PTSD Awareness Month Highlights Need for More Effective Treatments

JUNE 29, 2016


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PTSD Awareness Month Highlights Need for More Effective Treatments

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is a non-profit research and educational organization working to address the international PTSD epidemic by developing MDMA-assisted psychotherapy and medical marijuana into federally legal treatments for PTSD approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In addition to conducting research, MAPS also conducts extensive public education about PTSD, the effects of trauma, and how people can support promising new treatments.

In honor of PTSD Awareness Month, here are several important facts about PTSD:

  • PTSD is a chronic and devastating illness associated with high rates of disability and suicide.
  • PTSD can be caused by war, sexual assault, childhood abuse, torture, violent crime, accidents, natural disasters, and other traumatic events.
  • People suffering from PTSD often avoid expressing their emotions, experience persistent fear and hyper-arousal, isolate themselves, suffer from depression, and have a high rate of suicide.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, over 50% of people in the United States will have traumatic experiences at some point in their life, and 7-8% of U.S. citizens will develop PTSD.
  • Each year, PTSD affects approximately 8 million adults in the U.S. alone.
  • As many as 18% of U.S. veterans of the Iraq war have PTSD, with as many 225,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from the condition. In 2004, the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs spent $4.3 billion on PTSD disability payments to approximately 215,000 veterans.

For some PTSD sufferers, symptoms can be reduced with treatments such as psychotherapy or daily medications. The currently approved pharmaceutical treatments for PTSD (SSRIs) are ineffective for as many as one in three patients. It is our ethical obligation to develop more effective treatments for PTSD.

MAPS is currently funding clinical trials of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) as a tool to assist psychotherapy for the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Preliminary studies have shown that MDMA in conjunction with psychotherapy can help some people overcome chronic, treatment-resistant PTSD.

MDMA is known for increasing feelings of trust and compassion towards others, which could make an ideal adjunct to psychotherapy for PTSD. In MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, MDMA is only administered a few times, unlike most medications for mental illnesses which are often taken daily for years, and sometimes forever.

This year, MAPS is completing our international series of six Phase 2 studies of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD, which included 136 participants, and will meet with the FDA this summer to plan our larger Phase 3 trials. These Phase 3 trials will treat 200-400 additional participants, and cost approximately $30 million to complete. MAPS currently anticipates that MDMA-assisted psychotherapy may be approved by the FDA as soon as 2021.

Our Phase 3 trials will require training of many new therapists in the techniques of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD. Our clinical research team and lead therapists are reviewing applications from potential Phase 3 researchers after receiving nearly 250 applicants from 10 countries.

MAPS has also obtained approval to conduct the first-ever clinical trial of smoked whole plant marijuana for the treatment of PTSD. Set to begin this year, this study will explore the safety and effectiveness of various strains of marijuana for reducing PTSD symptoms in 76 U.S. military veterans with chronic, treatment-resistant PTSD.

To learn more about PTSD and how you can help make MDMA-assisted psychotherapy and marijuana into legal treatments, visit