Psychedelics can change humanity for the better. It’s time to unleash their power | Rick doblin



I study psychedelics. The organization I work for – the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) – has been researching MDMA since 1992, seven years after the drug was banned. Our organization was founded in 1985.

One of the few treatments designated as breakthrough therapy by the FDA, MDMA-assisted therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder is an incredibly promising treatment for this devastating mental injury. PTSD survivors may find it difficult to stay in touch with their work, family and community. They often live with symptoms like insomnia, hyper-vigilance and isolation; these usually lead to substance use disorders, depression, chronic pain or heart problems. Yet most of the available treatments only relieve symptoms for about half of those diagnosed, let alone those in remission.

In May 2021, Nature Medicine published the results of the most advanced psychedelic therapy trial to date. In our phase 3 trial of MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD, 88% of participants who received MDMA in conjunction with trauma-focused therapy experienced a clinically significant reduction in symptoms; 67% of participants no longer met the criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD. Many participants said that MDMA-assisted therapy helped them tackle the root cause of their trauma for the first time.

Exploratory study suggests a role for MDMA in couples therapy. MAPS has combined its MDMA-assisted therapy protocol with Joint Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBCT) for PTSD, in which both the person with PTSD and their partner are given MDMA. The results demonstrated dramatic reductions in PTSD symptoms and partner accommodation, improving the quality of relationships for six couples.

Studies of ketamine have shown promise for chronic suicidal tendencies, symptoms of PTSD, and depression. Legal ketamine clinics that combine therapy and drugs can play a key role in maximizing the benefits and reducing the risks of the psychedelic experience. Psilocybin Assisted Therapy is a revolutionary therapy for depression. Ibogaine can be an effective treatment for opioid use disorders.

In fact, four separate systematic reviews were published this year highlighting the potential of psychedelic-assisted therapies for these conditions and more: end-of-life care, brain damage, neurodegenerative disorders, mood disorders, smoking cessation and addiction. or dependency. Dozens of studies argue for a rapid expansion of research into psychedelic therapies for serious mental health problems.

Evidence indicates that psychedelic use is associated with pro-social benefits and personal growth, including an increased relationship with nature, potentiation of conflict resolution, and maintenance of compassion in first responders. Indigenous communities around the world have used psychedelics in spiritual ceremonies and healings for millennia.

Conversely, the well-documented devastation of the War on Drugs has been responsible for untold trauma. But are legalizing and regulating all substances – turning the tide of the war on drugs – too dangerous? Simply: No. It is more dangerous not to do so.

Decades of research – and much wider use outside of clinical settings – shows that drug risks, for most people, are generally short-term and manageable through compassionate risk reduction measures. For those who become dependent on drugs, on-demand treatment is a more effective intervention than criminalization. Instead of a legal and safe supply of substances, drug control can identify adulterants like fentanyl. Peer support is so successful in transforming emotionally difficult experiences that first responders and police in Denver will soon be trained in the method as an alternative to criminalization or sedation.

Last year, Oregon became the first US state to decriminalize possession of most drugs and create a legal system for supervised psilocybin experiments. California, Vermont, and Hawaii are actively considering new legal frameworks for psychedelics; Texas directs state funding toward research. Faced with an epidemic of suicide among veterans, the US administration of veterans is organizing small trials of psychedelic therapies. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle support federal funding. Lawmakers, regulators, funders, insurers and therapists who have a clear eye on the research may be surprised to see their fears dissipate.

MAPS recognizes that the people most marginalized by society are often those who are most traumatized, who have the least access to a diagnosis and even less to adequate treatment. MAPS works with researchers around the world to facilitate psychedelic-assisted therapy studies with refugees, transgender communities, Covid-exhausted first responders, people of color experiencing racial trauma and more. We envision a day when psychedelics will be more than a treatment of last resort: they will be a catalyst for mass mental health.



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