The French Connection–MAPS News April 2008
Dear MAPS Members, Supporters, & Friends,
MAPS is bursting at the seams with exciting news this month. Heres whats going on:
- World Psychedelic Forum in Basel Spurs New Developments
- MDMA Therapist Training Protocol Discussed in Basel
- Paris Philosophy and Cognitive Science Conference Brings New Collaboration
- Exploring the Possibility of a French MDMA/PTSD Study
- Volunteers Sought for Psychedelic Emergency Services at Burning Man
- Volunteers Sought for Psychedelic Emergency Services at Boom
- Psychedelic Art for Sale to Raise Funds for MAPS Research
- New Edition of Stanislav Grofs LSD Psychotherapy Now Available
- Application Submitted to the American Cancer Society for MDMA/Cancer Anxiety Study
- Johns Hopkins Psilocybin/Cancer Study Seeking Subjects
- FDA Reviews MAPS-Sponsored Swiss LSD/End-of-Life Anxiety Protocol
- Plan in Place for Data Analysis of Michael Mithoefers MDMA/PTSD Study
- PostModernTimes Webisode Features MAPS President Rick Doblin, PhD Interviewed by Daniel Pinchbeck
- Psychedelic Elder Alexander Sasha Shulgin Completes Heart Surgery on April 8th
- Entheon Village Report from Burning Man 2007
- Report From the Medical Marijuana Conference in Asilomar
- Seeking New Moderator for the MAPS Forum
- Spring Bulletin Off to the Printers
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Continuing the biannual tradition that the Gaia Media Foundation started with the LSD Symposium in 2006, the World Psychedelic Forum (WPF) was held this year in Basel, Switzerland from March 21st to 24th. The WPF drew a crowd of almost 2000 psychedelic intelligentsia from 37 countries, and it gave the psychedelic community a tremendous opportunity to gather and network. Albert Hofmann, now past 102, sent his grandson to give a presentation on his behalf, and received a few visitors at his home.
During the opening keynote panel (AIFF’s available: Clip 1 & Clip 2), held on Good Friday, 2008, MAPS President Rick Doblin discussed lessons learned from his twenty-five to twenty-eight year follow-up study of the classic Good Friday Experiment, originally conducted by Dr. Walter Pahnke in 1962 (Powerpoint available). Rick spoke about his vision of nonprofit drug development during a group session with MAPS-sponsored researchers Michael Mithoefer, M.D., Ann Mithoefer R.N. (who are conducting our U.S. MDMA PTSD study) (Powerpoint available), and Psychologist Sameet Kumar, Ph.D. (who is in the midst of the approval process for a psilocybin/cancer anxiety study). Rick spoke about the past, present, and future of MAPS-sponsored MDMA and LSD research in Switzerland on a panel with MAPS-sponsored Swiss researcher Peter Oehen, M.D. (who is conducting our MDMA PTSD study) and Juraj Styk, M.D., who spoke on the process of psychedelic psychotherapy.
Rick also appeared on a question and answer panel titled Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Psychedelics, along with Dennis McKenna PhD, Dale Pendell, and Kathleen Harrison PhD, and he moderated a panel called From Problem Child to Wonder Child” featuring Russian ketamine researcher Evgeny Krupitsky, MD (Powerpoint available) and MAPS Staffer Valerie Mojeiko. Mojeiko gave a presentation titled, Psychedelic Emergency Services: Lessons from Burning Man to Boom to Beyond, (Powerpoint available) and she also presented preliminary results from MAPS exploratory outcome study of ibogaine-assisted therapy in the treatment of opiate addiction (Powerpoint & MP3 audio file available).
MAPS cosponsored the conference and donated $5000 for expenses. In addition to paying expenses for MAPS staff, MAPS paid some or all of the expenses for a number of researchers to attend and speak at the conference including Stan Grof MD, PhD, Michael and Annie Mithoefer (MD and RN), Sameet Kumar PhD, Evgeny Krupitsky MD, Peter and Verena Oehen (MD and RN), Sandra Karpetas, and John Harrison PsyD candidate.
More about the conference will be covered in an article by Mojeiko in the Spring MAPS Bulletin–which will be shipped to members by the end of this month. Im happy to report that some exciting new developments came out of this conference, as well as another conference in Paris the following week that is reported in the related item.
We would like to extend our immense gratitude to the volunteers who helped us with the event in Basel—Judith, Jonah, Joey, John, and Martha. Thanks so much for your valuable help!
An interview with Rick Doblin about the conference and MAPS Swiss LSD research appeared in a Basel newspaper shortly after the conference. Another article appeared in a Basel paper about the WPF that was slightly critical about the conference, but it said Ricks comments were balanced, and Michael Mithoefers research was solid.
One of the main accomplishments of the conference in Basel was that, as a group, psychedelic research organizations were able to really come together and discuss the MDMA therapist training protocol. Rick Doblin reports that The good thing that happened in Basel is the sense of the different teams–from MAPS and Heffter to the European organizations–all really working together, over and above these organizational barriers. So it seemed to me like we really bridged these gaps, and now I feel like were coordinating on critical design and other issues.
In Basel we were able to narrow down our objectives for the MDMA therapist training protocol, in order to focus on whats most importantestablishing it as a training program for psychedelic therapists.
MAPS initially planned to do some side studies with the MDMA research that wont be necessary because of new collaborations.
For example, we were considering measuring levels of the bonding hormone, oxytocin, in MDMA-treated subjects. We were considering this because it may shed some light on the bonding that often occurs with people on MDMA. It would be good to learn if MDMA stimulates oxytocin, but we decided not to add it to the therapist training protocol because another team is gathering that information, and if we did it during our therapist training it would interfere with the therapeutic teaching and learning that were trying to do. Since our primary goal is to train therapists to better understand how to use MDMA in therapy, weve decided to drop the oxytocin measurements. However, there are a few measurements of emotional sensitivity and judgment that were considering adding to the training protocol that may help in the training process.
Were gathering information about professions where personal experience in the technique being used is part of the training process, such as in meditation and yoga, and statements from psychedelic researchers who have found their own personal experiences with these drugs to be helpful to them in psychotherapy.
After the Basel conference MAPS President Rick Doblin and Director of Operations Valerie Mojeiko took the train to Paris and spoke at another conference, held at the Universit Ren Descartes, called Hallucinations in Philosophy and Cognitive Science. This was a free symposium that drew a smaller, yet very engaged academic audience of about thirty people. Doblin gave a talk on the overall strategy and rationale of psychedelic drug development. Valerie spoke about MAPS ibogaine outcome studies and psychedelic emergency services.
Doblin and Mojeiko used their visit to Paris assess the feasibility of bringing psychedelic research in France. Weve been making substantial progress with our research agenda and decided that we could afford to invest two days in a long-shot search for a team of French researchers who might be interested in exploring the possibility of conducting a MAPS-sponsored MDMA/PTSD pilot study in France. (See news item below.)
Prior to the Paris conference, MAPS President Rick Doblin sought referrals to potential French researchers from French psychiatrist Dr. Jacques Mabit (who founded Takiwasi), a drug abuse treatment center in Peru that uses ayahuasca and other plant medicines within a shamanistic context. Dr. Mabit suggested that we contact Dr. Olvier Chambon in Lyon. Fortunately, Dr. Chambon was interested in exploring the possibility of working with MAPS and said that, while he wasnt able to come to the Paris conference, he could meet with Rick in Basel.
While in Basel, Doblin–along with MAPS researchers Michael and Annie Mithoefer–met with Dr. Chambon to explore the possibility of conducting a MAPS-sponsored MDMA/PTSD pilot study in France. They discussed how the study might be designed, how to conduct MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD, the protocol design and approval process, and whether there is a clinic that would be willing to host the MDMA/PTSD experiment. Both psychiatrists are interested in exploring the possibility of conducting this research. Everyone at MAPS is excited about the possibility of starting MDMA/PTSD research in a new country that hasnt seen legal psychedelic research since the late 1960s. Wed be designing a small pilot study that will help us determine if we can replicate the promising results obtained in our U.S. MDMA/PTSD study.
Another meeting in Basel was about the psychedelic emergency services that MAPS may be helping to provide at the BOOM Festival in Portugal this August 11-18th. MAPS helped coordinate psychedelic emergency services at Boom in 2006 and is considering whether to commit to providing services at BOOM 2008.
MAPS President Rick Doblin, PhD and MAPS Director of Operations Valerie Mojeiko had a productive meeting with Diogo Ruvio, one of the founders of the Boom Festival, and several of his team, along with Sandra Karpetas and Svea Nielsen, who worked at Boom 2006. There was a lot of discussion about how things could be improved from the 2006 festival, and how we could create a model program that other festivals could implement in part or in whole. At Boom and similar festivals there are often thousands of young people experimenting with psychedelics, some for the first time, and many with inadequate preparation. Its not uncommon for some people who are ill equipped to deal with the powerful psychological energies that are unleashed to find themselves in very uncomfortable states of mind or dangerous situations. Compassionate guidance during these experiences can mean the difference between an unproductive experience with negative consequences, or a positive (though difficult) experience.
Boom organizers and local law enforcement recognize that bad drug trips can be a serious problem, and unlike in most of America, harm reduction measures can be implemented without fear of legal consequences. Rick Doblin said, its a pleasure to work in a country, and with an organization, that are fully supportive of psychedelic emergency services, as were trying to make it a model. The full support that we would receive at the BOOM Festival can be done, in part, because of the openness to harm reduction in the Portuguese drug policy.
The Spring MAPS Bulletin–which should be in members mailboxes by the end of the month–will contain some absolutely mind-blowing psychedelic art by Carolyn Mary Kleefeld, Brummbaer, and Dean Chamberlain. This art is for sale, with fifty percent of the proceeds going to help raise funds for MAPS research. To find out more information visit the MAPS Webstore.
MAPS second paperback edition of Stanislav Grofs MD, PhD classic book on psychedelic psychotherapy–LSD Psychotherapy–is now available. After a long period of being out of print, this edition contains a new introduction by Albert Hofmann PhD, a new essay by MAPS Staffers Valerie Mojeiko, Ilsa Jerome PhD, and Rick Doblin PhD about the psychedelic research renaissance, and Dr. Grofs acceptance speech for VaclavHavels Vision 97 award. The publication of this important book was made possible by generous donations from Kevin Herbert, John Buchanan, and the Helios Foundation.
On March 28th, Dr. John Halpern, Harvard Medical School, submitted a grant application to the American Cancer Society (ACS) seeking additional funding for his study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy in twelve subjects with treatment-resistant anxiety associated with advanced-stage cancer. MAPS assisted Dr. Halpern, the Sponsor/Principal Investigator, in the protocol, design, approval and funding process.
This grant application represents a major step forward, even if the grant is not awarded. For the last thirty-five years the only support for psychedelic psychotherapy research has come from private individuals or family foundations. No support has come from the pharmaceutical industry, from governments, or from major foundations involved in supporting medical research.
The American Cancer Societys willingness to accept a full proposal seeking funding for MDMA/cancer anxiety research presents a groundbreaking development.
This provides evidence that the cultural context surrounding psychedelic psychotherapy research is changing in a favorable direction. The stigma of conducting this research has declined, and theres been an increase in public support based on the increasingly realistic hope that promising new therapies can be developed through psychedelic psychotherapy research.
A research team at Johns Hopkins is currently seeking subjects for their psilocybin cancer study called Psychopharmacology of Psilocybin in Cancer Patients. This study–supported by the Heffter Foundation–will examine whether the administration of psilocybin can facilitate mystical/spiritual experiences in cancer patients suffering from anxiety and/or depressed mood, thereby improving psychological coping and quality of life. The principal investigators of this study are: Roland Griffiths PhD, Matthew Johnson PhD, William Richards MD (Department of Psychiatry); Michael Carducci MD (Oncology); and Sydney Dy MD (Medicine and Oncology). Patients are eligible for this study if they have a potentially life-threatening cancer diagnosis without CNS involvement, and they seem to be experiencing anxiety or depressed mood as a result of their illness.
On April 8. 2000, MAPS received a letter from FDA concerning its review of the Swiss LSD proposal which we had submitted for review to the FDA. The protocol is already fully approved in Switzerland. We submitted the Swiss protocol to FDA for review so that FDA will accept the data that we will gather in the study.
The FDA has placed the study on Clinical Hold, as they have some questions about additional analytical data for the LSD. Other than that issue, the rest of the protocol is fine with a few minor suggestions for changes that we can easily accept. We will now start working with the FDA to address their concerns about the analysis of the LSD that were going to use in the study.
Two large-scale, multisite studies called Phase III studies are required in order to persuade the FDA that the substance that one is investigating is safe and effective. MAPS plan–for our MDMA PTSD research–and perhaps also for our psychedelic psychotherapy in subjects with anxiety associated with end-of-life issues–is to conduct one of the large Phase III studies in the U.S. (in around ten or fifteen locations), and then another throughout Europe, Switzerland and Israel (also in around ten or fifteen locations). Then we plan to cross-submit the data to the FDA and the European Medicines Agency, because both agencies say that of the two large-scale Phase III studies, one can be abroad, but the other one needs to be domestic.
By doing our research in this way, in global collaboration, we can be maximally efficient, and also utilize the unique resources that are available in each region of the world. In order to prepare the grounds for Phase III trials in the US and Europe we must work with the FDA and the European Medicines Agency so they will accept the data. This means that the protocols have to be reviewed and approved by both agencies.
MAPS is receiving donated assistance from a member within the pharmaceutical industry with expertise in clinical trial data management. Were utilizing her expertise to create a data management system and input the currently available data from Michael Mithoefers MDMA/PTSD study. Were starting now so we can report the complete results shortly after the twenty-first and final subject receives the final experimental session in July, with the studys final follow-up evaluation in September. Our one-year follow-up evaluation will be considered a separate study.
Daniel Pinchbeck–author of Breaking Open the Head–interviewed Rick Doblin for a PostModernTimes webisode with animation. This is a crisp, brief and entertaining interview.
Alexander Sasha Shulgin–legendary psychedelic chemist, consciousness explorer, and author–had heart surgery on Tuesday, April 8th. The surgery was done in order to replace a defective aortic heart valve. He is recovering well, and we anticipate complete recovery within two to three months.
The CaringBridge Web site is being used to keep us up-to-date on Sasha’s progress. CaringBridge is a nonprofit organization that helps friends and families stay connected. Anyone can use the site to check in on Sasha, read the journal entries, and send him messages by signing the guest book. Please send all your good vibes and healing energies to him! We wish him a speedy recovery.
Entheon Village Coordinator Matt Atwood, the rest of his Chicago-based infrastructure team, and MAPS President Rick Doblin, PhD have prepared a complete financial accounting for Entheon Village from Burning Man 2007. The 2007 final report also includes some information about plans for Entheon Village 2008. For this coming year, Entheon will focus more attention and energy on enhancing the experience of the people who camp in the village, and will de-emphasize offering music and dancing in all-night parties. Entheon will still offer the Burning Man community a public lecture series, holotropic breathwork sessions, some music and dancing, places to view art, and a zendo for meditation. Since Entheon will not be such a noise-generating Village, a location closer to center camp has been requested.
The Fifth National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics was held on April 4th and 5th at the Asilomar Conference Center in California, sponsored by Patients Out of Time (POT). International experts discussed the latest research and local activists discussed state-level medical marijuana programs. Rick Doblin spoke at the conference about overall research strategies for medical marijuana in the face of DEA/NIDA obstruction of medical marijuana research, the cannabis cultivation project with Lyle Craker, and the vaporizer research project. Ricks Powerpoint slides give some of the basic information he presented at the conference, though his speech covered more than the slides indicate.
We would like to extend our deep appreciation to the volunteers who helped us with this event– Martha, Bonnie, and Brian. Thanks so much for your valuable help!
The Spring MAPS Bulletin will be going to the printers next week and should be in everyones mailbox about three weeks later. This is a special theme edition of the Bulletin that I edited about technology and psychedelics. We got some terrific submissions and this issue is absolutely jam-packed with fascinating essays, rare information, compelling interviews, and extraordinary artwork. The Bulletin includes thought-provoking articles by U.C. Santa Cruz Mathematician Ralph Abraham, Ph.D., cultural commentator R.U. Sirius, and Penn State Information Science Professor Richard Doyle, Ph.D. WAMM cofounder Valerie Corral also wrote a special tribute to the late writer and psychedelic investigator Laura Huxley. Many other accomplished thinkers and unusually creative artists join us for this special extra-thick issue thats simply bursting at the seams with exciting data. You’ll be able to view a PDF of this Special Edition MAPS Bulletin on our website in the next few days if you can’t wait until the printed one enters your mailbox (and I wouldn’t blame you if you couldn’t).
These are crucial times. I wonder, when future historians look back at this time, what will they say? Will they say that our sleeping species finally awoke and made a great quantum leap in its evolution? Will they see this as a time when humanity left its larval cocoon and expanded out into the cosmos? Or will they see us as having missed a golden opportunity? I think the former, and part of the reason that I think this is because I see how MAPS is spearheading a renaissance in psychedelic research around the globe. This gives me a lot of hope because I believe in the healing potential of psychedelics. If you do too, then please consider making a generous donation to MAPS today.
Onward and Upward,
David Jay Brown, M.A.,
MAPS Guest Editor