Medium: In Support of Compassion, Freedom, and MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy for PTSD

Summary: Asana co-founder Justin Rosenstein writes for Medium about his decision to donate $300,000 to the MAPS Capstone Challenge.

Originally appearing here.

MDMA shows enormous promise to heal many who suffer the most trauma in our society. Yet its potential has been buried under the brutality and waste of a misguided war on drugs. Today I’m donating $300,000 toward making MDMA-assisted therapy a legal medicine for treating PTSD, to help kick off the $10M matching grant organized by Tim Ferriss.

After decades of effort, the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies is in the home stretch: this $20M is likely enough to complete Phase 3 FDA Trials.*

I feel honored to contribute to this, as a critical turning point in the legal treatment of psychedelics as medicines, for the sake of:

1) Compassion & common sense. PTSD afflicts tens of millions of people, including survivors of assault and sexual abuse, refugees, veterans, victims of social and racial injustice, and now healthcare workers on the frontlines of fighting COVID. Rigorous scientific trials strongly suggest that medicines like MDMA — when administered properly in combination with psychotherapy — can be substantially beneficial to treating conditions like PTSD, with low risk of harm. For some with severe trauma, it has been the only effective treatment. Compassion demands that we not deny medicine to the sick and suffering.

2) Liberty. No choice is more fundamental to self-determination than what we ingest in our bodies and how we conduct our inner lives. It is a profound violation of our autonomy to imprison someone for these private choices. It is part of the failed — and profoundly racist — war on drugs. When we tolerate this injustice, we embolden authoritarians: we admit that we are easy to control.

3) Collective healing & evolution. It’s safe to say humanity could be navigating our situation more skillfully. Doing so requires maturing both our external structures (inc. technological, economic, political, epistemic, and infrastructure systems) and internal consciousness. Psychedelics have been used for thousands of years to heal trauma that hinders our seeing and acting clearly, catalyze spiritual and mystical insights of unity, and to cultivate inner clarity and virtue. Science has also demonstrated these effects. Healing and evolving our shared consciousness and culture are essential, especially at a moment in history when our choices matter so much.

4) Ecological consciousness. Psychedelic treatment recipients frequently report a deeper connection to the Earth and intuitive appreciation of the intrinsic value of nature. These realizations inform pro-ecological and pro-social choices that can help us transition more quickly to systems that respect and regenerate our planet.

At the same time as I support immediate decriminalization, I would be very concerned about hasty legalization. Psychedelics can create extreme disruption, false certainty, and unnecessary suffering — especially without the appropriate setting or subsequent integration process. We also risk a 1970s-like legal backlash. Patience, mindfulness, and gradual policy experimentation will be essential.

Thank you to the MAPS team and Rick Doblin for your 30+ years of focused work, to Tim for using your platform for this cause, to everyone who has donated or will donate (you can donate here), to the Psychedelic Science Funder’s Collaborative, and to Joe Green behind the scenes. Here’s to continuing to take steps toward a more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.