10 Questions With Terry Gotham: Brad Burge (MAPS)

(When meeting Brad Burge several years ago, I was immediately struck by his masterful ability to communicate to all comers at an academic conference we were speaking at. He connected immediately, and never lost the purpose, message, or empathy that we all strive to have when speaking to people we care about, even when addressing someone he’d never met before. He’s become one of MAPS’ most effective ambassadors, overseeing a period of rapid visibility expansion, to the point where MDMA & PTSD is coming up at the watercooler and at the holiday dinner table. I wanted an update on the MDMA/PTSD clinical trial after my previous article on it, so I was overjoyed when he obliged! Enjoy the chat, and feel free to refer to it while talking about MDMA & PTSD with your family over the holidays!)

Photo courtesy of MAPS.

Interview by Terry Gotham

1. Even with the recent Breakthrough Therapy designation, how do you keep going in the Age of Trump?
We have been able to make a lot of progress since the election, including getting the FDA’s stamp of approval for Phase 3 trials and the Breakthrough Therapy Designation, which came in August. Trump has taken a fairly hands-off policy when it has come to the FDA so far and has given every indication that his administration supports facilitating accelerated development of pharmaceuticals and new medical treatments. Plus, and more importantly, we see psychedelic science and psychedelic therapy research as bipartisan issues, since they are not about being countercultural or revolutionary or being oppositional in the traditional sense, but rather about being careful scientists and treating serious mental health conditions. Of course we think that this research has tremendous transformational value, and that the approval of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD is likely to change how our culture understands and treats mental illness, but we are working with the system to make those changes happen, not outside it. We have had equally positive media reports, for example, from The New York Times and Scientific American as from Fox News and Breitbart.

Continue reading

Ten Questions With Terry Gotham: Stefanie Jones of The Drug Policy Alliance

(This week, it is my privilege to bring you a conversation with one of the hardest working women at the intersection between nightlife & safety, and a dear friend, Stefanie Jones, Director of Audience Development  at the Drug Policy Alliance. Her #SaferPartying initiative & MusicFan programs are crucial to for harm reduction, drug policy activism and global dance population at large. Interview by Terry Gotham)

Stefanie Jones_Music Industry session_Nov 2015

1. How was Burning Man 2015? Did you go to any other transformational festivals that actually didn’t suck when it came to harm reduction & forward thinking drug policy?
Burning Man 2015 was a definite revelation. As I like to tell people, I’ve been invited to it by various friends and people I know practically every year since 2002 but for a lot of reasons never went. It was nice because all that time let me develop a theory around what it would be like for me to go and what the best approach was, and without feeling totally wrong about what I thought, during the preparation process and the actual experience of course it’s all out the window. Even if you know, it’s not the same as when you actually do a thing, right?

Burning Man is making some strides when it comes to integrating harm reduction. In 2015 they went further than they ever had before by giving the Zendo Project two locations on the playa – two safe spaces for people who are feeling overwhelmed for whatever reason, to stop by or be brought to and be cared for by trained volunteers and therapists. Burning Man Org also listed Zendo ahead of time in the JackRabbit Speaks newsletter and in their entry materials. I volunteered with Zendo and it was incredibly rewarding, as it always is. It’s a start but there’s certainly more they could do. They have a huge challenge because the event is on federal land and there are MANY enforcement and health agencies in the mix the organizers have to keep happy. A lot of people are surprised Burning Man isn’t leading when it comes to drug policy and harm reduction, but quite honestly, given the nature and location of the event, it would be hard for them to lead.

The gold standard is actually the Boom Festival in Portugal. They have an unfair advantage maybe, because all drugs are decriminalized in that country and it really clears the way for comprehensive harm reduction to take place. Nonetheless they do it all: onsite drug education and drug checking (testing drugs for adulterants), as well as a Zendo-equivalent compassionate care service called Kosmicare. All harm reduction groups are fully supported by and integrated into the event.

In the US the clear leader is Lightning in a Bottle. We have a little harm reduction coalition working with them, and the work is summarized here.

Also, it’s not a transformational festival, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Backwoods Festival in Oklahoma. Last year they invited DanceSafe onsite and not only let them do drug checking, but integrated an early alert system if dangerous or misrepresented substances were found. In Oklahoma!! Giant respect for this scrappy event.

Continue reading

LSD Research: Where We Are In 2016

by Terry Gotham

Since the interview with MAPS went over so well, I figured I’d keep the hype train about psychedelics research going. Over the last couple of years, really great thing have happened surrounding MDMA & Magic Mushrooms, but for some of us, LSD is the Holy Grail of psychedelics research.

To provide some history, back in the 50’s & 60’s, there was a significant amount of research surrounding LSD. Everything from autism to homosexuality to childhood schizophrenia was treated with LSD in places like the Silver Spring Maryland Hospital. Dozens of studies were performed, and LSD was seen as a promising psychomimetic (insanity mimicking) and later as a “psychedelic” (mind-manifesting). But we all know what happened next.  Manson used a bunch of it to trick girls into killing people and horror stories about hippies & kids going insane and never coming back pervaded the landscape. Oh yea, and Nixon shit all over it.

However, over the last decade or so, we’ve seen a resurgence in research associated with those very same psychedelics. While MDMA for PTSD & Psilocybin for terminal cancer anxiety has stolen the spotlight, LSD has quietly been examined by a number of research groups, with some encouraging results. LSD has been shown to be effective for anxiety surrounding terminal cancer as well, as the recently completed Phase II clinical trial sponsored by MAPS has shown. If you’re interested in bypassing the hype and getting directly to the full text pdf, here it is.Two other avenues of LSD research have been making steady progress during this psychedelics renaissance.

Alcoholism treatment with LSD was evaluated by two researchers in the Dept. of Neuroscience at the Norwegian University of Science & Technology. A meta-analysis of the current research findings surrounding LSD & alcoholism were evaluated, and the findings were very encouraging. From the paper’s abstract:

A single dose of LSD, in the context of various alcoholism treatment programs, is associated with a decrease in alcohol misuse. ~Krebs & Johansen, 2012

This isn’t surprising to some of you, who have commented about how psychedelics have helped cope with addiction & addictive tendencies. But for the effect to be verified academically, is very important.

The second area of research that is getting some LSD-infused love is cluster headaches, also known as suicide headaches. A study published in the Journal of Neurology 7 of 8 LSD users stated they saw a termination of cluster headache attacks. MAPS has also published on this phenomena. Cluster headaches have very few treatments and they paralyze those who experience them, so researchers are very excited at the potential for LSD & LSD analogues to help.

Another aspect of LSD consumption that deserves more study is microdosing. After I was critical of the loose reporting surrounding this practice, I had a number of interesting conversations with burners who reached out to discuss their anecdotal use of LSD to improve their life. Some microdose daily, others told me about habits where they’d microdose one week on 2-3 weeks off, and back and forth. There’s a giant uncontrolled experiment going on out there, and instead of trying to generate page views by claiming executives are dropping tabs in the office, I agree with Forbes (a phrase I don’t use often) that we need to evaluate this in a much more sophisticated & systematic way.

If you’re really hankering for some LSD & don’t want to break the law, head to Dr. Peter Gasser in Switzerland. VICE did a great little round up of how and why this psychiatrist is able to prescribe LSD to his patients. It’s a nice little story, and continues to back up my claim that Switzerland isn’t a real place. It’s totally the future with Alps & chocolate.

So much more work to be done, but hope you found a couple of reasons to celebrate how far we’ve come as you’ve read this.

Ten Questions With Terry Gotham: Brad Burge – MAPS

(Interviewing the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies has been a dream of mine for years. I’m honored to present this conversation with their Director of Communications & Marketing Brad Burge. Not only does he give us an update on the SIX (6!) Phase II clinical trials of MDMA for PTSD, but he also shares totally new developments & tips on how to talk about this stuff for people who don’t quite dig yet. And a couple of his favorite tunes to boot!)
~Interview By Terry Gotham

669c50e6-095f-44d5-b72a-63d11c4e4b8e

brad_burge1. How was 2015 for MAPS? Any good news from the front to share?
Just a little.

I can say without hesitation that 2015 was our busiest, most exciting year yet. This year (2016) we celebrate MAPS’ 30th anniversary, and all that we’ve accomplished in those three decades. Our Phase 2 clinical trials of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are now nearly complete, and this year we’ll be meeting with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to plan the much larger Phase 3 trials needed to make MDMA a legal prescription medicine, approved for use in conjunction with psychotherapy to treat PTSD. We are on track for FDA approval as soon as 2021.

As one of the first steps to getting this first approval, in February 2015, we announced the formation of the MAPS Public Benefit Corporation (MPBC), a new wholly owned subsidiary of MAPS which will serve as a vehicle for conducting MAPS’ research, and for balancing social benefits with income from the legal prescription sale of MDMA, other psychedelics, and marijuana. We also initiated the purchase of one kilogram of pharmaceutical grade MDMA manufactured under current Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) to be used in our Phase 3 trials. This batch of MDMA will cost us approximately $400,000, which we are seeking to raise this year through the Global Psychedelic Dinners and 30th Anniversary Banquet in Oakland, Calif.

Another major 2015 success is our Canadian Phase 2 study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD, which finally started after eight years of effort. This study has already completed treatments as of early 2016, and has been the first clinical psychedelic therapy trial in Canada in over 40 years. In 2015, we also completed and fully funded our two largest Phase 2 clinical trials, one in South Carolina primarily in U.S. military veterans, and one in Colorado primarily in female survivors of sexual assault and abuse.

Continue reading

DEA Approves Ecstasy for Clinical Trials [Update]

E Ecstasy pills or tablets close up studio shot methylenedioxymethamphetamine. Image shot 2004. Exact date unknown.

From YourNewsWire.com:

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has approved the first clinical trial of MDMA to treat anxiety and other psychological illnesses, amid a growing resurgence in therapeutic psychedelic drug usage in the medical community.

Aljazeera.com reports:

“The tide has changed for psychedelic research,” said Brad Burge, the communications director for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a California-based nonprofit research group that studies medicinal uses for psychedelics and marijuana and is sponsoring the study. The DEA approved the project on Friday, he said.

Unlike Ecstasy or Molly — names for MDMA sold on the street and often mixed with dangerous adulterants — pure MDMA has been proved “sufficiently safe” when taken a limited number of times in moderate doses, MAPS says on its website. The DEA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

MDMA can be useful in psychotherapy for people suffering from anxiety due to life-threatening illnesses because it produces in users a sense of calm, trust and confidence, Burge said. Unlike psychedelics such as LSD and psilocybin, MDMA does not produce hallucinations, he added.

The clinical trial will be held in Marin, California, in a psychologist’s office, as opposed to a hospital setting, Burge said. The patients will lie on a couch with a therapist nearby for support and conversation.

In the trial, 18 subjects diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses will attend months of psychotherapy, with MDMA being used in a few sessions in order to facilitate the process, he said. The outcome will be measured by whether using the psychedelic helps reduce people’s anxiety, which will be determined at the end of the sessions by the patient’s feedback and the therapist’s assessments.

Researchers hope that using MDMA alongside psychotherapy will let subjects confront their situation more clearly and allow the positive steps they take during the therapy to “stick,” Burge said. “It opens them up and makes them more comfortable with the therapist while reducing fear and making them more able to talk about difficult emotions.”

If the pilot is successful, MAPS plans to continue with further studies involving more subjects and different approaches. For now, researchers hope to establish basic safety and effectiveness, he said.

The trial is part of a larger $20 million plan to make MDMA an FDA-approved prescription medicine by 2021, Burge said. MAPS is the only organization in the world funding MDMA-assisted psychotherapy trials, he added.

The institute has carried out successful pilot studies of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for post-traumatic stress disorder, adding to the drug’s scientific credibility, he said. Other research by the institute includes ayahuasca-assisted therapy for drug addiction, LSD for cluster headaches and psilocybin for nicotine addiction.

Researchers hope to back up growing evidence that psychedelics have legitimate therapeutic uses — and to counter the narrative that has demonized them as mind-destroying drugs.

That’s what the really good science shows, despite decades of propaganda and government misinformation,” Burge said. “Just a couple weeks ago, a phenomenal study showed that there are no long-term associations between psychedelic use and mental illnesses.”

That study was published this month in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. In addition, a recent report by Johns Hopkins Medicine, a leading U.S. medical institution combining the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Johns Hopkins Hospital, showed that the use of psychedelic drugs — primarily psilocybin and LSD — could reduce psychological distress and suicidal thinking.

[Source]

ecstasy tongue

No link between psychedelics and mental illness? Tell that to this guy...

No link between psychedelics and mental illness? Tell that to this guy…

[Update 5/5/15 1:54pm]

This post is generating a lot of comments on Facebook, mostly positive but not everyone is supportive. Thanks to Maistresse Sybs for sharing this documentary. “This is a major event in drug history…the facts about ecstasy use are astonishing”.