MAPS News – December 2008: CNN Tells World About MDMA/PTSD Research
Dear MAPS Members, Supporters, and Friends,
I hope that you are enjoying the holiday spirit! On November 13, MAPS Researcher Dr. Michael Mithoefer, MD shared the successes of his study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies 24th annual conference and subsequently across the world via a phenomenal TV report by CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and in print in Nature News and Nature.
In some personal news, at the 10th annual Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) Conference held in Washington DC November 21-23, SSDP bestowed upon me the “Grace Under Fire Award” for my actions in the aftermath of the DEA raids at my alma mater, San Diego State University. I wasn’t able to be in Washington because I was in San Diego presenting a portion of my thesis at the National Communication Association Conference, and I have now submitted that paper to a peer-reviewed journal.
Our Bulletin is in the mail to MAPS members, and it includes MAPS President Rick Doblin’s annual financial report. We know that during these difficult financial times it will be harder to raise funds. It may seem that compared to the $10 million over 7-10 years that we estimate it will take to turn MDMA into an approved prescription medicine, that small donations are not necessary, but this is not the case. Every small donation works to build our support, and larger donors look at these small donations as signals that people value our work.
The Bulletin can be found for free on our website. If you know someone who may be interested in supporting MAPS’ research and educational efforts and you think that having a physical copy of the Bulletin may inspire him or her to become a MAPS member, we would be happy to mail a copy. Simply send me an email with “bulletin for a friend” as the subject line.
I encourage you to consider giving a monetary gift to MAPS this holiday season or purchase something from the MAPS store. Dean Chamberlain’s limited edition, signed light portraits are 10% off through the end of the year.
Randolph Hencken, MA
Communications and Marketing Director
Here’s a sample of what is happening this month at MAPS:
- Dr. Mithoefer’s MDMA/PTSD Presentation Receives International Attention
- Final Bulletin of 2008 in the Mail
- New Donations of $67,000 for US MDMA/PTSD Research
- International MAPS-Sponsored MDMA/PTSD Research Moving Forward
- MAPS Releases Year-End MDMA Literature Review
- Newly Revised MDMA/PTSD Treatment Manual Now Online
- Swiss LSD/End-of-Life Anxiety Study Annual Report Completed
- Comprehensive Review of LSD Published in CNS Neuroscience and Therapeutics
- Ibogaine Study Enrolls First Three Subjects
- Israel Medical Marijuana Production Facility Receives $15,000 in Matching Funds
- MAPS Well-Received at Annual Conference of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP)
- Newest MAPS-Published Ayahuasca Book Available Soon
- International Conference on Traditional Medicines, Interculturality and Mental Health in Peru, June 7-10, 2009
- Gnostic Media to Present Podcast of MAPS President Rick Doblin, PhD
- Jan Irvin just published The Holy Mushroom. Evidence of Mushrooms in Judeo-Christianity
- Sara Shares Her Support for MAPS Via Youtube
- Psychedelic Salon Quarterly Call for Papers
- Holiday Sale! Dean Chamberlain Psychedelic Pioneers Series 10% off
- Passing of Another Elder
* * * Dues-paying MAPS members are empowering staff, scientists, and volunteers to carry out pioneering research and educational projects. To donate, learn about the benefits of MAPS membership, or purchase books, clothes, art, and other merchandise, visit: store.maps.org * * *
On November 13, Michael Mithoefer MD presented data from MAPS pilot study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at the 24th Annual Meeting of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies in Chicago. The presentation resulted in extraordinarily positive international media attention on CNN, Nature News, and Nature (link to all three media reports). CNN’s chief health correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta stood in front of an image of a healthy human brain under the influence of MDMA and shared with the nation the possible benefits of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. CNN’s brain image shows how far we’ve come from the digitally falsified images from MTV(https://maps.org/media/mtvclarify.html) and Oprah showing the brain of an Ecstasy user riddled with large holes.
Michael is now working on writing up the data from the study for publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal and for submission to the FDA. On December 2, we submitted sponsor and investigator forms for annual review of the study to the US Institutional Review Board (IRB). We are extending our data collection to gather one-year follow up data.
On November 24, the third and final MAPS Bulletin of the year was mailed out to MAPS members. This edition contains MAPS President Rick Doblin’s annual financial report, MAPS Director of Operations and Clinical Research Associate Valerie Mojeiko’s Research update, and a transcription of her speech about MDMA/PTSD research at the 2008 Bioneers conference. There are several other fascinating articles, including two written by people with PTSD who received underground MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, a linguistic analysis of transcripts from our US MDMA/PTSD study, a report on our new ibogaine project, a detailed report about psychedelic emergency services at the biannual Boom Festival, and a UK update and interview with Dr. Ronald Sandison, the British LSD research pioneer. As the editor of this edition I look forward to feedback from readers.
On December 2, a family foundation that wishes to remain anonymous donated $50,000 to MAPS for our US MDMA/PTSD research. The foundation had generously supported our US MDMA/PTSD study during the early stages of the research – giving substantial donations that played a crucial role in launching this project.
In addition, long-time MAPS supporter Tim Butcher (profiled in MAPS Bulletin article), is donating $17,000 to our US MDMA/PTSD study, with an initial donation of $5000 and $1,000 a month for the next year.
MAPS Researcher Michael Mithoefer, MD expressed his appreciation to these donors and noted, “Because MDMA can’t be patented these studies are not going to be funded by for-profit pharmaceutical companies. So far we have not been able to get government funding, and I don’t expect that to change in the foreseeable future. Contributions like yours are making it possible for us to complete the analysis and dissemination of our results and to now move forward with development of a training program, new protocols and teams of therapists and other researchers to perform a multi-center study. We are continually encouraged and deeply touched by the level of support MAPS is receiving for this work. The fact that this research can be accomplished by a small non-profit organization supported by a community of people who recognize the healing potential of MDMA and the importance of rational government policy based on science is quite extraordinary. This effort has already made a huge difference in the lives of the people with severe PTSD who participated in the study. I especially want to communicate that fact to you because you are playing a significant role in making it possible.”
Our MDMA/PTSD study in Switzerland is about half completed and our Israel MDMA/PTSD study is still in the early stages with two subjects having completed the study. We’re preparing documents for submission to Health Canada after recently receiving final approval from a Canadian IRB for our new MDMA/PTSD study in Vancouver, Canada (PDF). This study, under the direction of Psychiatrist Ingrid Pacey, MD and Psychologist Andrew Feldmar, MA will hopefully begin enrollment in Spring 2009. Our Jordanian MDMA/PTSD protocol has been submitted to an IRB in Jordan and we’ve received our first set of comments from the review. We are currently working to resolve insurance and liability issues raised by the IRB in Jordan.
As part of our ongoing clinical research responsibilities, MAPS reviews all of the MDMA- related articles published in scientific peer-reviewed journals to determine whether we need to modify our risk/benefit analysis for our clinical studies. We have now completed our review of the scientific literature published between December 2007 and November 2008 and submitted the review to the Institutional Review Board (IRB) that oversees our US MDMA/PTSD study. Nothing in the review changes our risk/benefit analysis regarding our research in human subjects. This review–along with all previous reviews–are compiled by MAPS Research Specialist Ilsa Jerome, and are posted on the MAPS website at: www.maps.org/mdma/protocol/litreview.html
MAPS Researchers Michael Mithoefer MD, Annie Mithoefer BSN, and June May Ruse PhD, have created a revised version of MAPS MDMA/PTSD treatment manual. The new version of the manual builds on a previous manual from 2005, and includes lessons learned from our recently completed US MDMA/PTSD pilot study. The team of researchers reviewed many hours of videotapes of the therapy sessions with the aim of finding clear examples of the key elements of the therapeutic method. The manual will be continually revised as we identify best practices and gather data to link methods to outcomes. The manual, will also be used to develop measurement tools for identifying key elements of the therapeutic method.
The treatment manual, selected excerpts of the videotapes, and the measurement scales of the key elements of our therapeutic method, will form the core of our therapist training program for the male/female co-therapist teams who will conduct MAPS Phase 3 multi-site studies. We anticipate sponsoring studies in 20-30 different locations across the US, Europe, Israel and Jordan.
On November 25, 2008, Dr. Peter Gasser, the Principal Investigator (PI) for the MAPS-sponsored LSD/end-of-life anxiety study, issued the first Annual Report discussing the progress we’ve made in this last year. We’re making gradual progress in what will become the first study of the therapeutic use of LSD in almost 40 years.
MAPS colleague Torsten Passie MD and his collaborators have published an article, “The Pharmacology of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide: A Review” in the most recent edition of the scientific journal CNS Neuroscience and Therapeutics. The following statement comes from the article’s abstract:
“With the entry of new methods of research and better study oversight, scientific interest in LSD has resumed for brain research and experimental treatments. Due to the lack of any comprehensive review since the 1950s and the widely dispersed experimental literature, the present review focuses on all aspects of the pharmacology and psychopharmacology of LSD. A thorough search of the experimental literature regarding the pharmacology of LSD was performed and the extracted results are given in this review. (Psycho-) pharmacological research on LSD was extensive and produced nearly 10,000 scientific papers. The pharmacology of LSD is complex and its mechanisms of action are still not completely understood. LSD is physiologically well tolerated and psychological reactions can be controlled in a medically supervised setting, but complications may easily result from uncontrolled use by layman. Actually there is new interest in LSD as an experimental tool for elucidating neural mechanisms of (states of) consciousness and there are recently discovered treatment options with LSD in cluster headache and with the terminally ill.”
MAPS’ Swiss LSD/end-of-life anxiety study is the research that Dr. Passie referred to at the end of the abstract.
The MAPS-sponsored study of the long-term outcomes of ibogaine treatment for opiate addiction has enrolled the first three subjects. Principal Investigator John Harrison, PsyD Candidate is conducting this study under the supervision of the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) Human Research Review Committee. The study is following patients who undergo ibogaine therapy at the Pangea Biomedics Ibogaine Association in Playas De Tijuana, Mexico for one year after their treatment.
John will be administering the Addiction Severity Index (ASI) to subjects on a monthly basis for one year after treatment and will also be speaking to a non-opiate using significant other on a monthly basis for verification. John is excited by the beginnings of the research and being able to work closely with the patients at the treatment center. John shared that, “it is such an honor to witness firsthand, the personal transformation of these courageous and highly motivated souls!”
John will follow 20 to 30 patients depending upon how much money we are able to raise to conduct the study. Our goal is to raise $30,000 in order to include 30 subjects – all of these funds are still needed.
On December 1, MAPS sent $15,000 to an Israeli medical marijuana production facility directed by Yohai Golan, who produces medical marijuana with a license from the Israeli Ministry of Health. This was a matching grant, which required Yohai to first raise $15,000, which he was able to do.
The production facility has legal permission to grow and distribute marijuana to Ministry of Health-approved patients. However, the facility must give away the medicine for free and cannot sell it until marijuana has been approved as a prescription medicine by the Ministry of Health -which will require substantial clinical research. In the long run, this policy requiring the free distribution of medicine is an unsustainable model because the facility can only operate on donations while the patient base is steadily increasing. Meanwhile, some useful data is being gathered from the patients provided medicine by the facility and more doctors and patients are becoming comfortable with medical marijuana use. We’re hoping that the Israeli program may become a model program for other countries, but that would require a transition to a sustainable production model where the medicine could be sold.
On the weekend of November 21-23, hundreds of young drug policy reform advocates gathered at the University of Maryland for the 10th annual Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) Conference. The theme for this year’s conference was “Connecting the Dots”, which speaks to the diverse group of individuals that came together to brainstorm and network themselves in the name of drug policy reform. MAPS representatives Brian Wallace and Joshua Wakefield held down a sponsor table at the event, educating attendees on the role that MAPS plays in the multi-faceted arena of scheduled substances and the policies that surround them.
MAPS intern Brian Wallace introduced Mathew Johnson’s talk about psychedelic research to an overly full room of intelligent young people eager to learn. We at MAPS know that SSDP hosts the best and brightest of college students and we aren’t surprised that these individuals are fascinated with the revival of psychedelic research.
“At a time when talk of change surrounds us, it was utterly inspiring to see so many young people gathering together, taking action and learning how to turn their thoughts into realities.” Brian said about his weekend. “I heard about so many projects and aspirations from so many passionate people, it was hard to keep track of them all. However, as the weekend progressed it became obvious to me that this wasn’t just a group of passionate people that represented a collection of great ideas. It was more than that. These individuals have been and will continue to be out their in their own respective niches, getting real-world results and making change happen.”
SSDP started nearly a decade ago to try to repeal a provision in the higher education act that prevents students with drug convictions from receiving financial aid. Due to the exemplary leadership of SSDP there are now nearly 100 chapters at campuses all across the United States, Canada, and in other countries. Many of MAPS Staff and MAPS alumni have been members of SSDP. If you are in college or high school, I encourage you to join SSDP. If there isn’t a chapter at your school, start one. And if you are an SSDP Alumni, and you aren’t part of the Alumni network please join us http://ssdp.org/alumni/ – as a good SSDP alumnus I give an automatic monthly contribution to SSDP and you should too.
MAPS is sponsoring the translation and publication of Brazilian anthropologist Beatriz (Bia) Labate’s book, “Ayahuasca Religions: A Comprehensive Bibliography and Critical Essays.” The book is the final stages of publication and will be available for purchase early in 2009.
Bia recently started publishing a blog in English http://www.bialabate.net/. She is a member of the Interdisciplinary Group for Psychoactive Studies (Núcleo de Estudos Interdisciplinares sobre Psicoativos—NEIP) and is editor of its website (www.neip.info). Currently she works as an independent writer, consultant, lecturer and organizer of scientific conferences and cultural events related to the field of drugs, religion and shamanism.
The June 7-10, 2009, International Conference on Traditional Medicines, Interculturality and Mental Health will be coordinated by the Takiwasi Centre, a drug abuse treatment center that uses ayahuasca and other traditional medicines as part of their treatment program. The conference will take place in the city of Tarapoto, in the Peruvian Upper Amazon, One of the sponsors of the conference, is the International ASHOKA Foundation which supports people who work in the field of Traditional Medicine (TM) and the treatment of addictions. They are working to demonstrate and promote the valuable contribution of TM in providing solutions to the pressing and growing contemporary problems in mental health.
TM practitioners, indigenous representatives, participants in projects that integrate TM with conventional medicine, academics, government representatives and international organizations are invited to attend.
Podcast host Jan Irvin recently interviewed MAPS President Rick Doblin, PhD and the podcast of the interview will be available on December 22. This and several other interesting interviews can be found on the Gnostic Media website at www.gnosticmedia.com
The scheduled upcoming shows include:
- Dec. 8: John Major Jenkins – The 2012 Meme, Part 2.
- Dec. 15: Dr. James DeMeo – Saharasia part 2.
- Dec. 22: Rick Doblin, Ph.D. - MAPS – psychedelic studies.
- Dec. 29: John Lamb Lash – on the Gnostics
- Jan. 5: Dr. Stanislav Grof – LSD research, et al.
- Jan. 12: Dr. Roland Griffiths – Psilocybin research
- Jan. 19: Stephen Buhner – Ancient and sacred beers
A critical re-evaluation of the schism between John M. Allegro and R. Gordon Wasson over the theory on the entheogenic origins of Christianity” presented in The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross, by J.R. Irvin.
MAPS’ Friend Sara Haimowitz put a thought provoking and tear jerking video that promotes MAPS’ Research and Educational Efforts on Youtube. Sara would like to extend her thanks to Scotty and Molly for their help with the video. We encourage you to share this video with people who would like to learn about the utility of psychedelic therapy or medicinal marijuana.
The Psychedelic Salon Quarterly, a peer reviewed journal on the subject of psychedelics, is seeking papers for its inaugural issue to be published in spring of 2009. The PSQ publishes thoughtful scientific, psychological, historical and sociological works that for conventional or ethical reasons may not be accepted by mainstream scholarly publications. The PSQ aims to facilitate a thoughtful and scientific dialogue on the utility of psychedelic substances through legitimate research and experience. The PSQ is an extension of the Psychedelic Salon, the podcast program founded by Lorenzo Hagerty, which has been truly prolific in delivering talks and lectures by some of the greatest minds ever to address the subject. Like its namesake, the PSQ maintains that psychedelic substances are a valid part of the human experience, and we welcome submissions from any discipline that approaches the subject with enlightenment.
Dean Chamberlain’s limited edition, signed light portraits of Albert Hofmann, Sasha and Ann Shulgin, Ram Dass, and Laura Huxley are 10% off in the MAPS webstore through the end of the year. Make the most of your holiday shopping by purchasing one of these spectacular works of art or another item from the MAPS art collection or store. You can own or give an exceptional item and support MAPS’ psychedelic and medical marijuana research, and educational efforts.
Though few people have heard of Dr. Al Kurland, who died on Dec. 7 at age 94, he was a major figure in LSD research in the US. From 1963 to 1971, Dr. Kurland directed LSD research in treating alcoholics, heroin addicts and the terminally ill at Spring Grove State Hospital and the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center. Working under the auspices of Dr. Kurland on research into the use of LSD was Stan Grof, Walter Pahnke, Bill Richards, Richard Yensen, John Rhead, and others. After LSD research was suppressed around the world, Dr. Kurland remained a strong and active advocate for the therapeutic potential of LSD.
In a 1979 op-ed in the Baltimore Sun, Dr. Kurland wrote, “LSD has two images. The predominant public one is of an evil arising from the tragic consequences of casual use. The little-known one comes from its experimental uses as a therapeutic agent in medicine and specifically psychiatry. As yet, however, despite the promise that LSD’s unique and dramatic effects have held out, experiments seeking to use the powerful psychological forces of the LSD experience for man’s benefit have been engulfed in uncertainty.”
More details can be found in Al Kurland’s Baltimore Sun Obituary.
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