Summer 2011 Vol. 21, No. 2 Research Edition
FOR 25 YEARS, MAPS has worked to study the healing potentials of psychedelics and marijuana. People suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxious about approaching the end of their life, or struggling with addiction often experience psychological pain that remains even after traditional psychotherapeutic and pharmacological treatment. My experience—as well as that of many doctors, psychotherapists, and 5 hospice workers I’ve come to know over the years—tells me that lasting healing (or comfort with death) doesn’t come just in a pill. Neither does it come in wishful thinking.
That’s why the methodology that MAPS is developing for psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy addresses both the body and the mind—through the careful application of psychedelic medicines and the compassionate care of a trained team of psychotherapists. With that combination, we are succeeding in showing the world that psychedelic psychotherapy can be a powerful tool for healing and personal growth.
Just as personal healing involves the whole person, social healing involves our whole society. While our immediate goal is to heal individual patients, our research has implications far beyond the small (but no less significant) space of the psychotherapist’s office.
The scientific knowledge that MAPS has collected—both from government-funded risk studies and from our own research—has persuaded the FDA and other regulatory agencies around the world that MDMA has an acceptable risk profile that justifies administering it to human subjects in clinical research settings.
MAPS’ MDMA research was also a major factor in changing how judges enforce laws surrounding Ecstasy-related crimes. On July 15, 2011, U.S. District Judge William Pauley III sentenced a defendant charged with selling illegal Ecstasy tablets to 26 months in prison, less than half the time recommended by current sentencing guidelines. In doing so, the judge acknowledged that the U.S. Sentencing Commission had ignored my 2001 testimony (and that of other experts) that MDMA was not as dangerous as government-funded researchers had claimed.
When the original guidelines were announced in 2001, Acting Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy Edward R.Jurith revealed how policymakers’ fear of crack cocaine influenced their attitudes toward Ecstasy. “We never again want another ‘crack epidemic’ to blindside this nation,” Jurith said. Now, thanks to the combination of MAPS’ research and the determination of the American Civil Liberties Union, the courts are taking psychedelic science seriously.
The wider social implications of our research are undeniable. MAPS’ new efforts to start research into medical marijuana for veterans with chronic, treatment-resistant PTSD have received remarkably positive coverage in The New York Times and major military media such as Stars and Stripes and USNavySeals.com. You could say we’ve gained some unlikely allies in our mission to develop effective treatments for veterans suffering from PTSD—but then again, perhaps these aren’t unlikely allies at all. Trauma, like healing, transcends mental, geographic, political, religious, and scientific boundaries.
It’s time for us to take advantage of (and not take for granted) the wide-open field of psychedelic research we have before us. With the enduring and generous support of our friends, MAPS has been charting new terrain for 25 years. As long as we can maintain our momentum and continue to generate promising data, MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD will be legally available within 10 years. The path is clear, though long and challenging.
To help support our research and further build our community, I’m inviting you to join me for Cartographie Psychedelica, our five-day 25th Anniversary event from December 8-12 at the Oakland Marriott City Center in the San Francisco Bay Area, and for our other events this fall in Victoria, Vancouver, Portland, Seattle, and New York City.
With all the profits from our 25th Anniversary events going to fund our next U.S. study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD patients, we’re laying the foundation for the future of psychedelic medicine. Our dedicated team of event planners, designers, artists, and volunteers, is working diligently and imaginatively to make Cartographie Psychedelica a memorable and momentous event at the intersection of science, medicine, art, and community.
During the last 25 years, we’ve been slowly gathering momentum as a result of the generous financial support of MAPS members. If everyone who cares about this issue gives what they can, whether a large or small amount, we can develop the first psychedelic into an FDA-approved prescription medicine within this decade. Donate now at www.maps.org/donate and join together to heal and inspire our world!