MAPS News: May 2008 -- Albert Hofmann Passes the Torch
MAPS News: May 2008 -- Albert
Hofmann Passes the Torch
Dear MAPS Members,
Supporters, & Friends,
Theres some bittersweet news and lots of exciting new things to
report this month. Heres whats going on:
- Albert Hofmann Dies on April 29th at the Age of 102
- New Developments Emerging from Discussions on Canadian
MDMA PTSD Study
- Medical Marijuana Study Recruiting Patients with Chronic
- MAPS Flagship MDMA/PTSD Study Nears Completion
- Possibility of a French MDMA/PTSD Study Moves Forward
- Swiss Medic Allows Non-Responders in MDMA PTSD Study to
Have Additional Sessions
- Subjects Being Screened for Peter Gassers Swiss LSD
- Positive Media Coverage of Israel's MDMA/PTSD Study
Brings New Subjects
- Strong, Positive Article in The Lancet
about the Renewal of Psychedelic Research
- Positive Article About MDMA/PTSD Research in The
London Sunday Times
- Psychedelic Elder Alexander Sasha Shulgin Recovering
Well from Heart Surgery
- Signed Copies of LSD: My Problem Child
& and Other Hofmann Memorabilia Going Fast
- MAPS to Co-sponsor Two MPP Fundraisers--NYC on May 14th
and Playboy Mansion on June 12
- Expect the Spring MAPS Bulletin
in Your Mailbox Soon (And Summer Membership Drive with Chance to WIN
- MAPS Receives a $6000 Grant from the Marijuana Policy
Project for Professor Lyle Craker
- MAPS Receives $119,000 for MDMA/PTSD Research
*** MAPS needs your generosity to empower 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/ ***
Albert Hofmann Dies on April 29th at the Age of 102 - Funeral on May 9
The legendary Swiss chemist and renowned mystic philosopher Dr. Albert Hofmann--who
ushered in the Psychedelic Age with his historic discovery of LSD, and his
isolation of psilocybin as the active compound in sacred mushrooms--died of a
heart attack on the morning of April 29th at his glass-walled home in the
mountains near Basel, Switzerland. He was 102 years old and was fully lucid until
MAPS President Rick Doblin, PhD had just spoken with Albert a few weeks before
his passing and reports that Albert was deeply satisfied that LSD
psychotherapy research had been permitted to resume and that he sounded in
love with life but ready to die. On January 11, 2008 Rick and a small
group visited with Albert at his home to celebrate his 102nd birthday and
the renewal of LSD psychotherapy research--sponsored by MAPS and conducted by
Swiss psychiatrist Dr. Peter Gasser in patients with anxiety associated with
end-of-life issues. This study will become the first study of LSD-assisted
psychotherapy in over thirty-six years--In a Swiss media
interview conducted right before his birthday, Albert spoke about the
renewal of research as the fulfillment of my heart's desire.
Albert died less than five months after his wife Anita passed away on December
20, 2007. Their love affair lasted over seventy years, and it was the major
factor contributing to their long healthy lives together. Obituaries for Albert have been printed in
newspapers around the world, with links listed on the MAPS website. This
wonderful tribute to
Albert Hofmann and LSD is from NPR's Rememberances featuring a
comment by Harvard psychatrist and marijuana
researcher Lester Grinspoon, MD.
Doblin attended Alberts funeral on May 9, which was celebratory and joyous. He
paid respect to Albert on behalf all MAPS members and was the only person
present from the US.
Doblin has been doing numerous interviews about Alberts life and work in the
past two weeks. He was interviewed on NPRs
Weekend Edition (MP3) and Warren Olneys
Radio Show (MP3). He was also quoted about Albert in a New
York Times obituary and a New York Times
Sunday Week in Review article, as well as in many other widely
read publications. Doblin wrote an especially beautiful obituary
for Google News about Albert. In one of my favorite quotes he said,
Inventions don't get to pick their inventors, but if they did, LSD couldn't
have picked a better inventor than Albert Hofmann. Albert was already
mystically inclined from childhood, and was able to appreciate the spiritual
and therapeutic potential of LSD--even as he also experienced the fear of dying
and the fear of going crazy in the worlds first LSD experience.
Just several weeks ago, Doblin told Albert that he looked forward to discussing
the final results of Dr. Peter
Gassers study with him in about a year and a half. Albert laughed and told
Rick that hed help anyway he could, either from this side or the other side.
So although we got Alberts commitment to continue helping us out from the
Other Side, the primary responsibility of advancing medical research with
psychedelics now falls onto our shoulders.
2. New Developments Emerging from Discussions on
Canadian MDMA PTSD Study
MAPS Researcher Michael Mithoefer, M.D., President Rick Doblin, Ph.D., Research
Specialist Ilsa Jerome, Ph.D., and Clinical Research Associate Valerie Mojeiko
have had several productive teleconferences with new Canadian therapist team
Andrew Feldmar, PhD and Ingrid Pacey, MD to discuss protocol design details for
MAPS upcoming MDMA/PTSD study in
Vancouver. The main protocol design details have been agreed upon and a series
of teleconferences and protocol writing sessions are underway.
The study will be a comparison of twelve subjects--eight subjects who will be
given MDMA, and four subjects will be given an active placebo. Every subject
will receive two blind sessions (neither subject or therapist will know who
is receiving the drug and who is receiving the placebo). A placebo in this
study will actually be low-dose MDMA-- 25 milligrams followed two to two and a
half hours later with 12.5 mg. Were using this design with the active placebo
being low-dose MDMA since its likely that the solution to the problems
associated with doing double-blind studies with psychedelics will be by
conducting a dose-response study. Although the placebos will create some
measurable effect, this seems the only reasonable option for doing double-blind
research with psychedelics.
What is most likely to fool people are the different dose-responses to the
drug, and the FDA is likely to decide that
our Phase 3 trials are probably going to be designed in that way.Dose-response in this context means that everybody knows theyre getting MDMA, but they dont know what dose theyre getting. People are more likely to be confused
about the dose when they will be receiving doses like 25 mg, 75 mg, and 125 mg.
Our research will have to demonstrate that subjects receiving the higher doses
After the psychotherapeutic sessions the blind will then be uncovered, and a
comparison will be done between two MDMA sessions versus two placebo sessions.
All the MDMA subjects will have two additional sessions following that, with
the option--based on both therapist and patient decisions--to go up to 150
milligrams from 125. The placebo subjects will also have the option for doing
four sessions of open-label MDMA after completing placebo sessions.
3. Medical Marijuana Study Recruiting Patients with
MAPS is now assisting with subject recruitment in Dr. Donald Abrams medical
marijuana and opiate interaction study at the University of California, San
Francisco. Dr. Abrams study, which is being sponsored by the National
Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), is designed to evaluate whether or not patients
who are using the opiate drugs Oxycontin or MS Contin (or Kadian) for pain will
receive less benefit if the drugs are used in conjunction with marijuana
administered by a vaporizer. This research--which will be studied in
twenty-four subjects who are currently taking pain medications--will provide
clinical evidence to help decide whether cannabis, when added to conventional
narcotic pain drugs, will reduce the effectiveness of the opiates, or can
provide added relief and thereby allow much-reduced doses of these dangerous
narcotics. The study is taking place at the San Francisco General Hospital, in
the clinical research center, and it requires a five-day inpatient stay.
MAPS will be paying for the transportation and lodging of out-of-town subjects
in this study. Since MAPS has made this offer, weve already paid the expenses
for one subject; there are will be nine more. To learn more about the study, or
to find out about the requirements for participating, please visit the ASA webpage
about the study. If you have questions about the study or need more
information, please contact the field coordinator for Americans for
4. MAPS Flagship MDMA/PTSD Study Nears Completion
The second to last experimental session took place on Monday in MAPS-sponsored MDMA/PTSD
study led by Dr. Michael Mithoefer M.D. in Charleston, SC. There are just
two more open label MDMA sessions to go. One will be next week and the last one
will be in July. The subject who will be the last to finish will have the final
outcome evaluation in September, and then the study will be finished. Four
additional subjects have had all their experimental sessions and will have
their final outcome measures in the next two months.
A volunteer data management expert with eight years of clinical trials
experience (who wishes to remain anonymous) came to MAPS Love Creek
headquarters over this last weekend, created a database for the study, and
entered most of the data points that we have on file so far. We are on schedule
to have all data entered and ready for analysis by the time the last subject
has the last visit.
MAPS received an anonymous donation of $90,000 for this study recently. There
has also been a money-saving development with the institutional review board
(IRB), which in the past has required that MAPS indemnify them for a million
dollars. (To indemnify means that, in case theyre sued, we cover their
costs.) MAPS has had to purchase insurance to indemnify the IRB, and in Dr.
Mithoefers study so far that insurance has cost us $49,000-- to protect the
IRB from the extremely unlikely event that a subject would sue the IRB for being
in the study and win the case. The good news is that the IRB has now permitted
us to self-insure. We are still are indemnifying them, but because were now
permitted to self-insure, this just saved us $9,600 in insurance premiums.
5. Possibility of a French MDMA/PTSD Study Moves Forward
MAPS has submitted a draft MDMA/PTSD protocol to a team of French psychiatrists
who are still in discussion with their local institution about whether we might
be permitted to sponsor a pilot study.
MAPS Clinical Research Associates Valerie Mojeiko and Josh Sonstroem will be
going to France on June 27th for a pre-study visit to meet with the research
team that is currently working to obtain permission for MDMA/PTSD research.
6. Swiss Medic Allows Non-responders in MDMA/PTSD Study
to Have Additional Sessions
SwissMedic, and our Swiss Ethics
Committee, have agreed to allow non-responders in Dr.
Peter Oehens MAPS-sponsored Swiss MDMA/PTSD study have the option to
receive two additional sessions--and the possibility of going up to a 150 mg
dose from 125 mg. All of the subjects will receive three sessions, and
non-responders will be able to have a fourth and--if doctors and patient
agree--a fifth session
An anonymous donor has 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 nonresponders--so we still need to raise more
funding for this study, roughly estimated at $20,000.
7. Subjects Being Screened for Peter Gassers Swiss LSD
Several subjects are now being screened for Peter Gassers Swiss LSD
psychotherapy study with subjects suffering from anxiety secondary to an
advanced-stage illness. The first subject has been enrolled with the first
experimental session to start in May. There was a positive article about Dr.
Gassers LSD psychotherapy study in the London Bloomberg News entitled
LSD May Shed
Hippie Image With Swiss Study of Medical Benefits.
8. Positive Media Coverage of Israel's MDMA/PTSD Study
Brings New Subjects
Two major news sources in Israel have recently covered the MAPS-sponsored
Israeli MDMA/PTSD study in a positive light, and, as a result, subject
recruitment has started to pick up. The first subject has already been treated
and the second subject has been enrolled. Study Investigator Rakefet Rodrigez,
MD appeared in a
newspaper called Maariv (PDF), and on a prestigious daily
television news show called Ereb Chadash (meaning "New Evening),
which discusses current happenings.
9. Strong, Positive Article in The
Lancet About the Renewal of Psychedelic Research
There was an excellent article by Kelly Morris about the renewal of psychedelic
drug research around the world in the May, 2008 issue of Britains prestigious
medical journal The Lancet. The article was titled Psychedelic research
moves into the mainstream, and it contained a very positive summary of the
psychotherapeutic studies that are currently underway with MDMA, LSD, and
10. Positive Article About MDMA/PTSD Research in The
London Sunday Times
The London Sunday Times ran a positive article about MAPS MDMA/PTSD
research. The article by Amy Turner, entitled Ecstasy is the key to
treating PTSD ran in the May 4th issue.
11. Psychedelic Elder Alexander Sasha Shulgin
Recovering Well from Heart Surgery
We reported in the last email news update that 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, Sasha is recovering well and his
strength is steadily improving. We anticipate complete recovery within a few
months. The CaringBridge
website is being used to keep us up-to-date on Sasha's progress.
12. Signed Copies of LSD: My Problem
Child and Other Hofmann Memorabilia Going Fast
Only a limited number of signed
copies of Albert Hofmanns classic book LSD: My Problem Child remain
for sale. Because there is such a limited number of these signed books, and
because Albert really wanted to help raise money for LSD research, weve
increased the price for the remaining eight copies to $1000. if you want to own
one of these last remaining historic books, order a copy today!
There are several
beautiful portraits of Hofmann for sale in the webstore (some signed by
Albert). Purchasing this art would be another way to honor his life and his
work, as the funds go to support LSD psychotherapy research.
13. MAPS to Co-sponsor Two MPP Fundraisers--NYC on May
14th and Playboy Mansion on June 12
MAPS will be a cosponsoring two Marijuana Policy Project (MPP)
fundraisers in New York City on May 14th and at the Playboy Mansion on June
14. Expect the Spring MAPS Bulletin
in Your Mailbox Soon (And Summer Membership Drive with Chance to WIN Shulgin
To acknowledge Alberts death, a few last minute changes were made in the
Spring MAPS Bulletin, and this delayed sending it out by about a week.
However, it is currently at the printers and will be in arriving in mailboxes
by the end of May (longer for international delivery). This is a special,
extra-thick theme edition of the Bulletin that I edited about
technology and psychedelics--which is simply bursting at the seams with
fascinating essays, rare information, compelling interviews, and extraordinary
Along with the copy of the Spring Bulletin that I edited, U.S.
domestic members will be receiving an extra copy of the previous issue. MAPS is
requesting our members help MAPS grow through word-of-mouth. We 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 Shulgins lab signed by
the legendary chemist, or a trip to visit and dine with MAPS President Rick
Doblin. More information about the membership drive and raffle will be in the
envelope that accompanies the Spring Bulletin. If you do not currently
receive the Bulletin but would like to participate in the membership drive (PDF of info),
15. MAPS Receives a $6000 Grant from the Marijuana
Policy Project for Professor Lyle Craker
MAPS has received a $6000 grant from the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) for
Professor Lyle Craker, Ph.D.s work on the DEA application process, seeking a license to build a medical
marijuana production facility under contract to MAPS.
So far, for over a year, the
DEA has delayed issuing a Final Ruling in response to the recommendation by
the DEA Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Mary Ellen Bittner that it would be in
the public interest for DEA to issue Prof. Craker a license.
16. $119,000 in New Donations Raised for MDMA/PTSD
A new donor to MAPS, who first purchased art from the
MAPS webstoreimmediately after the World Psychedelic Forum, has since
donated $90,000 to our US MDMA/PTSD study and $29,000 to our Swiss MDMA/PTSD
study. This significant support from a completely new donor is especially heartening
since he was involved in the pharmaceutical industry and understands the drug
development process. This pivotal support from a new donor suggests that
MAPS' non-profit drug development strategy is not completely unrealistic, that
as long as we continue to conduct methodologically rigorous and therapeutically
beneficial research, funders will see the value of supporting MAPS even as we
expand into our large-scale,
multi-site Phase 3 studies costing millions of dollars.
Alberts passing on to the Other Side marks an important
transition in our work to help make
psychedelic substances into legal prescription medicines. Now that the
grandfather of psychedelic research has departed from the Earthly realm, the
great responsibility of integrating psychedelic therapies into mainstream
medicine now falls more directly onto our shoulders. Alberts dream became a
reality that he lived to see, as the Swiss LSD psychotherapy
study is now underway. Since weve only raised half of the money for the
study, this would be an excellent time to make a donation in honor of Albert.
Hes passed the torch to us and its now our responsibility to carry this
valuable research forward. Please consider making a generous
donation to MAPS today.
Onward and Upward,
David Jay Brown, M.A.,
MAPS Guest Editor