Three Australian clinicians are joining the Israeli therapist training program: Stuart Saker, M.D., a psychiatrist with the Australian armed forces; Fiona MacKenzie, a clinical psychologist (and Stuart’s partner); and Marty Downs, M.D., a psychiatric resident and student of Dr. Sandy McFarlane, the chief psychiatrist of the Australian military. The clinicians met Rick Doblin in early December when he was the keynote speaker at the Entheogenesis Australis (EGA) Symposium. MAPS offered a $25,000 matching grant for an Australian MDMA/PTSD study, and the Australians raised $75,000 for the study, a 3-to-1 match! The Australian study is in the early development stages. After the Australian therapists return home, they will gather information about whether the study could take place in formal association with the Australian military or within an academic research context.
MDMA research has already been approved and conducted in Australia, which suggests that beginning our own study there is a real possibility. The completed study was a dissertation involving healthy volunteers who had been administered MDMA as part of a driving study (and who were given unscheduled time near the peak of their MDMA experience) and studying its effects on facial and emotion recognition. While this previous research did not directly address the effectiveness of MDMA or MDMA-assisted psychotherapy against PTSD symptoms, it is related in the sense that PTSD is an affective disorder that affects sufferers’ ability to respond to social and emotional cues. This previous study provides evidence that justifies further explorations into MDMA’s therapeutic efficacy, and it makes it more likely that Australian regulators will approve our own study.