I’m delighted to bring you this latest edition of the monthly MAPS email newsletter. A lot has happened in the last month, and 2011 promises to be the most exciting year yet for MAPS and psychedelic science. From officially initiating our newest study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy in US veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), to treating the last subject in our study of LSD-assisted psychotherapy for anxiety associated with life-threatening illness, to planning for MAPS’ upcoming 25th anniversary celebrations, there is a lot going on at MAPS.
I would also like to take this opportunity to formally introduce myself to the MAPS community. For the past 18 months, I have been working with MAPS in various capacities—first as a summer communications intern, then as a guest writer and editor, and then as a volunteer for various conferences and events. Now, I am honored and privileged to begin serving the psychedelic science community as the official MAPS Communication and Education Associate.
My dear friend and colleague Randolph Hencken has moved on to apply his considerable talents to new projects, and I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to take up many of his roles here at MAPS. Psychedelic science would not be where it is today without Randy’s unmatched commitment to MAPS and to the community at large, and we all owe him our deepest thanks and best wishes for continued success.
I first came to MAPS in the summer of 2008 while enrolled in a graduate program in Communication and Science Studies. I was deeply immersed in studying the political, legal, and cultural shifts involved in turning illicit drugs into legitimate medicines. I was profoundly impressed by how MAPS had positioned itself both as a source of scientific expertise on the medical use of psychedelics and marijuana and as a central pillar of the psychedelic community. I suspected that there was something special about the way that MAPS was using careful scientific research to transform how people thought about and used these drugs—and I was right.
My own lifelong experiences with prescription medicines had left me deeply suspicious about whether they could really do what they promised—namely, to make us happier and healthier human beings. Psychedelics, on the other hand, seemed to offer a way to address my fears and anxieties more directly and honestly, and to take responsibility for myself and for my relationships in a way that decades of prescription medicines never did. Yet I also saw that they could only do so when used carefully, either with the guidance of a trained therapist or that of a supportive and responsible community. Ultimately, I decided I wanted to do more than simply understand what MAPS was doing: I wanted to help.
I hope that this first MAPS newsletter of 2011 is as exciting and informative for you to read as it was for me to write. I want to thank you for helping make the MAPS community what it is today, and for joining me in celebrating all that MAPS has accomplished in the last 25 years—and all that we will accomplish together in the 25 years to come.
MAPS Communication and Education Associate
- US MDMA/PTSD Veterans Study Begins Treatment of First Subjects
- Final Long-Term Follow-Up Visit Completed in Swiss MDMA/PTSD Pilot Study
- New Israeli MDMA/PTSD Study Approved by Institutional Review Board
- Michael and Annie Mithoefer to Conduct Training Course for Israeli Therapists
- Closeout Scheduled for Previous Israeli MDMA/PTSD Pilot Study
- Security Inspection Scheduled for Canadian MDMA/PTSD Pilot Study
- Clinical Team to Conduct Training Course for Jordanian MDMA/PTSD Study
- Three Australian Therapists Participate in Training Program in Israel
- Twelfth and Final Subject Enrolled in Swiss LSD Study
- NIDA Claims to Have Marijuana Required for Marijuana/PTSD Study
- DEA Administrator Explains Denial of Request to Reopen Craker Case
- Beckley Foundation Psilocybin/Brain Imaging Study Scans First Five Subjects
- MAPS Offers $25,000 for Clinical Trial of Ibogaine
- Salvia Research Begins in New Mexico; Seeks Volunteers
- MAPS Receives Many Generous Contributions in December
- MAPS 25th Anniversary Texas Tour
- Rick Doblin to Speak at UK Psychedelics Conference in April
- Rick Doblin to Speak on NYC “Psychedelic Healing” Panel in February
- New Documentary by Charles Shaw featuring Randolph Hencken to Premier in February
- National Geographic Ecstasy Documentary Airs
- Evolver/Reality Sandwich Hosts New Online Interactive Video Course
- Rick Doblin Interviewed on Carl’s Cannabis Corner
- New Website Offers Information on Psychedelic Therapy
- Manual of Psychedelic Support Seeking Contributors
- De Rios Book on Ayahuasca Receives Enthusiastic Review
- Kynthia Brunette Joins MAPS as New Volunteer Coordinator
- Former Acting NIDA Director Testifies MDMA Research Should Continue
- Long-Time Ayahuasca Researcher Manel J. Barbanoj Passes Away
- MAPS Hungary Is Second International MAPS Chapter
- Patient Reports Being Cured of 30 Years of Rheumatoid Arthritis After 3rd MDMA Experience
- Velia Renn Welcomed as Newest and Smallest Member of MAPS Community
Other Research News:
Two independent raters will simultaneously screen each of the first five subjects to assess baseline PTSD symptoms. In this process, both raters will score the same test (the Clinician- Administered PTSD Scale, or CAPS) to evaluate baseline PTSD symptoms. By using multiple independent raters, we can make sure that we are getting accurate and reliable information about the severity of each patient’s PTSD as well as train new raters. For both of the first two subjects, the raters have achieved an extremely high level of agreement, with ratings falling within three points of each other on a 136-point scale. This is also the first time we have used our internally generated web-based randomization software, which randomly assigns subjects to one of the three experimental conditions (pertaining to different dosages of MDMA). We are pioneering this randomization method because it is an extremely reliable and efficient way to randomly assign subjects to different conditions, which ensures the scientific validity of our results by increasing the effectiveness of the blind.
This new study builds on our recently completed study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy (published July 2010 in the Journal of Psychopharmacology) in several ways. First, by separating the subjects into three groups (each group receiving different doses of MDMA) rather than two (each group receiving either a full dose of MDMA or an inactive placebo), we hope to get more detailed information about the role of MDMA in determining treatment effectiveness. Second, we hope to show that we can maintain an effective blind in these studies and affirm the scientific validity of clinical trials of psychedelic psychotherapy. Finally, since our previous study primarily involved female survivors of sexual abuse and assault, we hope this study will show that the benefits of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy extend to the population of veterans with war-related PTSD.
On January 10, 2011, the final long-term follow-up visit was completed in MAPS’ Swiss study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD. The final subject (out of 12 total) was interviewed 12 months after the last treatment session, which took place on January 8, 2010. This is the final piece of data that will be collected for the study. The interviewers evaluated the subject to determine whether the effects of the treatment were maintained in the year following treatment, which involved evaluating the subject for symptoms of PTSD using the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS). The clinical team, led by Principal Investigator Peter Oehen, M.D., and co-therapist Verena Widmer, R.N., will now focus on writing a paper for publication and submitting the final report to SwissMedic. This study, which is part of MAPS’ clinical plan to develop MDMA into a prescription medicine approved by both US and European government regulatory agencies, is our first study using an active placebo dose of 25 mg MDMA. When the final report is completed, we will learn if the active placebo helped us to achieve an effective blind.
MAPS Clinical Research Associate Berra Yazar-Klosinski, Ph.D., will be joining the study team in Switzerland to assist with the study closeout, which will take place from February 13-16, 2011, after her work in Israel and Jordan.
On January 10, 2011, our clinical team submitted the documents detailing our new protocol for our new Israeli study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD to the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at Beer Yaakov, Israel. On January 19, the IRB committee approved the protocol, allowing us to move forward with the study approval process. The next step is to submit the protocol to the Israeli Ministry of Health for approval. Since we already imported the MDMA to be used in the study for our previous Israeli MDMA/PTSD study, once we have the Ministry’s approval we will be able to have the initiation visit and start the study. We anticipate that it will be several months before we are able to begin treating subjects.
From January 23-27, 2001, co-therapists Michael Mithoefer, M.D., and Annie Mithoefer, B.S.N., will conduct a therapist training program for the new Israeli clinical team. The meeting will appropriately take place in the basement of the first three-story house in Tel Aviv, a historical landmark built by Rick Doblin’s great-grandfather in 1923. The Canadian HESEG Foundation, which now owns the house, has given MAPS permission to do aboveground MDMA research several floors underground.
In a refinement to our previous Israeli MDMA/PTSD study, which used traditional psychiatrists at Beer Yaakov Mental Health Center to conduct the therapy sessions, the new study pairs the traditional psychiatrists with Israeli therapists from outside Beer Yaakov who have more direct experience with PTSD and transpersonal psychology. One of the therapists for the present study is an Israeli who was trained at the California Institute for Integral Studies (CIIS), and another is a mind-body practitioner who works with an Israeli medical team in disaster areas doing PTSD counseling. Another big difference between the present and previous Israeli studies is that the Israeli Defense Force has now agreed to help recruit subjects for the study.
On January 27, 2011, MAPS Clinical Research Associate Berra Yazar-Klosinski, Ph.D., will meet with Kamila Novak, Program Manager of the contract clinical research organization (CRO) Antaea Medical Services, which MAPS has hired to monitor both our Jordanian and Israeli studies. Berra and Kamila will conduct a closeout visit for MAPS’ previous Israeli study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD. An abbreviated report has already been written for submission to the FDA and the Israeli Ministry of Health, and it will be made available on our website after it is submitted. The study was concluded on March 26, 2010, after five subjects were treated.
Health Canada has confirmed that an inspection of our Canadian MDMA/PTSD study site will take place on February 10, 2011. The study pharmacist is currently preparing the safe for installation at the pharmacy in Vancouver, BC. The representative from Health Canada will visit the site and confirm that the MDMA capsules to be used in the study can be safely stored and accounted for in the safe, and will verify that the pharmacy and study site are adequately secure according to Canadian regulations. Once the safe installation has been approved, we can apply for the necessary import and export permits to ship the MDMA from Switzerland to Canada. Since the study protocol already has the full approval of both the Canadian Institutional Review Board (IRB) and Health Canada, we will begin enrolling subjects as soon as the MDMA has been imported into Canada.
On January 30, 2011, co-therapists Michael Mithoefer, M.D., and Annie Mithoefer, B.S.N., will lead a one-day training course for the therapist team for our Jordanian study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD. The course is a refresher for the therapists who will be conducting the treatment sessions, as the team already went through our standard training program in Charleston, SC, immediately prior to our conference “Psychedelic Science in the 21st Century” in April 2010. The one-day refresher course will familiarize the therapists with the latest revisions to the adherence criteria in MAPS’ treatment manual and ensure that they are ready to begin once the study protocol has been approved. The protocol already has the approval of the Al Rashid Institutional Review Board (IRB) and was submitted to the Jordanian FDA in December.
On January 31, Michael, Annie, MAPS Executive Director Rick Doblin, Ph.D., and MAPS Clinical Research Associate Berra Yazar-Klosinski, Ph.D., will participate in an investigators’ meeting with the Jordanian team, including Principal Investigator Nasser Shuriquie, M.D. The meeting is part of the study initiation activities, and will provide an opportunity for the investigators and therapists to plan for the study and work out any last-minute issues. The face-to-face meeting is important because it allows the team to ask questions about the study protocol and to start a dialogue about how the study will proceed. The next step will be to get final approval from the Jordanian FDA, after which we can start the import/export permit process to bring the MDMA from Switzerland to Jordan. We could then begin enrolling subjects, which we expect will include Iraqi refugees living in Jordan as well as Jordanians suffering from PTSD.
Three Australian clinicians are joining the Israeli therapist training program: Stuart Saker, M.D., a psychiatrist with the Australian armed forces; Fiona MacKenzie, a clinical psychologist (and Stuart’s partner); and Marty Downs, M.D., a psychiatric resident and student of Dr. Sandy McFarlane, the chief psychiatrist of the Australian military. The clinicians met Rick Doblin in early December when he was the keynote speaker at the Entheogenesis Australis (EGA) Symposium. MAPS offered a $25,000 matching grant for an Australian MDMA/PTSD study, and the Australians raised $75,000 for the study, a 3-to-1 match! The Australian study is in the early development stages. After the Australian therapists return home, they will gather information about whether the study could take place in formal association with the Australian military or within an academic research context.
MDMA research has already been approved and conducted in Australia, which suggests that beginning our own study there is a real possibility. The completed study was a dissertation involving healthy volunteers who had been administered MDMA as part of a driving study (and who were given unscheduled time near the peak of their MDMA experience) and studying its effects on facial and emotion recognition. While this previous research did not directly address the effectiveness of MDMA or MDMA-assisted psychotherapy against PTSD symptoms, it is related in the sense that PTSD is an affective disorder that affects sufferers’ ability to respond to social and emotional cues. This previous study provides evidence that justifies further explorations into MDMA’s therapeutic efficacy, and it makes it more likely that Australian regulators will approve our own study.
Other Research News
On January 11, 2011, our clinical team announced that the twelfth and final subject passed the screening process and was enrolled in our Swiss study of LSD-assisted psychotherapy for anxiety associated with life-threatening illness. The study, which is taking place in Solothurn, Switzerland, is led by Principal Investigator Peter Gasser, M.D., and is the first clinical study of LSD in humans in over 35 years. We anticipate that the treatment phase of the study and the two-month follow-up evaluations will be completed before Fall 2011, at which point the results will be analyzed and submitted to a peer-reviewed scientific journal. A subsequent paper will report on the data from the 12-month follow-up evaluations.
On December 15, 2010, the FDA notified MAPS that our planned study of smoked or vaporized marijuana for veterans with chronic, treatment-resistant PTSD had been placed on full clinical hold until we are able to provide specific information about the source, composition, concentration, and manufacturing method of the active and placebo marijuana cigarettes we plan to use. We have requested that the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) provide the marijuana as a result of the agency’s monopoly on the legal supply of marijuana for use in FDA-approved studies. Despite having submitted the study protocol to NIDA and the Public Health Service (PHS) nearly two months ago, we still have not heard a word about the likely time frame for the NIDA/PHS protocol review.
Fortunately, the FDA has a set a precedent of reviewing and even approving protocol designs before having complete information on the source of the drug. We expect to receive FDA’s protocol critiques very soon. Even if we obtain FDA approval, the protocol must also be approved through the NIDA/PHS review process. In the 1990s, MAPS had two medical marijuana protocols approved by the FDA but rejected by NIDA, preventing the studies from taking place.
On January 14, 2011, an official from NIDA sent an email to MAPS Executive Director Rick Doblin, Ph.D., indicating that the agency does in fact have the various levels of marijuana with delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that we need for our study. The study protocol
calls for marijuana with five different concentrations of THC and cannabidiol (CBD): 0% THC (placebo), 2% THC, 6% THC, 12% THC, and 6% THC/6% CBD. NIDA claims that it has marijuana cigarettes of 0.004% (placebo), 2.1%, 5.6%, or 6.7% THC. They also claim that their facility at the University of Mississippi has in stock bulk marijuana containing 12% THC that can be manufactured into cigarettes, and that they can blend different batches to produce cigarettes containing marijuana with 6% THC and between 4% and 6% CBD (despite their initial insistence that they did not have any marijuana with CBD).
NIDA appears to be doing its best to provide what we need for the study, perhaps due to the pressure we have been putting on them through Professor Lyle Craker’s ongoing lawsuit against the DEA seeking a license to grow marijuana for federally regulated research under contract to MAPS.
Professor Lyle Craker, Ph.D., of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, with assistance from MAPS, continues to pursue his lawsuit against the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for rejecting his application for a license to grow marijuana for federally regulated research under contract to MAPS and in doing so to break the monopoly held by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). On January 30, 2009, lawyers for Prof. Craker filed a Motion to Reconsider the DEA’s January 14, 2009, final order rejecting the DEA Administrative Law Judge’s February 12, 2007, recommendation that it would be in the public interest for the agency to license Prof. Craker. On December 6, 2010 (nearly two years later), we received a memorandum from DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart (who was recently confirmed by the US Senate) detailing the reasons why our request to reopen the trial was rejected. Leonhart did, however, grant us the opportunity to submit another written brief objecting to her final order. Prof. Craker will be submitting his brief on or before the deadline of March 7, 2011. The DEA could take days, months, or years to reply.
On December 24, 2010, MAPS received an update from Robin Carhart-Harris, Ph.D., on the status of an ongoing study that is using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine the effects of psilocybin on the brain activity of healthy volunteers. Carhart-Harris and co-investigators Richard Wise, David Nutt, Ph.D., and Amanda Feilding are investigating whether psilocybin improves subjects’ ability to recall significant events from their own lives. Carhart-Harris informed MAPS that the study had already scanned five subjects, two of which received psilocybin and three of which received a placebo. The study will continue scanning subjects in the coming months, and so far the results have been encouraging. The British study is sponsored by the Beckley Foundation, a UK-based organization that funds and encourages scientific investigations of consciousness and altered states. MAPS has also provided a grant of $10,000 for the study, as has the Heffter Research Institute.
On December 17, 2010, MAPS Deputy Director Valerie Mojeiko released a request for proposals for clinical studies with ibogaine. While MAPS is currently sponsoring an ongoing observational study of ibogaine treatment for opiate addiction, the current request for proposals (RFP) is seeking a research team interested in conducting clinical trials. While observational studies are useful for establishing links between ibogaine and treatment outcomes, clinical studies allow investigators to make stronger claims about the role of the drug in producing the observed changes.
Jessica Pommy, a graduate student working with DMT researcher Rick Strassman, M.D., is conducting a new study of the psychological and cognitive effects of Salvia divinorum. The study is taking place at the University of New Mexico and is currently seeking participants. If you would like to participate in the study, are in the UNM area, over the age of 18, and have used Salvia divinorum in the past, you may contact the study coordinator at 505-272-0443.
MAPS received a number of generous gifts this past month, and we would like to recognize a number of supporters for their extraordinary commitment to MAPS’ mission of furthering research on psychedelics and marijuana and changing how the world treats these substances. We gratefully acknowledge the following gifts: $6,000 from Jeffrey C. Crawford, $1,000 from Mack Fuhrer, $4,000 from David Keeler, $5,000 from Carolyn Mary Kleefeld, $2,000 from Charles and Patricia Philips, $5,000 from Rene Ruiz, $1,000 from Michael ‘t Sas-Rolfes, $2,500 from Hilary Silver, $1,000 from Jeremy Tarcher, $1,000 from Richard Wolfe, $1,000 from James Youngblood, $1,000 from George Zimmer, and $5,000 from an anonymous couple. We would especially like to thank Ian Brown for donating $10,000, as well as John Fidel Arsenault for a $20,000 contribution from the Arsenault Family Foundation. A $25,000 gift we received from an anonymous family foundation will also go directly towards funding our newest study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for US veterans with PTSD.
There are many ways to help MAPS continue its mission. On December 21, 2010, we received an initial payment of $350,000 out of a $450,000 bequest from MAPS member Larry Thomas, who passed away in the spring of last year. Larry willed nearly half his estate to MAPS, and his heartfelt commitment—in life as well as in death—to the organization and to psychedelic psychotherapy will be remembered for years to come. His gift has brought our shared dream of a world where psychedelics are understood for their value as therapeutic tools many miles nearer. Larry’s March 2008 interview with former MAPS Director of Communication and Marketing Randolph Hencken appeared in the previous MAPS Bulletin, and can be accessed online here.
We have recently received several dozen requests for information about giving to MAPS through bequests. MAPS is deeply grateful to be part of such a supportive and generous community. If you would like to learn about how to contribute to MAPS’ mission by including us in your will, please visit our bequests page.
In March, MAPS will be hosting a series of intimate dinner parties in Texas to celebrate our 25th anniversary, so save these dates! We will kick off the tour on March 8th in Dallas, followed by Austin on March 9th, and finishing up on March 10th in Houston. Proceeds from these evening benefit events will support our MDMA/PTSD research fund. Tickets for each evening will be limited, and are available here. Stay tuned for updates on programming and special guest speaker announcements for each city.
On April 2-3, 2011, the University of Kent at Canterbury in association with the Beckley Foundation will be hosting “Breaking Convention: A Multidisciplinary Conference on Psychedelic Consciousness.” The two-day conference, of which MAPS is an affiliate, will feature workshops, seminars, and presentations on research into psychedelics and consciousness. The four main symposia will address the cultural role played by psychedelics; current scientific investigations into psychedelics; the future of psychedelic research; and the place of MDMA and Ecstasy in society, medicine, and politics. MAPS Executive Director Rick Doblin, Ph.D., will be speaking and participating in workshops on the history and future of MDMA research. MAPS MDMA researcher Peter Oehen, M.D, will also be in attendance. See the conference website for more information.
On February 4, 2011, MAPS Executive Director Rick Doblin, Ph.D., will be speaking on a panel in New York City promoting the upcoming release of a new book by psychotherapist Neal Goldsmith, Ph.D. The book, entitled Psychedelic Healing: The Promise of Entheogens for Psychotherapy and Spiritual Development, examines current research on the medical uses of psychedelics, explores the history of shamanic psychedelic practices, and details the author’s own experience working with psychedelics as tools for personal and spiritual change. The event, which is sponsored by Evolver and 2012: Time for Change, will include readings from the book, a panel discussion, and an evening party. MAPS will also be hosting a table at the event. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the event’s website. There will there also be an interactive discussion of key issues in the book taking place this Friday, January 28 at 8PM at the New York Open Center.
On February 25, 2011, Charles Shaw’s new documentary The Unheard Voices Project: An Oral History of the War on Drugs and the American Criminal Justice System, will premier in San Francisco at Nexus, located in Point Richmond at the Craneway Pavilion. The film is a “documentary archive” of video testimonies from people adversely affected by the American criminal justice system, and especially by the failed war on drugs. It includes interviews with drug policy experts, ex-convicts, former addicts, policymakers, and others including former MAPS Director of Communication and Marketing Randolph Hencken and author and MAPS associate Julie Holland, M.D. The film will also be available online starting February 14, 2011. The trailer can be viewed online.
The new documentary “Drugged: High on Ecstasy” premiered last week, and aired again on Monday on the National Geographic Channel. Through computer-generated imagery, interviews with Ecstasy users, and conversations with scientific and medical experts, it explores how the drug works and what it does to the mind and body. While much of the film is a cautionary tale about the dangers of recreational Ecstasy use and abuse, it does a great job addressing the potential benefits of MDMA as a therapeutic tool. It includes fascinating interviews with Executive Director Rick Doblin, Ph.D., and Sue Stevens, who found that MDMA helped her partner cope with the psychological and physical pain of terminal cancer. While many previous films dealing with MDMA and Ecstasy have been little more than sensationalist anti-drug diatribes, this film concludes with a call by Rick Doblin for a sober and rational approach through more research into MDMA’s risks and benefits—indicating that we are making real progress in changing how the world thinks of psychedelics. We will make an announcement when the video is available online.
Beginning on January 23, 2011, “Evolver Intensives” is a new series of online interactive video courses featuring some of the world’s foremost visionary thinkers. The series, co-created by Daniel Pinchbeck of Reality Sandwich and the Prophets Conference and sponsored in part by MAPS, offers the opportunity for participants to listen to lectures and discussions with inspirational teachers from around the world, as well as to directly participate in the conversation using state-of-the-art video streaming technology. The first course, hosted by Jeremy Narby and entitled “Awakening the Cosmic Serpent: Shamanism and Plant Teachers in this Transformative Time,” begins on Sunday, January 23, and features Luis Eduardo Luna, Kat Harrison, Wade Davis, and Stanislav Grof. The second course, entitled “Turning Hope into Action: The Path of Sacred Activism” will be hosted by Andrew Harvey and begins on February 9.
On January 9, 2011, MAPS Executive Director Rick Doblin, Ph.D., was interviewed on Carl’s Cannabis Corner, which hosts weekly podcasts and videos related to marijuana and the law. In the hour-long interview, Rick talks about MAPS’ efforts to conduct research on the possible benefits of marijuana for PTSD and break the monopoly on cannabis research currently held by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). They also discuss current federal attempts to reschedule cannabis and synthetic cannabinoids. The interview is available both as a downloadable mp3 and as a streaming video.
Psychedelicpsychotherapy.com is a new and growing website containing information, forums, and blogs related to psychedelic therapy. The site claims to be a “safe haven” for people to discuss techniques and insights related to their own or others’ experiences. The site holds promise as a resource for the rapidly growing community of individuals interested in using psychedelics as healing tools.
On December 17, 2010, the UKC Psychedelics Society published a glowing review of Marlene Dobkin de Rios’ book The Psychedelic Journey o
f Marlene Dobkin de Rios: 45 Years with Shamans, Ayahuasqueros, and Ethnobotanists. Marlene previously published (together with Roger Rumrrill) another book about the use of ayahuasca as a sacrament entitled A Hallucinogenic Tea, Laced with Controversy: Ayahuasca in the Amazon and the United States, and her next book is due out in March 2011. Marlene is an expert on ethnobotany and the shamanic use of ayahuasca, and her books are likely to appeal to a wide range of students, practitioners, and others interested in the anthropology of psychedelic spirituality.
I am excited to introduce Kynthia Brunette as the new MAPS Volunteer Coordinator. Kynthia comes to MAPS with a B.A. in Political Science, an M.S. in Interaction Design, and a lifelong interest in psychology. Her passion for design and psychology has evolved over the years into an interest in designing institutions, organizations, and experiences that serve as vehicles for transpersonal development. She first discovered MAPS in 2007, but became more involved in late 2009, when she interned in the office during the planning period for “Psychedelic Science in the 21st Century.” As the conference approached, Kynthia was brought on to coordinate volunteer and scholarship programs during the event, and since then she has assisted with the coordination and on-the-ground administration of several smaller MAPS events around the country. She is thrilled to have the opportunity to focus her energy on helping MAPS build a volunteer program that draws on the immense potential of its membership base, freeing the staff to focus more of their time on advancing the MAPS mission and energizing the community as a whole.
On December 6, 2010, former Acting Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Glen Hanson testified in front of a federal judge that in his view media coverage of MAPS’ MDMA/PTSD research has contributed to a rise in the non-medical use of Ecstasy. However, Hanson explicitly stated that he saw no problem with the research continuing, and that he believed that it is possible that MDMA could help people with PTSD. While his statement about the connection between research and recreational use is not based on any data, it is encouraging when current and former federal officials acknowledge the importance of MAPS’ work. The case in which Hanson testified was initiated by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in order to challenge MDMA sentencing guidelines as having been made in a time of irrational fear over rising recreational Ecstasy use. Now that science has moved forward and myths about Ecstasy causing holes in the brain have been dispelled, it has become clear that Ecstasy is not as dangerous as people once feared.
In December 2010, world-renowned ayahuasca researcher Manel J. Barbanoj, Ph.D., passed away as the result of a heart attack during his 50th birthday celebrations. Born in 1960, he was director of the Drug Research Center of the Sant Pau Hospital in Barcelona, Spain, and a professor of pharmacology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. He was the author of numerous articles on addiction, pharmacology, and the ritual use of ayahuasca. He was also co-author, with Jordi Riba, Ph.D., of the first controlled pharmacological study of ayahuasca in humans in a Western country with volunteers familiar with its use. The entire scientific community mourns Manel’s passing, and we thank him for his magnificent contributions to psychedelic research.
MAPS is proud to announce the creation of MAPS Hungary (Multidiszciplináris Társaság a Pszcihedelikumok Kutatásáért), the second international MAPS chapter after MAPS Canada (founded in 2009). The organization seeks to extend MAPS’ research and educational goals to Hungary. According to its mission statement, the mission of MAPS Hungary is to:
- Educate Hungarian therapists, psychologists, and researchers about the recent upsurge in international psychedelic research
- Initiate psychedelic research studies in Hungary
- Adapt the results of the past five years of psychedelic research to therapy and hospice in Hungary
- Encourage the development of ethnopharmacology and ethnobotany in Hungary
The members of the organization’s Board of Advisors include MAPS Executive Director Rick Doblin, Ph.D., Luis Luna, Ph.D., Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D., and Rick Strassman, M.D. MAPS is proud that this group has seen what MAPS has accomplished in the domain of psychedelic research and education and that they want to do something similar in their own country. We are excited for this new collaboration, and looking forward to helping as much as we can.
A man who suffered from seemingly incurable rheumatoid arthritis for nearly 25 years reports having been cured of his condition after three experiences with MDMA. After decades of unsuccessful attempts to relieve his suffering through pharmaceutical and physical therapeutic means, he found that using psychedelics helped him overcome his pain. After three recreational doses of MDMA, he was surprised to discover that his symptoms had nearly vanished. While this is just a case report and not based on any scientific evidence, we are curious to learn whether any others have had similar experiences of MDMA helping them to overcome rheumatoid arthritis. The full account is available on our website.