MAPS News: June 2008 – First legal dose of LSD administered!
MAPS Members, Supporters, & Friends
There’s lots of exciting news to report this month. Here’s what’s going on:
- First LSD-Assisted Therapy Study Begins!
- Ying guang de: Reactions to the Death of Albert Hofmann & the Renewal of LSD Research
- Win Glassware from Dr. Shulgins Lab By Turning Your Friends on to MAPS
- Opportunity to be Named in Next Edition of LSD: My Problem Child by Albert Hofmann
- Sen. Barack Obama Will Likely Support the Development of MAPS Medical Marijuana Production Facility
- New Psilocybin Neurogenesis Study Begins at the University of South Florida
- Boston Phoenix Article Discusses Psychedelic Research at Harvard
- Breakthrough PTSD Treatment Study with MDMA Nears Completion
- Switzerland Allows More MDMA to Non-Responders
- Israeli MDMA/PTSD Study Moves Forward
- New Study Design Finalized During Canadian MDMA/PTSD Protocol Meeting
- MAPS Helps Texas High School Student With Honors Class Project
- Boom Festival Seeks PsyEMS Volunteers
- Invitation to Camp at Entheon Village with MAPS at Burning Man
- Alexander Sasha Shulgin Off to Conquer the World After Recovery from Heart Surgery
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The first subject was treated in Peter Gasser, MDs LSD/end-of-life anxiety study in Switzerland on May 13th. This marks the beginning of what will become the first LSD-assisted psychotherapy study in over 36 years. While were sad that Albert Hofmann didnt live to actually see the first administration of LSD in this study, were glad he knew the study was fully approved and that the initial subject was going to be enrolled in the study soon. This subjects second and final experimental session will take place on June 27. Dr. Gasser will be writing about the details of this initial research in his report for the upcoming Summer MAPS Bulletin.
So far, generous supporters have pledged $125,000 of the $225,000 needed to complete this important study, and we have faith that enough people will feel called to donate the remaining $100,000.
2. Ying guang de: Reactions to the Death of Albert Hofmann & the Renewal of LSD Research
Publications the world over have paid tribute to Albert Hofmann, the legendary Swiss chemist and discoverer of LSD, who died last month at the age of 102. Many of these tributes and obituaries can be found on the MAPS website. Rolling Stone magazine ran a good article by Robert Greenfield about Albert’s death and the renewal of LSD research, which was one of the many articles that quoted MAPS President Rick Doblin, PhD and mentions Albert’s association with MAPS.
The Economist printed an obituary of Albert Hofmann in their May 8th edition, which contained some incorrect information in it about LSD research still being shut down. Rick Doblin wrote a letter to the magazine–to provide correct information about the current LSD psychotherapy research that MAPS is sponsoring–which was published in both the print and audio (mp3) editions of the publication. Rick wrote to The Economist on the suggestion of Catherine Le, a MAPS member in Belgium. We would like to thank her for making this suggestion. We would also like to encourage other MAPS members to keep us informed of any incorrect information that they spot in the media about psychedelic research, as these are opportunities for us to help educate people.
The medias attitude toward psychedelic research does seem to be shifting as a result of our efforts and changes are happening all over the world. There is a new wind blowing, said Rick Doblin. Rick said that he received an interesting message recently from a potential new donor who works in Shanghai. This person wrote about the reaction that some of his staff had to the New York Times article about Albert’s death and the renewal of LSD research. He said, I was in my office in Shanghai last week and overheard one of my Chinese staff discuss this article around the proverbial water cooler. I think this change in attitude evidenced as casual conversation by native Chinese is very significant. I heard the word ‘psychedelic’ for the first time in Chinese–ying guang de.
3. Win Glassware from Dr. Shulgins Lab By Turning Your Friends on to MAPS
Along with the copy of the spring Bulletin, most US domestic members were also sent an extra copy of the previous Bulletin. We are requesting members to help MAPS grow through word-of-mouth, and are encouraging people to give these extra Bulletins away to someone who might become a MAPS member. We will be holding a raffle for people who bring in new MAPS members, with prizes such as glassware from Alexander Sasha Shulgins lab signed by the legendary chemist who rediscovered MDMA. For each friend who becomes a MAPS member before July 15th as a result of your recommendation, you will be given one ticket in a July 16th drawing to win a signed piece of glassware from Dr Shulgins famous psychedelic laboratory, accompanied by a Certificate of Authenticity. Just tell your friend(s) to let us know you suggested they become a MAPS member by mentioning your name in the notes field if they join on-line, or by mentioning your name if they call the office or join by mail.
Rick Doblin would like to personally thank the person who signs up the most members by inviting him or her over for dinner. Hell even buy your plane ticket (up to $400).
MAPS needs to grow in order to fund our promising research studies. The psychedelic research renaissance, and our struggle to conduct medical marijuana research, has come this far thanks to you and others like you. And our continued success depends on this community effort. To participate, go to: www.maps.org/donate
Copies of Albert Hofmanns classic book LSD: My Problem Child are running low and MAPS is planning to reprint a new edition in the next few months. This will be a special updated edition of the book, with new information about Albert’s death and funeral. MAPS is offering a chance for one lucky supporter to make this book possible and be thanked for eternity on the title page if they are the first to pledge $12,000 to the project. Since the construction of the MAPS Pharmaceutical & Medical Research Center is still somewhere down the road, we don’t have any name plaque opportunities for buildings just yet–but we can thank donors in a book. Subsidizing the publishing costs for LSD: My Problem Child would be a great way to honor Albert’s legacy and promote the renewal of LSD research.
5. Sen. Barack Obama Will Likely Support the Development of MAPS Medical Marijuana Production Facility
The frustrating obstruction of our vaporizer research highlights the importance of removing NIDA/PHS from medical marijuana research, which can be accomplished only if we can break NIDAs monopoly on the supply of marijuana legal for use in federally-approved research. The good news is that if the U.S. gets a Democratic administration in the next presidential election, this could help us to move forward with our marijuana cultivation project at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. In Six Minutes With Barack by James Pitkin (click here to watch the video on YouTube), here’s what Democratic frontrunner Barack Obama had to say on Medical Marijuana:
Pitkin: Would you stop the Drug Enforcement Administrations raids on Oregon medical marijuana grows?
Sen. Barack Obama: I would because I think our federal agents have better things to do, like catching criminals and preventing terrorism. The way I want to approach the issue of medical marijuana is to base it on science. And if there is sound science that supports the use of medical marijuana, and if it is controlled and prescribed in a way that other medicine is prescribed, then its something we should consider.
6. New Psilocybin Neurogenesis Study Begins at the University of South Florida
Researchers Juan Sanchez-Ramos PhD, MD and Briony Catlow MS at the University of South Florida in Tampa have just started an exciting new study to see if psilocybin can help promote the birth and development of new brain cells (neurogenesis) in an area of the adult brain called the hippocampus, which is associated with learning and memory. The psilocybin that is being used in this study is coming from an unused portion of a gram of psilocybin that MAPS purchased several years ago for $12,250 and then donated to the University of Arizona for Dr. Francisco Morenos psilocybin/OCD study.
The official title of the new study is Effects of Psilocybin and other Selective Serotonin Agonists on Hippocampal-Dependent Learning and Neurogenesis. It is based on the findings of several researchers who have shown that hippocampal-mediated learning and memory is related to the generation of new neurons in the adult brain. In experiments with laboratory animals, inhibition of neurogenesis with a toxic drug resulted in deficits in specific forms of memory. This provides evidence for the notion that promoting neurogenesis might improve some aspects of memory and cognition. The proposition that psilocybin impacts cognition, and stimulates hippocampal neurogenesis, is based on the evidence that psilocybin mimics the neurotransmitter serotonin, which–when acting on specific serotonin receptor subtypes (most likely the Serotonin 2A receptor)–is involved in the regulation of neurogenesis in the hippocampus. Were looking forward to hearing about the results from this fascinating study.
The June 6th issue of the Boston Phoenix ran a cover story article entitled Will Harvard Drop Acid Again? by Peter Bebergal, which is about the renewal of psychedelic research at Harvard Medical School. Although the article is somewhat framed in terms of Timothy Learys tumultuous time at Harvard in the early 60s, it mostly points to the medical promise that is coming from Dr. John Halpern MDs research with MDMA and dying cancer patients, as well as the potential research that hed like to do with LSD and psilocybin for the treatment of cluster headaches.
Michael Mithoefer MDs US MDMA/PTSD study is almost complete! In a few days, subjects #18, #19 and #20 will complete their final non-drug psychotherapy sessions. For final outcome measures, one will be completed later in June and another one in early July. Subject #21 will have her third MDMA session in July, and her final outcome measures in September. After that the study will be finished and well analyze the data. Then well prepare a report to the FDA and write a scientific article for submission to a peer-reviewed journal for publication. There are many steps in our march toward Phase 3 trials. However, with the completion of this initial pilot study–which will become the foundation on which everything else will be built–eventually, the prescription use of MDMA for PTSD will be available for all who need it. A breakthrough treatment for PTSD is sorely neededand with your help, we will give this gift of healing to the world.
In the last update I reported that SwissMedic, and our Swiss Ethics Committee, have agreed to let non-responders in Dr. Peter Oehen MDs Swiss MDMA/PTSD study have the option of receiving two additional sessions–and the possibility of going up to a 150 mg dose, with 75 mg supplemental dose from 125 mg, with 62.5 mg supplemental dose. All of the subjects will receive three sessions, and if co-therapists and patient agree, nonresponders will be able to have a fourth, and perhaps also a fifth session, at the slightly larger doses
One subject has now received the 150 mg dose. Dr. Oehen reports that this subject tolerated the increased dose without problem, and has improved a little since then, although he says it is hard to tell if the improvement is from the higher dose or just from the additional session. The second 150 mg session is scheduled for the end of June.
An anonymous supporter sent MAPS $29,000 to complete the Swiss MDMA/PTSD study. However, this was for completing it as it had been originally designed–without the additional sessions for non-responders–so we still have $20,000 left to accept from those that want to be part of this historic study.
The second and third subjects have been enrolled in the Israeli MDMA/PTSD study. Additional subjects are in the midst of the screening process. Our Israeli research team is gathering experience and momentum, and the time for a monitoring visit from MAPS Clinical Research monitoring team is approaching.
On June 5th MAPS President Rick Doblin, Psychologist Andrew Feldmar PhD, Psychiatrist Ingrid Pacey MD, Michael Mithoefer MD, Valerie Mojeiko, and Ilsa Jerome PhD participated in a teleconference to discuss in detail the protocol for MAPS Canadian MDMA/PTSD pilot study. They came to final agreement on the design, so that the protocol and informed consent can now be fully elaborated. Once the protocol and informed consent form are completed, they will be reviewed one final time by the group and then submitted for approval to the Canadian Institutional Review Board (IRB), then to Health Canada.
The proposed study will include twelve subjects who will each undergo three experimental sessions, with a fourth optional session. Weve added one more non-drug psychotherapy session before the first MDMA session, on Dr. Mithoefers suggestion, because he found that more preparation will deepen the therapeutic alliance and make the difficult emotional work during the experimental sessions flow easier.
As in our other MDMA/PTSD studies, were planning for the experimental group to receive 125 milligrams initially, with a supplemental dose of 62.5 mg after two hours. The control group will receive 25 milligrams for the placebo dose, with a 12.5 mg supplemental dose two hours later. For the third experimental session and the fourth optional experimental session, the dose may be increased to 150 mg initially with a supplemental dose of 75 mg, depending on the clinical judgment of the co-therapist team and the agreement of the subject. The 150 mg dose has been well-tolerated in our Swiss MDMA/PTSD study and so we want to explore this dose further.
Well also have a second stage to the study where the placebo subjects can go through the whole process open label. Our primary goal with this study is to see if we can replicate the results that we’ve obtained in the U.S. MDMA/PTSD study.
MAPS President Rick Doblin responded to an appeal for assistance from Torrin Glic–a junior in Cedar Park High School in Austin, Texas–with an honors class project about MDMA research, especially for PTSD. Torrin delivered an oral presentation on the subject–accompanied by a Powerpoint presentation, before a panel of judges–and his teacher said it was the best presentation in the class.
Rick also assisted MJ, a high school senior, on his senior exit paper by being interviewed as an expert witness, a requirement for an A on the paper. MJ chose the thesis that LSD had a positive effect on the scientific community throughout the past fifty years. MJ received a 100% score on his paper!
Educating students is an important part of MAPS mission, and in the midst of everything else were doing, we try to find time to help students with class projects related to MAPS mission. Congratulations Torrin and MJ! Great work!
13. Boom Festival Seeks PsyEMS Volunteers
14. Invitation to Camp at Entheon Village with MAPS at Burning Man
MAPS will be participating this year in creating the third incarnation of Entheon Village at Burning Man. This camp was first established in 2006 for MAPS’ 20th Anniversary (which was also Burning Man’s 20th Anniversary). Entheon Village will have a different focus this year than in the prior two years, when the emphasis was on offering a wide range of experiences in art, science and spirituality (the fruits of psychedelics) to the larger Burning Man community. This year, we’re going to focus instead on enhancing the communal living experience for the people at Entheon Village by offering an organic, vegan meal plan with meat option, communal eating and gathering spaces, showers, potties, etc. We’re going to be located off the Esplanade and closer to Center Camp. We’re also going to forgo all-night music and dance parties, but will still offer, in a large dome and other structures, music and dancing, a lecture series, holotropic breathwork, and other activities. Entheon Village will also include the zendo for meditation. For more information, and to register to camp at Entheon Village, see the Entheon Village Web site.
15. Alexander Sasha Shulgin Off to Conquer the World After Recovery from Heart Surgery
I reported in the last two email news update about how 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. According to his wife Anne, [Sashas physician, Dr. Dharan, told him that] he could now sit in the passenger seat of the car (hes been relegated to the back seat until now, in case the airbag deployed, which could have busted open the sutures). He can also lift more than five pounds, (which means he can take out the garbage), and he can stretch his arms as high as is comfortable (theres still some pain when he reaches too far, but that will slowly fade). Because our amazing super-surgeon, Dr. Dharan, has handed Sasha his graduation papyrus (so to speak), and told him to go out and conquer the world (or at least to continue doing your important work), and we wont be seeing him again until the next book is published, at which time well present him with a copy, inscribed with a whole bunch of Thank Yous–again.
One of the most common remarks that I hear from people who have benefited from their use of psychedelics is how grateful they are to have had the experience. For those of us who are grateful, MAPS gives us the chance to express that gratitude. If you value the important research that MAPS is initiating all over the world, to help make psychedelic drugs into prescription medicines, then please consider honoring that by making a generous donation to MAPS today.
Onward and Upward,
David Jay Brown, M.A.,
MAPS Guest Editor