It’s no secret our society has a profound mental health crisis. All of us are living in extraordinary times exacerbated by a global pandemic, divisive politics, economic uncertainty, and more. Over 50 million adults in the U.S. lived with a mental health condition in 2020, over 12 million live with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and more than 100,000 people die from drug overdose annually — all sobering and painful statistics to consider during National Addiction Recovery Month.
While record numbers of individuals have sought and begun treatments for mental health conditions in recent years, millions more face barriers to treatment. Barriers can include being unable to afford services, not being able to find a provider due to the nationwide shortage, and stigma associated with seeking help. Being in treatment is not easy, either — confronting traumatic memories and sitting with difficult emotions leads many to dropping out. In fact, one clinical trial found that dropout rates for Veterans going through therapy was as high as 55.8%.
Thankfully, there are many collaborative and multidisciplinary approaches taking place so that we can live in a society with mass mental health.
In 1986, I founded the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) as a non-profit organization to re-investigate the healing power of psychedelic therapies by conducting clinical research through the FDA approval process. We have placed a heavy emphasis on shepherding the use of MDMA-assisted therapy for the treatment of PTSD, and so far, results from our clinical trials have been promising. Through researching psychedelics, we help transform the way people think about mental illness, and subsequently, how we treat it.
If you accidentally break a bone, a cast might be applied to support the healing process. It is your own body that is responsible for the healing, not the cast itself or the doctors. Our approach towards mental health is similar — with a supportive environment, the mind has an innate power to heal itself. This “inner healing intelligence” can be catalyzed with the addition of a psychedelic and a trained therapist.
Early trial results led to our therapy protocol receiving Breakthrough Therapy designation from the FDA, meaning our protocol may demonstrate substantial improvement compared to available therapies. Among the participants in the MDMA-assisted therapy group from our first Phase 3 clinical trial completed in 2021, 88% of participants experienced a clinically significant reduction in symptoms and 67% no longer qualified for a PTSD diagnosis. While promising, it’s important to acknowledge that this treatment does not work for everyone (12% of participants were nonresponders).
We are currently conducting our second Phase 3 clinical trial and will have our last data point by the end of the year. Assuming the data is positive, we will file a New Drug Application (NDA) in early 2023. Research into novel psychedelic treatments like this gives hope to Veterans and other populations suffering from the debilitating effects of a mental health condition without a significant response to the currently available therapies.
On this National Psychotherapy Day, we at MAPS honor the therapists working hard for those in need when it is needed most. We also thank the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Foundation for their dedication to rigorous psychedelic research.
If you, or someone you know, is interested in joining a clinical trial, please visit our website to learn more: maps.org/take-action/participate-in-trial
If you, or someone you know, is in need of immediate care, you can now call or text 988, which offers 24/7 access to trained crisis counselors who can help people experiencing mental health and/or substance abuse crises.
To learn more about MAPS and the variety of ways you can support psychedelic research, please visit MAPS.org.
Founded in 1986, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization specializing in research and education. Their work develops medical, legal, and cultural shifts so people can benefit from the careful use of psychedelics and marijuana for mental health, well-being, and connection.