Psychedelic Drugs As Medicine
Psychedelic Drugs As Medicine
Julie Holland (Psychiatrist; MDMA expert) gives expert video advice on: How do you study the effects of psychedelic drugs on people?; How are illegal substances acquired for scientific studies?; Why should psychedelic drugs be made into FDA-approved medicines? and more...
How do you study the effects of psychedelic drugs on people?
First of all, to study the effects of psychedelic drugs on people, you need to get permission from the government, which is a little tricky, but our FDA has actually been very good with putting science over politics. FDA has approved many studies, either looking at medical marijuana or giving MDMA to people with post-traumatic stress disorder. The problem really comes with NIDA. NIDA is not that interested in encouraging any research looking at therapeutic use. But there are several FDA-approved studies. Charlie Grove is giving psilocybin to people with cancer and they did a psilocybin study down at Johns Hopkins, Rolling Griffiths. Down in Arizona they're giving psilocybin to patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder. They're giving MDMA to post-traumatic stress disorder patients in South Carolina. They're giving MDMA to patients who have got cancer and end-of-life issues up at Harvard. So America really is starting to do good psychedelic research.
How are illegal substances acquired for scientific studies?
There are several medicinal chemists in the United States who have a Schedule 1 license who can make and distribute psychadelics or Schedule 1 drugs for medical research and Dave Nichols is a good example. He's someone who's provided cyclohexyl for the Johns Hopkins study. I believe he's provided MDMA for studies as well.
Why should psychedelic drugs be made into FDA-approved medicines?
I think that there are certain substances which put people in an altered state which could be very useful in psychotherapy. Psychedelic drugs allows people to dig deeper. The way I like to look at it is surgery and anesthesia. It allows the psychiatrist and the patient to go deeper, to get to get to that malignant thing that needs to come out, but to do it in a way that is more comfortable for the patient. It's faster, it's more efficient. It's a way of inducing an altered state where somebody can get the big pictures, pull back, see where they're going, see where they got lost, get back on the right track. You can pull back and see the macro, that's something that psychedelics really help you do.
Why is Ecstasy being studied for medical benefits?
Well MDMA is really--MDMA is absolutely unique, in that it allows somebody to be happy and relaxed, and not sedated, and that makes it different from many medicines in psychiatry. You know, typically if you give something to decrease anxiety, you also make somebody a little bit sleepy. You know, you take Xanax, or Klonopin, or Ativan, and you're less anxious, but you need a nap. MDMA decreases anxiety, but you're awake, you're alert, you want to talk, you want to connect with people, and you want to explore. Especially in the therapeutic setting where you're sitting with your therapist, you're willing to explore painful issues, and come up with some real answers about what's been going on, and where you need to go next.
What is the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies-MAPS?
The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies is a consortium, a group of scientists and psychiatrists, psychologists, people who are interested in promoting psychedelic research. You know, Rick Doblin who heads up MAPS has been - I have known Rick since 1985 - he's indefatigable. I sort of just like picture him with a helmet smashing his head again and again against this brick wall and it's slowly chipping away and starting to crumble. He just won't stop. He is persistent. He has really helped a lot of scientists to get their protocols FDA-approved.
How is Ecstasy being used to treat post traumatic stress disorder-PTSD?
So Michael Mithoefer down in South Carolina is administrating MDMA to patients with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and then conducting psychotherapy sessions, with the patients, while they are under the influence of MDMA, and he is getting great data. People are calmer, more relaxed and more willing to talk about the traumas that they have gone through and I mean that is really what you have to do with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, you have to pro stress the trauma, you know and that is pretty much how it is works. It is, it is, it is a medicine that you are taking during therapy as opposed to taking the pill for the rest of your life. You just take it once or twice in the context of therapy and the context of an ongoing therapy to make the therapy go where it needs to go, be faster, less painful, more efficient and more effective.
How is Ecstasy used to treat schizophrenia?
Ecstasy is not used to treat schizophrenia. However, I have received e-mails from many people with schizophrenia who say that MDMA has really helped to decrease their symptoms when they use it infrequently. It seems to decrease paranoia, quiet the voices, and allow people with schizophrenia to open up a little bit more and connect with those around them which can be really beneficial in their ongoing treatment. But it is not an FDA approved treatment for schizophrenia and there is no research going on where anyone is giving MDMA people schizophrenia, although I would like to see that happen at some point.
How might Ecstasy be used to treat survivors of physical or sexual assault?
One of the things that has to happen after an assault, is that you really need to make peace with it, and accept that it happened, and move on. And alot of times people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder they can't move on, and they're really stuck. And there's something about MDMA that really allows people to have a degree of acceptance about what's going on, and forgiveness. And I think that that's crucial in the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
When will mainstream medicine use psychedelics as treatments?
When pigs fly. [laughs] It's funny because Rick Doblin and I joke about this a lot, that we're both runners and we eat very healthy, we're watching our cholesterol. We know that we're in this for the long haul, and it's going to take a long time before this happens. So things are absolutely moving in the right direction. And what has to happen is good research needs to be done to show that these drugs have therapeutic potential. And hopefully, the data will speak for itself.