OPEN Foundation

A. Emerson

MDMA-facilitated cognitive-behavioural conjoint therapy for posttraumatic stress disorder: an uncontrolled trial

Abstract

Cognitive-behavioural conjoint therapy (CBCT) for PTSD has been shown to improve PTSD, relationship adjustment, and the health and well-being of partners. MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) has been used to facilitate an individual therapy for PTSD. This study was an initial test of the safety, tolerability, and efficacy of MDMA-facilitated CBCT. Six couples with varying levels of baseline relationship satisfaction in which one partner was diagnosed with PTSD participated in a condensed version of the 15-session CBCT protocol delivered over 7 weeks. There were two sessions in which both members of the couple were administered MDMA. All couples completed the treatment protocol, and there were no serious adverse events in either partner. There were significant improvements in clinician-assessed, patient-rated, and partner-rated PTSD symptoms (pre- to post-treatment/follow-up effect sizes ranged from d = 1.85-3.59), as well as patient depression, sleep, emotion regulation, and trauma-related beliefs. In addition, there were significant improvements in patient and partner-rated relationship adjustment and happiness (d =.64-2.79). These results are contextualized in relation to prior results from individual MDMA-facilitated psychotherapy and CBCT for PTSD alone. MDMA holds promise as a facilitator of CBCT to achieve more robust and broad effects on individual and relational functioning in those with PTSD and their partners.

Monson, C. M., Wagner, A. C., Mithoefer, A. T., Liebman, R. E., Feduccia, A. A., Jerome, L., Yazar-Klosinski, B., Emerson, A., Doblin, R., & Mithoefer, M. C. (2020). MDMA-facilitated cognitive-behavioural conjoint therapy for posttraumatic stress disorder: an uncontrolled trial. European journal of psychotraumatology, 11(1), 1840123. https://doi.org/10.1080/20008198.2020.1840123

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MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for treatment of anxiety and other psychological distress related to life-threatening illnesses: a randomized pilot study

Abstract

The success of modern medicine creates a growing population of those suffering from life-threatening illnesses (LTI) who often experience anxiety, depression, and existential distress. We present a novel approach; investigating MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for the treatment of anxiety in people with an LTI. Participants with anxiety from an LTI were randomized in a double-blind study to receive MDMA (125 mg, n = 13) or placebo (n = 5) in combination with two 8-h psychotherapy sessions. The primary outcome was change in State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) Trait scores from baseline to one month post the second experimental session. After unblinding, participants in the MDMA group had one open-label MDMA session and placebo participants crossed over to receive three open-label MDMA sessions. Additional follow-up assessments occurred six and twelve months after a participant’s last experimental session. At the primary endpoint, the MDMA group had a greater mean (SD) reduction in STAI-Trait scores, – 23.5 (13.2), indicating less anxiety, compared to placebo group, – 8.8 (14.7); results did not reach a significant group difference (p = .056). Hedges’ g between-group effect size was 1.03 (95% CI: – 5.25, 7.31). Overall, MDMA was well-tolerated in this sample. These preliminary findings can inform development of larger clinical trials to further examine MDMA-assisted psychotherapy as a novel approach to treat individuals with LTI-related anxiety.Trial Registration: clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT02427568, first registered April 28, 2015.

Wolfson, P. E., Andries, J., Feduccia, A. A., Jerome, L., Wang, J. B., Williams, E., Carlin, S. C., Sola, E., Hamilton, S., Yazar-Klosinski, B., Emerson, A., Mithoefer, M. C., & Doblin, R. (2020). MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for treatment of anxiety and other psychological distress related to life-threatening illnesses: a randomized pilot study. Scientific reports, 10(1), 20442. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-75706-1

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Long-term follow-up outcomes of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for treatment of PTSD: a longitudinal pooled analysis of six phase 2 trials

Abstract

Rationale: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a chronic condition that has wide-ranging negative effects on an individual’s health and interpersonal relationships. Treatments with long-term benefits are needed to promote the safety and well-being of those suffering from PTSD.

Objectives: To examine long-term change in PTSD symptoms and additional benefits/harms after 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)-assisted psychotherapy for treatment of PTSD.

Methods: Participants received two to three active doses of MDMA (75-125 mg) during blinded or open-label psychotherapy sessions with additional non-drug therapy sessions. PTSD symptoms were assessed using the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale for DSM IV (CAPS-IV) at baseline, 1 to 2 months after the last active MDMA session (treatment exit), and at least 12 months post final MDMA session (LTFU). A mixed-effect repeated-measures (MMRM) analysis assessed changes in CAPS-IV total severity scores. The number of participants who met PTSD diagnostic criteria was summarized at each time point. Participants completed a long-term follow-up questionnaire.

Results: There was a significant reduction in CAPS-IV total severity scores from baseline to treatment exit (LS mean (SE) = – 44.8 (2.82), p < .0001), with a Cohen’s d effect size of 1.58 (95% CI = 1.24, 1.91). CAPS-IV scores continued to decrease from treatment exit to LTFU (LS mean (SE) = – 5.2 (2.29), p < .05), with a Cohen’s d effect size of 0.23 (95% CI = 0.04, 0.43). The number of participants who no longer met PTSD criteria increased from treatment exit (56.0%) to LTFU (67.0%). The majority of participants reported benefits, including improved relationships and well-being, and a minority reported harms from study participation.

Conclusions: PTSD symptoms were reduced 1 to 2 months after MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, and symptom improvement continued at least 12 months post-treatment. Phase 3 trials are investigating this novel treatment approach in a larger sample of participants with chronic PTSD.

Jerome, L., Feduccia, A. A., Wang, J. B., Hamilton, S., Yazar-Klosinski, B., Emerson, A., Mithoefer, M. C., & Doblin, R. (2020). Long-term follow-up outcomes of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for treatment of PTSD: a longitudinal pooled analysis of six phase 2 trials. Psychopharmacology, 237(8), 2485–2497. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-020-05548-2

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Long-term Follow-Up Outcomes of MDMA-assisted Psychotherapy for Treatment of PTSD: A Longitudinal Pooled Analysis of Six Phase 2 Trials

Abstract

Rationale: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a chronic condition that has wide-ranging negative effects on an individual’s health and interpersonal relationships. Treatments with long-term benefits are needed to promote the safety and well-being of those suffering from PTSD.
Objectives: To examine long-term change in PTSD symptoms and additional benefits/harms after 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)-assisted psychotherapy for treatment of PTSD.
Methods: Participants received two to three active doses of MDMA (75-125 mg) during blinded or open-label psychotherapy sessions with additional non-drug therapy sessions. PTSD symptoms were assessed using the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale for DSM IV (CAPS-IV) at baseline, 1 to 2 months after the last active MDMA session (treatment exit), and at least 12 months post final MDMA session (LTFU). A mixed-effect repeated-measures (MMRM) analysis assessed changes in CAPS-IV total severity scores. The number of participants who met PTSD diagnostic criteria was summarized at each time point. Participants completed a long-term follow-up questionnaire.
Results: There was a significant reduction in CAPS-IV total severity scores from baseline to treatment exit (LS mean (SE) = – 44.8 (2.82), p < .0001), with a Cohen’s d effect size of 1.58 (95% CI = 1.24, 1.91). CAPS-IV scores continued to decrease from treatment exit to LTFU (LS mean (SE) = – 5.2 (2.29), p < .05), with a Cohen’s d effect size of 0.23 (95% CI = 0.04, 0.43). The number of participants who no longer met PTSD criteria increased from treatment exit (56.0%) to LTFU (67.0%). The majority of participants reported benefits, including improved relationships and well-being, and a minority reported harms from study participation.
Conclusions: PTSD symptoms were reduced 1 to 2 months after MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, and symptom improvement continued at least 12 months post-treatment. Phase 3 trials are investigating this novel treatment approach in a larger sample of participants with chronic PTSD.

Jerome, L., Feduccia, A. A., Wang, J. B., Hamilton, S., Yazar-Klosinski, B., Emerson, A., … & Doblin, R. (2020). Long-term follow-up outcomes of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for treatment of PTSD: a longitudinal pooled analysis of six phase 2 trials. Psychopharmacology., https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-020-05548-2
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Posttraumatic Growth After MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Abstract

3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)-assisted psychotherapy for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been shown to significantly reduce clinical symptomatology, but posttraumatic growth (PTG), which consists of positive changes in self-perception, interpersonal relationships, or philosophy of life, has not been studied with this treatment. Participant data (n = 60) were pooled from three Phase 2 clinical studies employing triple-blind crossover designs. Participants were required to meet DSM-IV-R criteria for PTSD with a score higher than 50 on the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS-IV) as well as previous inadequate response to pharmacological and/or psychotherapeutic treatment. Data were aggregated into two groups: an active MDMA dose group (75-125 mg of MDMA; n = 45) or placebo/active control (0-40 mg of MDMA; n = 15). Measures included the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI) and the CAPS-IV, which were administered at baseline, primary endpoint, treatment exit, and 12-month follow-up. At primary endpoint, the MDMA group demonstrated more PTG, Hedges’ g = 1.14, 95% CI [0.49, 1.78], p < .001; and a larger reduction in PTSD symptom severity, Hedges’ g = 0.88, 95% CI [-0.28, 1.50], p < .001, relative to the control group. Relative to baseline, at the 12-month follow-up, within-subject PTG was higher, p < .001; PTSD symptom severity scores were lower, p < .001; and two-thirds of participants (67.2%) no longer met criteria for PTSD. MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD resulted in PTG and clinical symptom reductions of large-magnitude effect sizes. Results suggest that PTG may provide a new mechanism of action warranting further study.

Gorman, I., Belser, A. B., Jerome, L., Hennigan, C., Shechet, B., Hamilton, S., Yazar-Klosinski, B., Emerson, A., & Feduccia, A. A. (2020). Posttraumatic Growth After MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Journal of traumatic stress, 33(2), 161–170. https://doi.org/10.1002/jts.22479

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Reduction in social anxiety after MDMA-assisted psychotherapy with autistic adults: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study.

Abstract

RATIONALE:
Standard therapeutic approaches to reduce social anxiety in autistic adults have limited effectiveness. Since 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)-assisted psychotherapy shows promise as a treatment for other anxiety disorders, a blinded, placebo-controlled pilot study was conducted.
OBJECTIVES:
To explore feasibility and safety of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for reduction of social fear and avoidance that are common in the autistic population.
METHODS:
Autistic adults with marked to very severe social anxiety were randomized to receive MDMA (75 to 125 mg, n = 8) or inactive placebo (0 mg, n = 4) during two 8-h psychotherapy sessions (experimental sessions) in a controlled clinical setting. Double-blinded experimental sessions were spaced approximately 1 month apart with 3 non-drug psychotherapy sessions following each. The primary outcome was change in Leibowitz Social Anxiety Scale (LSAS) Total scores from Baseline to one month after the second experimental session. Outcomes were measured again six months after the last experimental session.
RESULTS:
Improvement in LSAS scores from baseline to the primary endpoint was significantly greater for MDMA group compared to the placebo group (P = 0.037), and placebo-subtracted Cohen’s d effect size was very large (d = 1.4, CI - 0.074, 2.874). Change in LSAS scores from baseline to 6-month follow-up showed similar positive results (P = 0.036), with a Cohen’s d effect size of 1.1 (CI - 0.307, 2.527). Social anxiety remained the same or continued to improve slightly for most participants in the MDMA group after completing the active treatment phase.
CONCLUSIONS:
This pilot trial demonstrated rapid and durable improvement in social anxiety symptoms in autistic adults following MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. Initial safety and efficacy outcomes support expansion of research into larger samples to further investigate this novel treatment for social anxiety.
Danforth, A. L., Grob, C. S., Struble, C., Feduccia, A. A., Walker, N., Jerome, L., … & Emerson, A. (2018). Reduction in social anxiety after MDMA-assisted psychotherapy with autistic adults: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study. Psychopharmacology235(11), 3137-3148., 10.1007/s00213-018-5010-9
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Reduction in social anxiety after MDMA-assisted psychotherapy with autistic adults: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study.

Abstract

RATIONALE:
Standard therapeutic approaches to reduce social anxiety in autistic adults have limited effectiveness. Since 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)-assisted psychotherapy shows promise as a treatment for other anxiety disorders, a blinded, placebo-controlled pilot study was conducted.
OBJECTIVES:
To explore feasibility and safety of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for reduction of social fear and avoidance that are common in the autistic population.
METHODS:
Autistic adults with marked to very severe social anxiety were randomized to receive MDMA (75 to 125 mg, n = 8) or inactive placebo (0 mg, n = 4) during two 8-h psychotherapy sessions (experimental sessions) in a controlled clinical setting. Double-blinded experimental sessions were spaced approximately 1 month apart with 3 non-drug psychotherapy sessions following each. The primary outcome was change in Leibowitz Social Anxiety Scale (LSAS) Total scores from Baseline to one month after the second experimental session. Outcomes were measured again six months after the last experimental session.
RESU LTS:
Improvement in LSAS scores from baseline to the primary endpoint was significantly greater for MDMA group compared to the placebo group (P = 0.037), and placebo-subtracted Cohen’s d effect size was very large (d = 1.4, CI - 0.074, 2.874). Change in LSAS scores from baseline to 6-month follow-up showed similar positive results (P = 0.036), with a Cohen’s d effect size of 1.1 (CI - 0.307, 2.527). Social anxiety remained the same or continued to improve slightly for most participants in the MDMA group after completing the active treatment phase.
CONCLUSIONS:
This pilot trial demonstrated rapid and durable improvement in social anxiety symptoms in autistic adults following MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. Initial safety and efficacy outcomes support expansion of research into larger samples to further investigate this novel treatment for social anxiety.
Danforth, A. L., Grob, C. S., Struble, C., Feduccia, A. A., Walker, N., Jerome, L., … & Emerson, A. (2018). Reduction in social anxiety after MDMA-assisted psychotherapy with autistic adults: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study. Psychopharmacology235(11), 3137-3148, 10.1007/s00213-018-5010-9
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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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30 April - Q&A with Rick Strassman

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