Momentum Grows for Psychedelics as Part of Mainstream Therapy

Momentum Grows for Psychedelics as Part of Mainstream Therapy

SAN DIEGO—With much of the historical fear around psychedelics having dissipated, the founder of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) sees current research as leading the field to the emergence of a new branch of psychotherapy. Rick Doblin, PhD, updated attendees of Psych Congress 2019 on a Phase 3 research program that could result in US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by the end of 2021. MDMA, or 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, was seen as therapeutic before it was branded a party drug and declared illegal in the mid-1980s, but now Dr. Doblin says research evidence is demonstrating that the drug can help individuals process traumatic memories. Phase 2 research of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy that concluded in 2016 left participants feeling that “when they are no longer scared of these memories, they can work with them on their own,” he said. More than two-thirds of patients receiving 3 sessions of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy no longer met criteria for PTSD in Phase 2 research that compared their outcomes to those of patients receiving therapy without MDMA. The FDA has granted Breakthrough Therapy status to MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD, a treatment that Dr. Doblin envisions as being delivered by a pair of trained therapists in individual therapy sessions. He emphasized that the medication is not the treatment, and that a variety of potential therapeutic methods can be employed depending on what emerges from the patient in the sessions in which MDMA is administered. If MDMA-assisted psychotherapy were to receive FDA approval for PTSD, the approval would be accompanied by a Risk Evaluation and Management Strategy (REMS) ensuring that only those trained in the MDMA-assisted psychotherapy could prescribe it, with delivery only under direct supervision in clinical settings. MDMA would not be a take-home treatment for PTSD. […]

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