OPEN Foundation

Day: 11 March 2014

PTSD Symptom Reports of Patients Evaluated for the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program

Abstract

Background: New Mexico was the first state to list post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a condition for the use of medical cannabis. There are no published studies, other than case reports, of the effects of cannabis on PTSD symptoms. The purpose of the study was to report and statistically analyze psychometric data on PTSD symptoms collected during 80 psychiatric evaluations of patients applying to the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program from 2009 to 2011. Methods: The Clinician Administered Posttraumatic Scale for DSM-IV (CAPS) was administered retrospectively and symptom scores were then collected and compared in a retrospective chart review of the first 80 patients evaluated. Results: Greater than 75% reduction in CAPS symptom scores were reported when patients were using cannabis compared to when they were not. Conclusions: Cannabis is associated with reductions in PTSD symptoms in some patients, and prospective, placebo-controlled study is needed to determine efficacy of cannabis and its constituents in treating PTSD.

Greer, G. R., Grob, C. S., & Halberstadt, A. L. (2014). PTSD Symptom Reports of Patients Evaluated for the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 46(1), 73–77. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02791072.2013.873843
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Therapeutic Effects of Ritual Ayahuasca Use in the Treatment of Substance Dependence—Qualitative Results

Abstract

This qualitative empirical study explores the ritual use of ayahuasca in the treatment of addictions. Ayahuasca is an Amazonian psychedelic plant compound created from an admixture of the vine Banisteriopsis caapi and the bush Psychotria viridis. The study included interviews with 13 therapists who apply ayahuasca professionally in the treatment of addictions (four indigenous healers and nine Western mental health professionals with university degrees), two expert researchers, and 14 individuals who had undergone ayahuasca-assisted therapy for addictions in diverse contexts in South America. The study provides empirically based hypotheses on therapeutic mechanisms of ayahuasca in substance dependence treatment. Findings indicate that ayahuasca can serve as a valuable therapeutic tool that, in carefully structured settings, can catalyze neurobiological and psychological processes that support recovery from substance dependencies and the prevention of relapse. Treatment outcomes, however, can be influenced by a number of variables that are explained in this study. In addition, issues related to ritual transfer and strategies for minimizing undesired side-effects are discussed.

Loizaga-Velder, A., & Verres, R. (2014). Therapeutic Effects of Ritual Ayahuasca Use in the Treatment of Substance Dependence—Qualitative Results. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 46(1), 63–72. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02791072.2013.873157
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Why Psychiatry Needs Psychedelics and Psychedelics Need Psychiatry

Abstract

Without researching psychedelic drugs for medical therapy, psychiatry is turning its back on a group of compounds that could have great potential. Without the validation of the medical profession, the psychedelic drugs, and those who take them off-license, remain archaic sentiments of the past, with the users maligned as recreational drug abusers and subject to continued negative opinion. These two disparate groups—psychiatrists and recreational psychedelic drug users—are united by their shared recognition of the healing potential of these compounds. A resolution of this conflict is essential for the future of psychiatric medicine and psychedelic culture alike. Progression will come from professionals working in the field adapting to fit a conservative paradigm. In this way, they can provide the public with important treatments and also raise the profile of expanded consciousness in mainstream society.

Sessa, B. (2014). Why Psychiatry Needs Psychedelics and Psychedelics Need Psychiatry. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 46(1), 57–62. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02791072.2014.877322
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MDMA and the “Ecstasy Paradigm”

Abstract

For nearly 30 years, there has been a steady flow of research papers highlighting the dangers of MDMA and the implications for ecstasy users. After such a long time, it would be reasonable to expect that these dangers would be obvious due to the large number of ecstasy users. The available evidence does not indicate that there are millions of ecstasy users experiencing any problems linked to their ecstasy use. The “precautionary principle” suggests that, in the absence of knowing for certain, “experts” should argue that MDMA be avoided. However, this may have been taken too far, as the dire warnings do not seem to be reducing with the lack of epidemiological evidence of clinically relevant problems. The “ecstasy paradigm” is one way of articulating this situation, in that the needs of research funders and publication bias lead to a specific set of subcultural norms around what information is acceptable in the public domain. By digging a little deeper, it is easy to find problems with the evidence base that informs the public debate around MDMA. The key question is whether it is acceptable to maintain this status quo given the therapeutic potential of MDMA.

Cole, J. C. (2014). MDMA and the “Ecstasy Paradigm”. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 46(1), 44–56. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02791072.2014.878148
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The Potential Dangers of Using MDMA for Psychotherapy

Abstract

MDMA has properties that may make it attractive for psychotherapy, although many of its effects are potentially problematic. These contrasting effects will be critically reviewed in order to assess whether MDMA could be safe for clinical usage. Early studies from the 1980s noted that MDMA was an entactogen, engendering feelings of love and warmth. However, negative experiences can also occur with MDMA since it is not selective in the thoughts or emotions it releases. This unpredictability in the psychological material released is similar to another serotonergic drug, LSD. Acute MDMA has powerful neurohormonal effects, increasing cortisol, oxytocin, testosterone, and other hormone levels. The release of oxytocin may facilitate psychotherapy, whereas cortisol may increase stress and be counterproductive. MDMA administration is followed by a period of neurochemical recovery, when low serotonin levels are often accompanied by lethargy and depression. Regular usage can also lead to serotonergic neurotoxicity, memory problems, and other psychobiological problems. Proponents of MDMA-assisted therapy state that it should only be used for reactive disorders (such as PTSD) since it can exacerbate distress in those with a prior psychiatric history. Overall, many issues need to be considered when debating the relative benefits and dangers of using MDMA for psychotherapy.

Parrott, A. C. (2014). The Potential Dangers of Using MDMA for Psychotherapy. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 46(1) , 37–43. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02791072.2014.873690
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History and Future of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS)

Abstract

This article describes the teenage vision of the founder of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) that humanity’s future would be aided by the therapeutic and spiritual potential of psychedelic substances. The article traces the trajectory of MAPS from inception in 1986 to its present, noting future goals with respect to research, outreach, and harm reduction. MAPS was created as a non-profit psychedelic pharmaceutical company in response to the 1985 scheduling of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA). Overcoming many hurdles, MAPS developed the first double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and plans for FDA prescription approval in 2021. MAPS’ program of research expanded to include a trial of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)-assisted psychotherapy for anxiety when facing life-threatening illness, observational studies of ibogaine in the treatment of addiction, and studies of MDMA for social anxiety in people with autism spectrum disorders. MAPS meets the challenges of drug development through a clinical research team led by a former Novartis drug development professional experienced in the conduct, monitoring, and analysis of clinical trials. MAPS’ harm-reduction efforts are intended to avoid backlash and build a post-prohibition world by assisting non-medical users to transform difficult psychedelic experiences into opportunities for growth.

Emerson, A., Ponté, L., Jerome, L., & Doblin, R. (2014). History and Future of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 46(1), 27–36. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02791072.2014.877321
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The Heffter Research Institute: Past and Hopeful Future

Abstract

This essay describes the founding of the Heffter Research Institute in 1993 and its development up to the present. The Institute is the only scientific research organization dedicated to scientific research into the medical value of psychedelics, and it has particularly focused on the use of psilocybin. The first clinical treatment study was of the value of psilocybin in obsessive-compulsive disorder. Next was a UCLA study of psilocybin to treat end-of-life distress in end-stage cancer patients. While that study was ongoing, a trial was started at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) to study the efficacy of psilocybin in treating anxiety and depression resulting from a cancer diagnosis. Following the successful completion of the UCLA project, a larger study was started at New York University, which is near completion. A pilot study of the value of psilocybin in treating alcoholism at the University of New Mexico also is nearing completion, with a larger two-site study being planned. Other studies underway involve the use of psilocybin in a smoking cessation program and a study of the effects of psilocybin in long-term meditators, both at JHU. The institute is now planning for a Phase 3 clinical trial of psilocybin to treat distress in end-stage cancer patients.

Nichols, D. E. (2014). The Heffter Research Institute: Past and Hopeful Future. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 46(1), 20–26. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02791072.2014.873688
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Self-Experimentations with Psychedelics Among Mental Health Professionals: LSD in the Former Czechoslovakia

Abstract

This article enquires into auto-experiments with psychedelics. It is focused on the experiences and current attitudes of mental health professionals who experimented with LSD in the era of legal research of this substance in the former Czechoslovakia. The objective of the follow-up study presented was to assess respondents’ long-term views on their LSD experience(s). A secondary objective was to capture the attitude of the respondents toward the use of psychedelics within the mental health field. A total of 22 individuals participated in structured interviews. None of the respondents reported any long-term negative effect and all of them except two recorded enrichment in the sphere of self-awareness and/or understanding to those with mental disorder(s). Although there were controversies with regard to the ability of preventing possible negative consequences, respondents were supportive towards self-experiments with LSD in mental health sciences. This article is the first systematic examination of the self-experimentation with psychedelics that took place east of the Iron Curtain.

Winkler, P., & Csémy, L. (2014). Self-Experimentations with Psychedelics Among Mental Health Professionals: LSD in the Former Czechoslovakia. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 46(1), 11–19. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02791072.2013.873158
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From Hofmann to the Haight Ashbury, and into the Future: The Past and Potential of Lysergic Acid Diethlyamide

Abstract

Since the discovery of its psychedelic properties in 1943, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) has been explored by psychiatric/therapeutic researchers, military/intelligence agencies, and a significant portion of the general population. Promising early research was halted by LSD’s placement as a Schedule I drug in the early 1970s. The U.S. Army and CIA dropped their research after finding it unreliable for their purposes. NSDUH estimates that more than 22 million (9.1% of the population) have used LSD at least once in their lives. Recently, researchers have been investigating the therapeutic use of LSD and other psychedelics for end-of-life anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), cancer, and addiction treatment. Adverse psychedelic reactions can be managed using talkdown techniques developed and in use since the 1960s.

Smith, D. E., Raswyck, G. E., & Leigh Dickerson Davidson, L. (2014). From Hofmann to the Haight Ashbury, and into the Future: The Past and Potential of Lysergic Acid Diethlyamide. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 46(1), 3–10. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02791072.2014.873684
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