Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a severe and chronic aftereffect of a traumatic point in someone’s life. Sometimes, just one event causes it, but it can also be caused by a traumatic period of time in someone’s life. There are many options for therapeutic treatment when someone has PTSD but is a possible future in treatment with MDMA-assisted therapy? We spoke with Rabiaa El Garani and Rick Doblin about the positive outcome of MDMA-assisted therapy.
Rabiaa El Garani recently underwent MDMA-assisted therapy for two years. Rick Doblin has a Master’s degree and a Ph.D. from Harvard Kennedy School, where he studied the regulated use of psychedelics. He also started MAPS, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a non-profit organization that works with MDMA-assisted therapy for treating PTSD.
There are currently about 400 for-profit companies and several non-profits. MAPS is the only one in Phase 3 of the studies, which is the path to becoming a licensed non-profit for the use of MDMA-assisted therapy.
There is a large number of people who are struggling, even with the help of therapy. For some people with severe, chronic PTSD, therapy is not enough. That is where this use of psychedelics can come into play—people who have considered or attempted suicide benefit from this form of care.
The MDMA is exceptionally effective and helps people to confront previously overwhelming emotions. This is leading the way for other psychedelic-assisted therapies and the use of psychedelics in other aspects of healthcare.
Rabiaa met Rick at a conference where he introduced MAPS and the use of MDMA-assisted therapy. She was struggling with PTSD and wanted help. She spoke with him about her struggles, and he informed her of the legal use of MDMA with therapy in Switzerland, where she lived.
She connected with a provider that worked with MDMA-assisted therapy. She had several psychotherapy sessions with him before he directed her to the Office of Public Health to seek approval for MDMA-assisted therapy. It took several months before her approval came through. Once she received approval, they started her treatment. The treatment period took place over 2.5 years, with six sessions of the MDMA, entwined with biweekly psychotherapy sessions. She found the treatment difficult, but it increased her awareness and allowed her to let go. She said this treatment really helped her process her trauma and move past it instead of holding on to it.
She found that treatment allowed her to face her past trauma, not just with PTSD, but all traumas, and opened the door for her to develop compassion for herself and others. She was able to face the root of her traumas. It also allowed her to stop blaming herself for everything she had gone through. She developed a sense of self-validation and allowed herself to actively live her life and even develop a love life.
Rabiaa felt that before her treatment, she was trapped by her trauma and her thoughts imprisoned her. This therapy allowed her to break free from this prison. She says that no person should suffer from their thoughts or want to end their life because of them.
She also gave a quote that her doctor told her, which she held in high regard. “Psychiatry is the past. Psychedelic-assisted therapy is the future.” She said that she strongly believes in psychedelic-assisted therapy after going through this program.
MAPS Humanitarian Program
MAPS is working on enrolling refugees and humanitarians in the Phase 3 studies. With such a large number of people in other countries suffering, there are not enough therapists to handle individual therapies effectively. There is potential for MAPS to try and test group therapy for the use of MDMA-assisted therapy. There is also a goal to test if MDMA can be used as a prophylactic to prevent PTSD from developing. This would include treating people shortly after a traumatic event and studying to see if it would indeed prevent chronic PTSD from developing. This is a significant step in the strive for mass mental health care.
Many misconceptions surround MDMA use for medical purposes. One of those is the idea that MDMA will cause holes in the brain or have serious neurotoxic effects. These statements have been used for decades to stop MDMA use and to stop further testing with MDMA. There is also a fear that MDMA can impact the brain’s functions. In fact, it is quite the opposite. MDMA has been proven to release oxytocin, which is the hormone of love. This release promotes new neuro-connections that actively rewire your brain more positively.
Another part of the misconception is that the drug is the treatment. The drug is used in conjunction with psychotherapy in a clinical setting, and the therapy becomes more effective with the use of the drug. Something that adds to the misconceptions of this drug treatment is that MDMA is also known as Ecstasy, a party drug. When MDMA was created, it was designed for clinical use. When it escaped the clinical setting, it was marketed as a party drug. The goal is to reintroduce the drug back into the clinical setting.
There is also this idea that once the treatment is done, that patient is cured. That is not the case. The therapy needs to continue as time progresses, as people are constantly retraumatized by the world around them. A different concern for the use of the drug is that there is a fear that it could be addictive. In reality, MDMA has a lower dependency rate and abuse potential than other drugs.
There is hope that this treatment will become a gateway for the use of other psychedelics for therapy purposes. Eventually, providers will hopefully have access to different psychedelic drugs that can be individually paired with patients for healing.
The most significant setback in this field is the lack of training. Due to the sensitive nature of the drugs being used, there is little training, thus little use. There needs to be a way to legally and correctly train the providers so that they can correctly treat their patients.
There is hope that this kind of treatment can help to expand the training and the use of MDMA-assisted therapy. The future is bright with the use of psychedelics for healing.
You can watch our full panel and hear more of these conversations here.