MDMA Research News
1. MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy for Autism Study Proposals Accepted Until December 16
We are welcoming proposals for a MAPS-sponsored pilot study of MDMA for Asperger's syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorders from interested researchers until December 16. A number of people with high-functioning autism and Asperger's Syndrome have reported improvements after taking MDMA outside of research contexts. MDMA shows promise for treating Autism Spectrum Disorders since the effects of MDMA that increase empathy and enhance communication are precisely the abilities that autism tends to degrade.
MAPS is offering a grant of $10,000 for protocol development expenses for this pilot study. We have prepared a Request for Proposals (RFP) for researchers based in the U.S. We're looking for an established research team that would also have a good chance of obtaining funds for research from other grant agencies, as autism research is currently a well-funded field. At present, we have not yet raised funds for the study itself, but we do have funds for protocol development. Once we have a completed protocol, we will develop a budget and a fundraising plan. We will also work to raise additional funds through MAPS and perhaps other sources.
2. Amendment to Ibogaine Addiction Study Approved by Review Committee
On November 17, 2011, the second protocol amendment to our ongoing observational study of ibogaine treatment for addiction was approved by the Human Research Review Committee (HRRC) at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS). The committee received the amendment on November 1. The purpose of this amendment was (a) to remove the control group, for which we were not able to recruit qualifying subjects; (b) add a data analysis plan to the protocol; (c) standardize the drug testing schedule so that all subjects undergo both hair and urine tests; (d) add two secondary objectives that analyze data from the drug tests and investigator ratings of well-being that have already been collected; and (e) make administrative updates such as changing the names of sections and measures. On August 29, we enrolled the 30th and final subject for this study, who will be evaluated for addiction and quality of life for a year. This study's final visit is scheduled for September 2012.
Information has been collected for 18 out of 30 subjects in this study for their 3-month follow-up evaluations, and for 11 out of 30 subjects for their 6-month follow-up evaluation. In some cases, these data were based on reports from significant others of the subjects.
3. New Zealand Observational Study of Ibogaine Treatment for Addiction Approved by Ethics Committee
On November 1, 2011, an independent Ethics Committee granted conditional approval for MAPS' ibogaine research program in New Zealand, pending the submission of a few final documents.
It was particularly important to meet this deadline because only a limited number of ibogaine treatments take place in New Zealand, and the lead investigator, Geoff Noller, Ph.D. will be able to maximize the treatments to be followed by starting the study as soon as possible once it is approved. Dr. Noller has received a verbal approval from the Ethics Committee, although he is still waiting to receive a formal letter in the mail.
The new study will take place at an independent ibogaine clinic in New Zealand, and will examine the safety and long-term effectiveness of ibogaine treatment for addiction severity and quality of life in 20 to 30 patients. Since this will be an observational study (which means that MAPS does not administer a drug in the study but only surveys people who have taken a drug in the past) the protocol does not need to pass through an additional review process, meaning that we can begin enrolling subjects as soon as the study clears the Ethics Committee. Data from this study and our ongoing study of Mexican ibogaine treatment centers under the direction of investigator Thomas Kingsley Brown, Ph.D., may be used to make a case for a possible future clinical study with ibogaine. Clinical studies, by contrast, are those in which researchers administer the drug or a placebo in a controlled setting and submit the data to the FDA.
4. Watch a Video of Canadian Pharmacy Where MDMA Will Be Stored
On October 18, 2011, Health Canada conducted an inspection of the Canadian pharmacy that we are planning to use for our new MDMA/PTSD study, and a video was filmed interviewing the pharmacist before and after a security inspection. Arwen Hunter, who came to MAPS' successful benefit event in Vancouver this September, created the video as a volunteer project. (Thank you, Arwen!)
We've done everything Health Canada requested in their written communication but the inspector has now stated that new regulations have been created and that we may need to comply with them as well. The inspector said that she will submit her report to officials in Ottawa, and that we should hear back from Health Canada by the end of November. We have now been told we will receive the report the first or second week of December. Some of the changes that may be necessary could be to replace the glass door to the pharmacy with a solid wood or metal door and to replace the windows of the room with shatterproof/bulletproof glass. We haven't heard back from Health Canada yet about their verdict, but the video certainly shows the lengths to which the pharmacy has gone to protect the MDMA supply. Meanwhile, the pharmacy manager is applying for a license to import the MDMA into Canada.
5. Donald Abrams Publishes Paper on Cannabinoids and Opiate Receptors
On November 2, 2011, a recently completed study on cannabinoid-opioid interaction in chronic pain by University of California, San Francisco medical researcher Donald Abrams, M.D. was published in the online edition of the science journal Nature. The study demonstrates that vaporized cannabis can significantly increase the painkilling effectiveness of morphine and oxycodone in patients with chronic pain, without increasing plasma levels of the opiate drugs. This study is important because it means that cannabis can increase the painkilling effectiveness of opiates without increasing their toxicity, and the combination of cannabis and opiate medicines may allow for opioid treatment to be administered at lower doses with fewer side effects. MAPS helped recruit and fund the travel costs of subjects in this study.
6. Veterans Supporting Marijuana Research for PTSD Start Petitions on Whitehouse.gov and Change.org
There are several new online petitions that may be of interest to the MAPS community. A petition has been created by the Veterans for Medical Cannabis Association (VMCA) on the U.S. government's "We the People" Whitehouse.gov web site in order to help gain support for a U.S. policy change that would allow disabled military veterans to access medical marijuana to treat posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to the web site, "cannabis is an effective medicine...to ease the symptoms of PTSD, giving disabled Veterans a big improvement in their quality of life." Here's a link to find out more.
Another petition was created by a veteran at Change.org to send a message to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the DEA to stop blocking MAPS' medical marijuana research for treating veterans with PTSD. This petition specifically addresses the medical marijuana study proposed by MAPS to study how cannabis affects veterans with PTSD. The proposed study has been approved by the FDA, but has been blocked by NIDA's refusal to allow the researchers to purchase the cannabis necessary to conduct it. According to Sergeant Ryan Begin of the United States Marine Corps—who served two tours in Iraq, and suffers from PTSD—his condition "received the greatest benefit from medical marijuana." So it's not surprising that a lot of veterans are upset about NIDA and the DEA's attempt to block medical research and want to do something about it. More information about this petition can be found here.
7. MAPS Executive Director Rick Doblin Speaks in Support of Collective Injunction Against Federal Dispensary Crackdown
In the continuing legal battle over medical cannabis in California, attorneys for the medical cannabis industry said that they are seeking court orders to halt an imminent crackdown by the U.S. federal government on medical cannabis dispensaries, their landlords, and cannabis growers. In a legal motion filed on November 8, medical cannabis distributors and some medical patients are asking federal judges in four districts of Northern and Central California to issue temporary restraining orders that would prevent federal prosecutors from taking action. MAPS Executive Director Rick Doblin, Ph.D., has spoken about the federal obstruction of medical marijuana research and in support of this collective injunction against the cannabis dispensary crackdown. His statements appear in the legal proceedings for the case as a declaration of support for the plaintiff's petition (for Northern, Central, and Southern California plaintiffs). To learn more about the legal motion filed by the medical cannabis community see the November 7 New York Times article on the subject.
8. MAPS 25th Anniversary - Cartographie Psychedelica: December 8-12, 2011, Oakland, CA
MAPS will be celebrating 25 years of scientific research and education from December 8-12, 2011 in Oakland, CA. Come join us! Cartographie Psychedelica will feature five days of lectures, performances, workshops, art, an honorary dinner for Stan and Christina Grof, a benefit celebration and auction, a party, and a pre-conference reception. Many pioneers, researchers, and psychotherapists who have worked with psychedelics and marijuana will be there, including Stanislav Grof, Michael Mithoefer, Peter Gasser, Charles Grob, James Fadiman, Ralph Metzner, Donald Abrams, and MAPS founder Rick Doblin.
Participate in visionary art workshops by Alex and Allyson Grey, as well by Andrew and Phaedrana Jones, who will also be giving a live performance. More workshops will be offered on marijuana, ayahuasca, our therapeutic method for MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD, psychedelic neuroscience, the new era of psychedelic research, and the Women's Visionary Council. A three-hour morning cruise on the San Francisco Bay will take place on Sunday morning (The Floating World), and there will be an entertaining benefit celebration (The Kaleidoscope Vault), a late-night dance party (The Medicine Ball), a large arena of vendor booths, and other exciting delights for those who are interested in the scientific research and medical applications of these extraordinary substances, as well as for psychedelically-minded visionaries and other connoisseurs of creativity.
All of the profits from this event will help support MAPS' next U.S. study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, to take place in Boulder, CO. This "intern study" will explore the effectiveness of our treatment method when one member of the therapist team is a healthcare intern, helping us develop a cost-effective and sustainable way to recruit effective therapists.
See you in Oakland!
9. Institute of Transpersonal Psychology - Spirituality & Psychology Conference: February 17-19, 2012, Menlo Park, CA
Discounted early bird registration ends December 15. The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology will bring together clinicians, therapists, spiritual guides, healing practitioners, academics, and researchers from around the world to explore the promises and pitfalls of the spiritual path for the third biennial Spirituality & Psychology Conference. The conference will take place at Menlo College in Atherton, California from February 17th-19th, and it will include talks by Roger Walsh, Shauna Shapiro, Jeanne Achterberg, Robert Frager, Rosemarie Anderson, Brant Cortright, Arthur Hastings, Olga Louchakova, and David Lukoff.
The conference will explore such themes as the relationship between culture and spirituality, transpersonally-oriented research, the cultivation of spiritual development, and the interface between spirituality and clinical practice. Some of the most important and commonly-reported benefits that can come from a psychedelic journey are an increased sense of spiritual awareness, and life-changing psychological insights, which can act as catalysts for both personal and global healing. In a world suffering from deep spiritual malaise and a profound ecological crisis, this sense of expanded awareness is certainly most welcome.
MAPS Lead Clinical Research Associate Berra Yazar-Klosinski, Ph.D. will be speaking at the conference. Register and find out more about this exciting conference!
10. Stanislav Grof Holotropic Breathwork Training Workshop: February 10-12, 2012, Los Angeles, CA
Renowned psychedelic psychotherapy pioneer and co-founder of Holotropic Breathwork Stanislav Grof, M.D. will be teaching a Holotropic Breathwork training workshop from February 10-12, 2012 in Los Angeles, CA. This is a rare opportunity to learn how to use this extraordinary breathing technique that can produce transformative experiences similar to psychedelic drugs. For people who want to try psychedelic psychotherapy but do not qualify for one of our studies, this is a great option to experience a similar state of consciousness.
In Holotropic Breathwork sessions people can gain direct access to their own inner healing abilities. This is often accompanied by a unique combination of experiences that can include aspects of your personal history, psychological death and rebirth, transpersonal interconnections, and greater spirituality.
11. Psychedelic Research Makes the Front Page of the Los Angeles Times
On November 29, 2011, the front page of the Los Angeles Times (PDF) nearly quoted MAPS' mission statement in an announcement that "hallucinogens and other street drugs may help patients cope with PTSD, addiction, pain, depression and even terminal illness" ("Turn on, tune in and get better?", November 29, 2011). Researchers, therapists, patients, and policy experts are acknowledging the extent of psychedelics' return to mainstream science and medicine. From LSD and MDMA to psilocybin and ketamine, these substances are increasingly recognized for their ability to catalyze profound emotional, psychological, and even physical healing. A quote from MAPS Founder and Executive Director Rick Doblin, Ph.D., says it all: "We're trying to break a social mindset saying these are strictly drugs of abuse...It's not the drug but how the drug is used that matters."
12. MAPS in the Media
Here are some major highlights from press coverage of MAPS' psychedelic and medical marijuana research from the past month.
Get the latest psychedelic and medical marijuana research news at MAPS in the Media.
- Positive coverage in Australian media shows public support is growing down under for a possible new study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD to take place in Australia. It's a very good sign that even those known to exaggerate the risks of MDMA acknowledge the importance of MAPS' research ("Call for Ecstasy to Treat Trauma Stress", November 20, 2011).
- Wired magazine reports on a powerful petition by a wounded Iraq veteran that is putting a human face on MAPS' struggle to end the federal medical marijuana research blockade. Sgt. Ryan Begin, United States Marine Corps (Ret.), is calling on NIDA and the DEA to stop standing in the way of MAPS' proposed study of marijuana for veterans with PTSD so that he and his fellow veterans can get the relief they need. Sometimes, it makes the most sense to hear it from those who are most affected by the government's obstruction of medical marijuana research ("Vet to Feds: Enough Stonewalling, Give Us Pot for PTSD", November 16, 2011).
- Apple's late founder Steve Jobs once said that taking "LSD was one of the two or three most important things I have done in my life." In 2007, LSD inventor Albert Hofmann (at 101) sent Jobs a personal handwritten note asking Jobs to support MAPS' (now completed) Swiss study of LSD-assisted psychotherapy for end-of-life anxiety. The Fix has posted the letter on its website for a rare glimpse of this connection between two revolutionary inventors. ("LSD Inventor's Remarkable Letter to Steve Jobs", November 14, 2011).
- The federal blockade on medical marijuana research is directly affecting real veterans suffering from combat-related PTSD. In a short article on The Fix, Sgt. Jamey Raines, who himself used marijuana to cope with PTSD symptoms after serving in Iraq, calls on the federal government to allow medical marijuana research ("Government Foot-Dragging Denies Pot Relief to Traumatized Veterans", November 2, 2011).
- Wired magazine calls attention to NIDA's recent refusal to sell MAPS researchers marijuana for our FDA-cleared study of marijuana for veterans with PTSD. According to researcher Sue Sisley, M.D., "At this point, I can't help but think they simply don't want to move forward. Maybe they figure if they stall long enough, we'll give up and go away." Read more about MAPS' ongoing efforts to conduct medical marijuana research for veterans ("Bummer: Feds Stonewall Pot Treatments for Traumatized Veterans", October 26, 2011).
13. Honor Thy Daughter author Marilyn Howell Addresses International Drug Policy Reform Conference
On November 5, 2011, Honor Thy Daughter author Marilyn Howell was given the honor of speaking at the closing plenary at the 2011 International Drug Policy Reform Conference. Howell was one of a handful of presenters chosen to address the entire conference audience, owing to the dramatic impact their earlier presentations had on attendees.
Ethan Nadelmann, Ph.D., the founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, explained why Marilyn's story about how psychedelic therapy helped ease her daughter's suffering at the end of her life is so important for the drug policy reform community. "We are about trying to reduce the cumulative pain associated both with drugs and the drug war in our society and around the world," said Nadelmann. "One of the people who spoke beautifully to this issue…was Marilyn Howell." Listen to Marilyn's story, or watch the entire closing plenary.
As Marilyn wrote to MAPS after the conference (where Honor Thy Daughter sold out): "I've always been a bit of an outsider. As a student of multiple mind/body systems, I selectively chose and integrated a variety of useful principles and tools, but I was never drawn to earn certification in a particular discipline or to join an organization of practitioners. Although I facilitated strong communities in the classroom, I was the guide and gatekeeper, not a peer. I never felt as though I belonged to a community. At 69, I've finally found my tribe in MAPS."
The Drug Policy Alliance has graciously made a number of sessions from the exciting and impactful conference viewable online. In addition to Marilyn Howell's closing address above, you may also be interested in:
- Psychedelic Healing: Can Psychedelics Reinvent Medicine…and Society? with Rick Doblin, Marilyn Howell, Amanda Feilding, Neal Goldsmith, Jim Fadiman, and Julie Holland
- Drug, Set, and Setting Today with Julie Holland, M.D.
- Drug, Set, and Setting Today with Gabor Maté, M.D.
14. MAPS Board Member Ashawna Hailey Dies at the Age of 62
On October 14, 2011, MAPS board member and microprocessor architect Ashawna (Shawn) Hailey died at his San Jose, California home at the age of 62. Hailey's passing was peaceful, and he is survived by his children Neal and Nora, and by his twin brother Kim. Hailey is probably best known for creating the HSPICE program, which large parts of the worldwide semiconductor industry use to simulate and design silicon chips.
After graduating from Texas Tech University in 1970, Hailey started working with the Martin Marietta Corporation to design the launch sequencer for the Sprint Antiballistic Missile System. As a computer designer at Advanced Micro Devices in 1974 Hailey built their first Intel compatible processor, and in 1979 he and his brother Kim founded Meta-Software Corporation. Meta-Software produced a compound annual growth rate in excess of 25 to 30 percent every year for 18 years, and eventually became part of Synopsys Inc., one of the largest companies in the Electronic Design Automation industry.
As a philanthropist, Hailey sought to reform government policies on psychedelic drugs and marijuana, and he donated generously to a number of important organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Marijuana Policy Project, the Drug Policy Alliance, and MAPS, where he served on the Board of Directors for four and half years.
According to Rick Doblin, in the final hours of Ashawna's life they had a "delightful and productive phone conversation about the current status of MAPS' work." Hailey had championed heavily for developing a study to evaluate how MDMA-assisted psychotherapy might treat autism spectrum disorders, for which MAPS is currently developing a pilot study.
More information about Ashawna can be found here.
15. MAPS Welcomes Director of Marketing & Development Virginia Wright to Office Staff
Last month we were proud to welcome Virginia Wright as our new Director of Marketing & Development. Virginia joyfully brings a wealth of fundraising experience to our organization. She has held management positions at Carmel Bach Festival, The Santa Cruz County Symphony, the Arts Council Silicon Valley, and The Global Fund for Women. Her firm Wright & Associates has provided strategic thinking, marketing and fundraising services to arts organizations throughout the Monterey Bay and Silicon Valley regions, and she has facilitated community-based art and cultural plans for cities in Northern California and Nevada. She co-founded and directed The Soviet American Performing Arts Exchange and was active in the citizen diplomacy movement in the 1980s. She received her B.A. in International Relations from San Francisco State University, and her M.B.A. from Santa Clara University. For the first part of her life Virginia danced in Santa Cruz, New York, and Los Angeles.
16. Join Us on the MAPS Forum
We would like to remind you that MAPS hosts an email list discussion forum regarding psychedelic studies. Topics such as research, medicine, policy, spirituality, art and anthropology—as they relate to psychedelics—are engaged by experts and novices of the field. Relevant links, news, and events concerning psychedelic science and culture are also shared on the list, while guidelines are upheld to keep the list neat, concise, and on topic by moderators and longtime MAPS supporters. Building a sense of community, connection, and solidarity through online conversations with like-minded people around the world is essential to our cause, so I encourage you to participate.
17. Participate in the MAPS Psychedelic Education Program
Participate in the all-day workshops at Cartographie Psychedelica to increase your knowledge of the principles and practice of psychedelic therapy.
MAPS' new Psychedelic Education Program provides access to knowledge about the history, methodology, and potential applications of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy not available through conventional educational channels. The Psychedelic Education Program is taught by leading experts in psychedelic science, psychedelic therapy, and psychedelic culture.
Whether you're interested in eventually becoming a licensed psychedelic therapist, applying insights from psychedelic therapy to your existing licensed practice, connecting with others with similar interests, or even if you're just curious, the Psychedelic Education Program will give you tools to be an engaged member of the growing psychedelic research community.
Workshops counting for the Psychedelic Education Program at Cartographie Psychedelica include: The Principles of Psychedelic Therapy: Lessons from MDMA Research for PTSD; The New Era of Psychedelic Studies: The Experience that Alters All Others; Psychedelic Neuroscience; Ayahuasca Healing: Medical, Legal, and Cultural Considerations; and Defending Psychedelic Culture: The Women's Visionary Council.
Join us for Psychedelic Education Program workshops at http://www.maps.org/conference/25/">Cartographie Psychedelica and future events and be part of the promising field of psychedelic therapy. Click here for more information.