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MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD

Dr. Tiffany Sauls is currently working with the Pearl Psychedelic Institute in Waynesville, NC, an expanded access site for the use of MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD organized by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).  This type of investigational treatment is only currently available to a limited number of patients  but is expected to be available through psychiatrists and therapists with specific training in its use in the near future.  


The Pearl Psychedelic Institute is a nonprofit organization that is working to expand access of 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) as an adjunct to therapy to a limited number of patients with treatment-resistant posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The use of MDMA with therapy in patients with PTSD has grown out of research organized and funded by MAPS (The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies). MAPS is a non-profit research and education organization working to obtain marketing approval for the prescription use of MDMA with therapy. Their research and commitment to this goal over the last 30 years has culminated in the Phase 3 trials, currently underway, under guidance of the Food and Drug Administration(FDA). Early evidence from these clinical trials allowed MAPS to successfully apply to expand access to the investigational treatment of MDMA-assisted therapy. Expanded access allows patients, who would not otherwise be eligible for a clinical trial, to receive an investigational treatment. The Pearl Psychedelic Institute has been designated as one of 10 sites in the United States that will be allowed to provide access to this investigational treatment. The Pearl Psychedelic Institute is the only clinic affiliated with this program currently operating in the southeastern United States, and specifically strives to serve the rural areas of western North Carolina.

PTSD is a disabling and chronic condition associated with increased morbidity and mortality. MDMA-assisted therapy is unique in that is uses MDMA, in conjunction with specific therapeutic techniques, with the intention of facilitating trauma processing. Therapists work in paired teams, under the guidance of a medical doctor, to administer MDMA during 8-hour therapeutic sessions separated by unmedicated integration sessions over the course of several months. These teams of therapists have been trained through the MAPS MDMA Therapy Training Program to administer MDMA-assisted therapy. In one study, the majority of patients no longer met criteria for PTSD after completing the study protocol or in follow up one year afterwards.   


In 1985 MDMA was classified as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substance Act and could no longer be legally used outside of research. Before becoming illegal, some psychologists and psychiatrists combined MDMA with therapy to help people with psychological problems or challenges, including PTSD. Though we do not know exactly why MDMA-assisted therapy may help people with PTSD, we know that MDMA may increase positive mood and change the way we see and think about the world around us – potentially making it easier to think about and recall things that happened to us that are upsetting. People have claimed that they feel caring and forgiving toward themselves and others during an MDMA experience. It is possible that these drug effects, when combined with therapy, may help people work through thoughts, memories and emotions related to PTSD.


While MDMA and similar compounds have continued to circulate illegally as recreational drugs, MAPS has designed and funded research, under FDA guidance, using MDMA in a therapeutic setting. The Pearl Psychedelic Institute is honored to be able to extend the fruits of their labors to western North Carolina by expanding access to the investigational treatment of MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD through the MAPS Expanded Access Program.

MDMA: Text
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