Frequently Asked Questions
How can I find resources and information on psychedelic research?
There are a number of online resources for students and others looking for information about psychedelics.
On the MAPS site, check out the Psychedelic Bibliography. This database contains several different bibliographies that can be searched together or separately. The Albert Hoffmann Collection in the psychedelic bibliography includes PDFs of nearly every published paper on LSD or psilocybin from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s. The bibliography also lists nearly every research report published up until early 2001 (and includes PDF copies of most of these). Since 2003, MAPS has also provided reviews of MDMA-related literature.
A great deal of additional information on the chemistry, physiological and psychological effects, and risks of psychoactive plants and substances is available through our partner Erowid.
Another useful online resource is PubMed, the database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, with over 12 million references to scientific journal articles from 1966 to the present. Most references include only article abstracts; full text versions often require a fee.
How does MAPS do research on illegal substances?
Through perseverance and patience, MAPS has obtained approval from government regulatory agencies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to conduct research on Schedule 1 substances.
We have been steadfast in our determination to conduct psychedelic research. MAPS Founder and Executive Director Rick Doblin's doctoral dissertation from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government outlines our method for making psychedelics into prescription medicines.
Another great resource is DMT: The Spirit Molecule by Rick Strassman, M.D., which outlines the process that the author went through to do DMT research in the 1990s. The book has now been adapted into a film about Strassman's role in restarting psychedelic research.
Why isn't MAPS sponsoring studies with other psychedelics?
While MAPS believes that all psychedelics merit careful scientific investigation into their risks and benefits, our limited resources limit us to a small number of projects. We have chosen to focus primarily on MDMA-assisted psychotherapy as a treatment for PTSD because it has the greatest potential for making it through the regulatory process. We hope that once the FDA approves MDMA for use as an adjunct to psychotherapy for PTSD, the door will open for research into psychedelics as treatments for other conditions as well as into their neuroscientific, spiritual, and creative uses.
Why is MAPS focused on treating specific medical conditions?
Why MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD?
The primary reason for selecting MDMA as our initial drug target is that it offers patients a unique, gentle, yet profound experience of self-acceptance and an enhanced ability to feel and integrate complex, challenging emotions. Compared to other psychedelics like LSD or psilocybin, MDMA provokes minimal effect on perception or one’s sense of self-control. This makes MDMA a suitable drug to administer to psychedelic-naïve patients as well as to therapists in training to administer MDMA-assisted psychotherapy.
Another major reason for working initially with MDMA is that over the last 25 years, the nations of the world spent over $300 million on basic research into the risks of MDMA/Ecstasy, with all of that research in the public domain. As a result of the enormity of the existing body of research, the funding necessary for our drug development is drastically reduced, since we do not have to repeat these basic safety studies.
PTSD is our top priority clinical indication in large part because MDMA possesses unique pharmacological and psychological properties that may make it especially well suited for use as an adjunct to psychotherapy with PTSD patients. In addition, PTSD is a worldwide public health problem and is typically a chronic illness associated with high rates of psychiatric and medical co-morbidity, disability, suffering, and suicide.
See our MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy research page for more information.
Why LSD-assisted psychotherapy for anxiety associated with life-threatening illness?
Between the 1950s and early 1970s, a substantial amount of research on LSD-assisted psychotherapy demonstrated the safety of administering LSD in therapeutic settings as well as some degree of efficacy. MAPS is building on this existing body of knowledge and moving LSD-assisted psychotherapy through the regulatory process by designing new protocols that meet modern standards for drug development. Much of this research focused on the use of LSD for chronic anxiety.
See our LSD & Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy for Anxiety research page for more information.
How can I become a psychedelic researcher?
In 2006, MAPS colleague R. Andrew Sewell, M.D., wrote an excellent article for the MAPS Bulletin about the paths to becoming a psychedelic researcher.
How do I become a subject in a MAPS-sponsored study?
MAPS is currently conducting several clinical trials around the world with human subjects. These studies have strict enrollment criteria, which vary based on the goal of the study and the condition the study is investigating. Because our studies are designed to explore how psychedelics can help people with serious illnesses, we can only enroll individuals diagnosed with a serious illness. The primary conditions that we are studying are posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety associated with life-threatening illness. If you are suffering from one of these conditions and believe that you might be a good candidate for one of our studies, please visit our Participate in Research page.
There are also many studies, such as online surveys, that do not involve the administration of psychedelics and are open to more people. To find out about current research projects and their criteria for volunteers, see the list of auxiliary studies on our Participate in Research page.
Occasionally, researchers not affiliated with MAPS conduct studies in which psychedelics are administered to healthy subjects for the purpose of learning more about the effects of these drugs. To learn out about which universities or institutes are conducting these studies near you, inquire at your local university or medical school, visit PubMed for recent psychedelic research publications, or search ClinicalTrials.gov.
Can you help me find a psychedelic therapist in my area?
Unfortunately, outside the context of very few government-reviewed studies, psychedelic therapy is illegal. Hopefully, with the work of MAPS and other organizations and individuals, psychedelic therapy referral services will be available in the future. We can, however, recommend several other options for people seeking healing or personal growth through altered states. Many people have found practices like meditation and yoga to be extremely beneficial. Hypnosis is another method by which some therapists help their clients access deeper states.
Another method is Holotropic Breathwork. Created by pioneering transpersonal psychiatrist Stanislav Grof, M.D., this is a breathing technique that induces an altered state of consciousness without the use of drugs, usually in the context of a structured experience with evocative music. It offers a gentle introduction to these states, as the intensity of the experience can be somewhat controlled by the breather.
If you are suffering from addiction, an ibogaine clinic may be able to help. Some of these clinics also treat people without addictions who are interested in personal or spiritual growth. Be aware that numerous deaths have been associated with ibogaine and we encourage you to make an informed decision before using ibogaine. For more information, see our Ibogaine Research page.
Individuals addicted to alcohol or other drugs can also try contacting The Kolp Institute, a ketamine-assisted psychedelic psychotherapy clinic based in Florida.
I (or a friend) had a difficult psychedelic experience. What should I do?
Difficult psychedelic experiences can be confusing or even traumatic. Unresolved issues arising during the experience can have long-lasting psychological and emotional effects. The risk of having a difficult psychedelic experiences is increased by many people's reluctance to discuss their experiences with their friends, families, doctors, or therapists. Finding a therapist or other supporter who is knowledgeable about the states of mind produced by psychedelics can be very helpful.
MAPS strongly encourages people to educate themselves about how to handle difficult psychedelic experiences. We have created a resource page and educational video specifically for this purpose.
Difficult psychedelic experience can be caused by internal (relating to psychology, state of mind, intention, or "set") as well as external factors (relating to environment, context, situation, or "setting"). The risk of having a difficult psychedelic experience can be minimized by choosing to enter psychedelic states only in safe, supportive settings. Check out these resources for advice about creating safer contexts for responsible psychedelic use.
Is MDMA the same as Ecstasy?
No. MDMA is not Ecstasy. Substances sold illegally on the black market under the name Ecstasy do often contain MDMA, but frequently also contain ketamine, caffeine, BZP, and other narcotics and stimulants. In laboratory studies, pure MDMA--but not Ecstasy--has been proven sufficiently safe for human consumption when taken a limited number of times in moderate doses.
How can I get LSD treatment for cluster headaches?
MAPS is interested in the potential of LSD for the treatment of cluster headaches. Unfortunately, we are currently unable to fund research in this area. For more information, please visit our friends at Clusterbusters.
How do I get ibogaine treatment for my addiction to opiates, alcohol, or other drugs?
While ibogaine therapy has shown some promise for addiction treatment, it is not yet legal in the United States. Ibogaine clinics can, however, be found in various locations around the world. See our ibogaine research page for more information about MAPS' ibogaine research. Please note that numerous deaths have been associated with ibogaine, and we encourage you to make an informed decision about whether it is right for you.
Can MDMA cause or reverse Parkinson’s disease?
Imaging studies of ecstasy users have failed to find reductions in dopamine transporter binding (Reneman et al. 2002; Semple et al. 1999) and a post-mortem investigation also failed to find any evidence of reduced dopamine in a heavy ecstasy user (Kish et al. 2000). In September 2002, George Ricaurte and Una McCann published an article in Science magazine claiming that MDMA not only reduces dopamine output, but also causes Parkinson's disease. This article was retracted a year later once it was discovered that the primates used in the study had been administered methamphetamine instead of MDMA. Further investigation failed to find any dopamine toxicity in monkeys given genuine MDMA (Mechan et al. 2005). MAPS Founder and Executive Director Rick Doblin, Ph.D., wrote an article discussing the implications of the Ricaurte controversy.
On the other hand, there have been several recent studies (Sotnikova et al. 2005, Irvani et al. 2003, Banjaw et al. 2003, Schmidt et al. 2002) that reported a reversal of symptoms of Parkinson's in lab animals after being administered MDMA, MDMA-like compounds (such as MDE and MDA), and other "non-empathogenic" amphetamines. Much of this research was instigated by the account of a British man with Parkinson's who appeared in the media claiming that he gained symptomatic relief after Ecstasy use. However, none of the findings suggest that MDMA itself is going to be a suitable medication for Parkinson's. Even if the lower doses of MDMA or related compounds do treat disease symptoms, they are not likely to be a viable, practical solution, since daily dosing with MDMA greatly increases the risks of neurotoxicity. Moreover, the people most likely to have Parkinson's also likely have other conditions (contraindications like high blood pressure, heart problems, or problems with blood vessels in the brain that might pose stroke risk) that increase the risk of taking MDMA or other amphetamines. One study (Sotnikova et al. 2005) administered doses of MDMA that were up to 60 times higher than what could be safely administered to a human subject, meaning that it would be neurotoxic and probably lethal.
Finally, please note: MDMA is not the same as Ecstasy. Substances sold on the street under the name Ecstasy do often contain MDMA, but frequently also contain ketamine, caffeine, BZP, and other narcotics and stimulants. In laboratory studies, pure MDMA--but not Ecstasy--has been proven sufficiently safe for human consumption when taken a limited number of times in moderate doses.
I took MDMA or Ecstasy before I knew that I was pregnant. Will my baby be OK?
A number of concerned women have written to MAPS because they took one or two doses of MDMA or Ecstasy before they realized they were pregnant. While the research is inconclusive, it appears unlikely that a baby will suffer harmful effects in this situation.
If you know you are pregnant, we strongly recommend avoiding using MDMA or Ecstasy. One study reported that infants born to mothers who took MDMA during pregnancy were at increased risk of birth defects, while another study found no such abnormalities. While the risk of one or two doses early in pregnancy is probably low, we cannot know for sure until more research is done, and it is not worth the risk.
It is also important to note that unless the pill has been tested at a lab, it is impossible to know the contents of Ecstasy pills, tablets, capsules, or crystals purchased on the street (home testing kits are not completely reliable). This means that you could be exposing yourself and your fetus to unknown and possibly dangerous compounds, such as dextromethorphan (DXM) or methamphetamine.
For more information, see our MDMA and Pregnancy page. Also, if you or someone you know has used MDMA or Ecstasy while pregnant and would like to share your experiences, please contact us.
Where is the book or other merchandise that I ordered?
How can I help if I can't afford to donate to MAPS?
In addition to requiring financial support, we also need volunteers and interns. The larger our community, the more we can spread the word about our work. The more people are aware of us, the more likely we are to attract the interest of funders. Please sign up for our monthly Email Newsletter and share it with your friends. Also, remember that every donation, no matter how modest, brings us closer to our goals.
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