. Donna Dryer and Richard Yensen, who is unlicensed.

Buisson came to MAPS in 2018 with allegations that Yensen sexually assaulted her while she was on trial. Yensen has admitted to having sex with her, but denies it was an assault, saying Buisson manipulated him.

MAPS agreed to pay Buisson $15,000 to cover therapy, but she had to give up her right to sue the organization.

The Canadian Drug Policy Coalition disputes this response.

“These are signs of institutional protectionism and a continued and sustained violation of consent,” the coalition statement said.

Psychiatrist Dr. Donna Dryer and psychotherapist Richard Yensen are a married couple who live on Cortes Island in British Columbia. (HeartoftheShaman.ca)

MAPS then released a statement acknowledging that Yensen had an “inappropriate and unethical” sexual relationship with a study participant and cut ties with the couple.

However, MAPS has since acknowledged that no one reviewed the videos of Buisson’s sessions after she filed her complaint. These videos came from cameras placed in each treatment room, apparently to ensure that patients were safe and that therapists were following treatment protocol.

Clips of these videos have now been released through the New York magazine podcast Cover Story: Power Trip.

The videos show Dryer and Yensen cuddling, spooning, blindfolding and pinning Bush, who is in obvious distress.

MAPS told CBC that its staff only viewed these tapes in November 2021, six years after they were filmed.

The organization has instituted a compliance review in response to the release of the videos and says it appears Dryer and Yensen are “significantly deviating from the Manual of MDMA Assisted Therapeutic Treatment on several occasions.”

But the statement from the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition argues that this is not enough.

“The release of the video of his abuse to the media should not have been necessary to address the violations which suggested risks to the safety of all participants in the trial,” the statement said.

The coalition also alleges that a number of MAPS leaders, including Bernstein, the executive director of MAPS Canada, “attempted to publicly discredit” Buisson’s story. Bernstein denied this allegation.

In addition to making the videos of Buisson’s sessions public, the researchers behind Cover Story: Power Trip also identified a number of concerns on patient safety, reports of an increase in suicidal thoughts and claims of erroneous research during MAPS clinical trials involving MDMA.

A group of academics and journalists filed complaints with Health Canada and the US Food and Drug Administration in March, and Health Canada has since confirmed it is reviewing all trials involving MDMA to ensure safety. patients and regulatory compliance.

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