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Media > Newsletter: January 9, 2009

MAPS News: Healing Hearts and Minds in 2009 - January

Dear MAPS Supporters and Friends,

Are you aware that your support of MAPS is not only helping to heal victims of sexual assault, trauma from war, and other causes of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but is also helping to heal the wounds of the war on drugs? Let me explain.

Have you heard that Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon and Chief Medical Correspondent for CNN, has been selected to be the next United States’ Surgeon General? Just two months ago, Dr. Gupta reported enthusiastically about the success of our US Phase 2 MDMA/PTSD pilot study. This means that the Nation’s Doctor is going to be walking into his new post in charge of the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps with a fresh memory of the benefits and successes of psychedelic psychotherapy. Dr. Gupta will be one of Barack Obama’s go-to-people for insight into health-related issues. MAPS supporters can now hope that our research and goals will be spoken of highly to the occupant of the highest office of the United States!

MAPS as an organization has always been open to have honest dialogue with the press. This is why Dr. Gupta reported our research on CNN and why in the last few months MAPS’ research has been reported in The Economist, Nature, the London Independent, ABC News Online, BBC, New Scientist, the Calgary Herald, and the Sarasota Herald Tribune, among others.

Every time someone with exaggerated fears of MDMA, psychedelics and marijuana, reads or sees one of these positive news stories, they have to reevaluate their beliefs. Due to gobs of anti-drug propaganda, most people who have never used MDMA believe that it is a very dangerous drug without medical benefits. MDMA does have its risks, as does every drug, and these risks are substantially increased in non-medical contexts. Nevertheless, in medical research, MDMA’s risks are minimal and its medical benefits are remarkable. People with the false notion that MDMA is excessively dangerous are forced to rethink why this drug is illegal when they learn that people with PTSD have been cured after MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. Similarly, when someone learns that marijuana can safely ease a plethora of ailments, they have to rethink why marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug (considered to have a high potential of abuse and no currently accepted medical use).

Your support of MAPS is educating and changing the minds of the public about the misconceptions used to support drug prohibition. MAPS’ work in the lab is healing the hearts and minds of our subjects. Outside of the lab, your support for MAPS is healing hearts and minds warped by the war on drugs.

We at MAPS request your continued support in this New Year as we work diligently towards our goal of making a society where psychedelic psychotherapy and medical marijuana are legally available, without fear, for all those who need it. Please help MAPS by sharing this email news update with your friends who don’t already receive it. If you haven’t yet become a member, we invite you to do so immediately by going to www.maps.org/donate.html


Randolph Hencken, MA
MAPS Communications and Marketing Director

Here’s a sample of what is happening this month at MAPS:

  1. Bush Administration Last Minute Blow to Scientific Freedom
  2. Dutch and US Marijuana Vaporizer Researchers Collaborate
  3. Medical Marijuana Donation Leveraged in Israel
  4. MDMA/PTSD Documents Submitted to Health Canada
  5. MAPS’ International MDMA/PTSD Research Progresses into the New Year
  6. The Economist Magazine Profiles MAPS’ MDMA/PTSD study
  7. Ibogaine Project has Sixth Subject, Funding is Still Needed
  8. Volunteers Wanted for On-line Survey Research Project on Effects of Recreational Drug Use
  9. Two MAPS Published Books go to Press
  10. MAPS President Rick Doblin PhD Podcast Available at Gnostic Media
  11. Hofmann and Grey make the New York Times
  12. MAPS Bulletin on Ecology and Psychedelics Seeking Submissions
* * * 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/ * * *

1. Bush Administration Last Minute Blow to Scientific Freedom

Today, Friday, January 9, only 10 days before the Bush Administration leaves office, the DEA has issued a final ruling denying a license to Prof. Lyle Craker, UMass Amherst, to grow marijuana for MAPS-sponsored medical research. The DEA is responding to a February 12, 2007 recommendation by DEA Administrative Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner who found after extensive legal hearings that it would be in the public interest for DEA to issue Prof. Craker a license.  The DEA is determined to protect the federal monopoly on the supply of marijuana that is legal for research that is held by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). NIDA uses its monopoly to fundamentally obstruct research aimed at developing marijuana into an FDA-approved prescription medicine. For example, Chemic Labs has been seeking without success for over  5 1/2 years to purchase 10 grams of marijuana from NIDA for MAPS and CaNORML-sponsored research into the effectiveness of the Volcano vaporizer as a non-smoking drug delivery device.

We have yet to see the DEA brief, which we have been told is 180 pages. We'll be formulating a new strategy as quickly as we can to deal with this last minute blow to scientific freedom from the Bush Administration.

2. Dutch and US Marijuana Vaporizer Researchers Collaborate

On January 5, 2009, MAPS President Rick Doblin and Dutch PhD student Justin Fischedick of Leiden University, met with Joseph St. Laurent and Scott Goodrich at Chemic Labs, outside of Boston LINK to CHEMIC.  Justin and his associates have been conducting marijuana vaporizer research at Leiden University using the Volcano vaporizer. They have decided to share data and procedures with Joseph St. Laurent and Scott Goodrich, who have been trying without success for over 5 1/2 years to purchase 10 grams of marijuana from NIDA for MAPS and CaNORML-sponsored vaporizer research.  

Justin and his associates have been looking mostly at what is in the marijuana vapors, such as cannabinoids and terpinoids. In order to determine whether vaporization is an effective harm reduction device, the Chemic researchers intend to mostly investigate what isn't likely to be in the marijuana vapors, but is in marijuana that is burned. This research will focus on various tars and products of combustion such as carbon monoxide.

Chemic is waiting on reviewers from NIDA and the Public Health Service to review their latest reply to questions about their proposed protocol, submitted on November 6, 2008. Once permission is eventually obtained for their research, they will check with Justin to see what his team has learned and then move forward.

3. Medical Marijuana Donation Leveraged in Israel 

For the last several years, MAPS has provided financial support for the development of the compassionate use of marijuana in Israel, in conjunction with a program of medical access developed by the Israeli Ministry of Health. The Ministry reviews applications from physicians on behalf of their patients and has licensed four different medical marijuana production facilities. These facilities have permits from the Israeli Ministry of Health to provide marijuana for free to Ministry-approved patients. Since the production facilities can only give marijuana away, they rely on donations to cover costs. An excellent article on the Israeli medical marijuana program was published recently in an Israeli newspaper, and has been translated by Dana Peleg, MA.

In November, MAPS offered $15,000 as a matching grant to Yohai Golan, who has one of the Ministry production licenses. In December, Yohai managed to obtain $15,000 as his match from Israeli donors and MAPS sent him our $15,000, provided by an anonymous donor. Over the last several weeks, Yohai has concluded negotiations with Israeli investors (not donors) who are providing sufficient funding (roughly $200,000 per year) to cover the provision of enough marijuana for 500 patients for the next two years. These investors are gambling that they can make money providing marijuana extracts to the pharmaceutical industry, since they can grow marijuana for this purpose as well as for free distribution to patients. In addition, they expect they will eventually be given permission to sell marijuana to patients, though how much research will have to be conducted first remains to be determined.

As a side project to the production facility, Yohai’s team will be producing organic cannabis oil tinctures that can be used as a substitute for smoking for patients who prefer not to – or cannot – inhale smoke or vapors from a vaporizer. The tinctures will use donated fair-trade organic olive oil produced by Palestinians in the West Bank and Israelis in Israel.

Yohai Golan has estimated that the value of the marijuana that they will give away is roughly $6 million per year, based on prices for legal Dutch medical marijuana and prices for medical marijuana in the US.

MAPS colleagues Val Corral and Mimi Peleg from the Wo/Mens Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM) will travel to Israel, probably in February, to help Yohai create a functional administrative system to distribute the medicine that will be harvested at the end of March. MAPS will pay for their travel through funds that have been donated and restricted to this project. Prior to going to Israel, Mimi Peleg will travel to Victoria, Canada, to meet with Philippe Lucas, founder of the Vancouver Island Compassion Society (VICS), to learn about his approach to distribution and research. Previously MAPS has sponsored Philippe to consult with another medical marijuana production facility in Israel. 

Yohai expressed his gratitude to MAPS President Rick Doblin PhD, “I would like to thank Rick for his constant support and late night chats helping me keep focused and looking ahead. Without his guidance and constant advice, I would not have come this far in Israel and would have given up.”

MAPS is extremely gratified that our original funding of a mere $15,000 was the catalyst for this significantly larger investment!

4. MDMA/PTSD Documents Submitted to Health Canada

On December 18, all the documents for our Canadian study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy in the treatment of people with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) were submitted to Health Canada (Canada’s version of the FDA). We've already obtained approval of our protocol and informed consent from a Canadian Institutional Review Board. We should receive a reply from Health Canada within 30 days of our submission. 

This is going to be a study with 12 subjects, similar in design to the recently completed US MDMA/PTSD study. Our main purpose for this particular study is to see if we can replicate the results of the US study. The budget for this study is $250,000, all of which remains to be raised.

5. MAPS’ International MDMA/PTSD Research Progresses into the New Year 

Our Swiss and Israeli MDMA/PTSD studies are continuing to recruit subjects. Our Swiss study has only a few subjects still to recruit while our Israeli study has more than half remaining to be recruited. Sadly, the current war in Israel is creating many more people with PTSD.

For our proposed Jordanian MDMA/PTSD study, we’re in the process of having our informed consent form translated into Arabic for review by the Jordanian IRB. We’re also making progress toward obtaining the necessary insurance to conduct a study in Jordan. 

6. The Economist Magazine Profiles MAPS’ MDMA/PTSD study 

On December 18, 2008, the Economist published a feature article titled "Agony and ecstasy: Ecstasy may be good for those who can’t get over something truly horrible." (Permalink). This well-written article explores stories of two patients in Dr. Mithoefer’s study, the history of MDMA, and efforts of MAPS and other scientists in the psychedelic research renaissance. The article called the results of MAPS’ MDMA/PTSD pilot study “encouraging.”

One of the patients in the pilot study reported that during her treatment she felt, “incredibly safe and very motivated.” It has been four years since her treatment and she wishes that MDMA would become a legal therapeutic tool sooner than later, since “there are other things that I would still like to work on.” 

This article in The Economist is another example of the link between our scientific research and our public education efforts. As a result of our openness to the media, our research has made a contribution to replacing the fear of drugs that change consciousness (which helps drive the Drug War) with hope for their beneficial uses.

7. Ibogaine Project has Sixth Subject, Funding is Still Needed

At the beginning of 2009, the sixth subject was enrolled in the MAPS-sponsored ibogaine outcome study taking place at the Pangaea Biomedics treatment center in Playas de Tijuana, Mexico. The principle investigator is John Harrison PsyD Candidate. Our goal is to evaluate 30 patients on a monthly basis for a full year after treatment with ibogaine for opiate addiction. We are very pleased with the rapid enrollment of subjects.

This will become the first such study ever conducted into the long-term outcomes of ibogaine in the treatment of opiate addiction. Ibogaine has been touted for several decades to have sometimes-miraculous abilities to set opiate and other addicts free from their addictions, but there still have been no prospective studies published looking at long-term outcomes. Depending on the results, this study could help give legitimacy to the now alternative treatment found outside of the US, or underground within the US. MAPS had previously started an ibogaine outcome study in Canada but that study ended early after the Iboga Therapy House at which the study took place closed for financial reasons. 

We are still seeking restricted donations for this project. We ask the MAPS community to help us find people who would like to support this research by making donations restricted to the project.  The project is estimated to cost $30,000 for 30 subjects, all of which remains to be raised. At a cost of $1000 per subject, this is an extremely cost-effective study. The cost is so low since this is an observational study of subjects who are paying for their own treatment, rather than a MAPS-sponsored controlled clinical trial in which MAPS would need to cover all expenses of the treatment as well as the evaluation.

8. Volunteers Wanted for On-line Survey Research Project on Effects of Recreational Drug Use

Robin Carhart-Harris of The University of Bristol Psychopharmacology Unit has received a $1000 grant from MAPS for her research on recreational drug use, including LSD, MDMA, marijuana and alcohol. Ilsa Jerome PhD, MAPS Research and Information Specialist, helped with the creation of this questionnaire. 

If you have used any of the above mentioned drugs in a non-medical setting, we encourage you to give some of your time and fill out the web-based questionnaire. You are also encouraged to post the following text on other sites where others can participate: 

Seeking volunteers for on-line survey research project on effects of recreational drug use:

The University of Bristol Psychopharmacology Unit has made a web-based questionnaire designed to investigate aspects of recreational drug use. The questionnaire takes approximately 25 minutes to fill out. The questionnaire is entirely anonymous although some of the questions are of a personal nature. Your responses will be securely stored and you do not need to give any personally identifiable information.

If you are interested in taking the survey, please visit this URL: http://www.bris.ac.uk/psychiatry/staff/carhart/index.html

Thank you very much for your kind assistance with this project.

9. Two MAPS Published Books go to Press

MAPS is sending to press the fourth English edition of Albert Hofmann’s LSD: My Problem Child and the first English edition of Bia Labate’s Ayahuasca Religions: A Comprehensive Bibliography and Critical Essays. 

The new edition of Albert Hofmann’s book contains a new preface that Albert wrote about his life, which he intended to be read at his funeral by his children. Their reading was one of the emotional highlights of his funeral. The book also features a new cover photo of Albert in his garden taken in 2006 by Albert’s good friend, Dr. Rolf Verres. The costs of publication of this new edition of LSD: My Problem Child are being covered by a $10,000 donation to MAPS by Robert Barnhart.

Bia Labate’s book is an Ayahuasca researcher’s reference guide with an up-to-date bibliography of all the Ayahuasca research available and scholarly essays. This book is in large part funded by a donation from the Trance Foundation.

Both of these books will be available for sale through MAPS webstore in the next few weeks.

10. MAPS President Rick Doblin PhD Podcast Available at Gnostic Media

On December 29, 2008, Jan Irvin uploaded a fantastic interview with MAPS President Rick Doblin PhD. The podcast is available on the Gnostic Media Website at: www.gnosticmedia.podomatic.com 

Jan has two other podcasts that should interest MAPS supporters. On January 5, 2009 Jan posted an interview with Dr. Stanislav Grof who discusses LSD research and on January 12, Jan will post an interview with Dr. Roland Griffiths, who talks about psilocybin research.

11. Hofmann and Grey make the New York Times

On December 29, the New York Times Sunday Magazine profiled 50 prominent people who died in 2008.  One of the people featured was the father of LSD, Albert Hofmann, "Albert Hofmann: Day Tripper, born 1906." (Permalink).

Albert is honored in this glowing article as a tolerant man who was thoughtful in his pursuits of science and spirituality.

On December 20, the New York Times published Turning on, Tuning in and Painting the Results a detailed article about our friend Alex Grey’s Chapel of Sacred Mirrors (COSM). COSM closed its doors at the end of 2008 and will be reestablished in upstate New York in the town of Wappinger. Alex and Allyson Grey, with the help of donors, have purchased 40 acres of land “to rebuild the chapel and develop an interfaith retreat center.” Similar to MAPS’ philosophy, the Greys told the New York Times that, “they want to promote only the most responsible and carefully structured use of entheogens in contexts that promote psychological and spiritual well-being and positive illumination for individuals and communities.”

12. MAPS Bulletin on Ecology and Psychedelics Seeking Submissions

MAPS Guest Editor David Jay Brown, MA is organizing and editing a special edition of the Bulletin this Spring on ecology and psychedelics. Please contact him if you would be interested in contributing: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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