Psychedelic Breakthroughs, $10M Bets, Treating PTSD with MDMA | Rick Doblin on The Tim Ferriss Show

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Key Takeaways

  • Rick founded MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) as a non-profit organization in 1986 to raise awareness and understanding of psychedelic substance
  • 56% of patients no longer required treatment for PTSD after two months of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy 
    • “Most subjects received just two to three sessions of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy” – Tim Ferriss
      • The average patient in the study suffered from PTSD for 17.8 YEARS before being treated and healed with MDMA 
  • Taking MDMA releases the association of trauma to a negative memory and makes people feel safer when they recall that incident again
    • “The next time that you remember the incident, you remember the incident with a different emotional tone and that can be encoded in new neural pathways in your brian” – Rick Doblin
  • You need MDMA and therapy to get the most effective treatment for PTSD
    • “It’s not really MDMA, it’s psychotherapy facilitated by MDMA” – Rick Doblin
  • MDMA brings unconscious thoughts to the surface, but if you’re not prepared for that you could have a breakdown instead of a breakthrough

Intro

  • Rick Doblin, PhD, (@rickdoblin) is the founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS)
  • Host: Tim Ferriss (@tferriss)

Books Mentioned

About MAPS 

  • From the mid-1970s to the ‘80s, about half a million doses of MDMA were legally used as a therapeutic drug by psychiatrists and psychotherapists
    • Rick supported the 1980s movement to make MDMA a level three drug which would allow it to be used as a prescriptive medicine, but Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) rejected that recommendation
      • Rick founded MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) as a non-profit organization in 1986 to raise awareness and understanding of psychedelic substance

The History of MDMA 

  • What is MDMA?
    • MDMA is a synthetic molecule and was invented in 1912 by Merck Pharmaceuticals
      • In 1953, the US military was looking for mind-control drugs and tested a series of drugs, including MDMA, on animals
  • A chemist named Sasha Shulgin independently synthesized MDMA
  • “What a lot of people don’t realize is that MDMA was a therapy drug before it became a party drug under the name ecstasy” Rick Doblin
  • Benefits of MDMA:
    • People are able to better express themselves
    • People become better listeners
    • It’s used quite a lot in couples therapy
      • “It’s got an enormous wide range of applications and it can be used for post-traumatic stress disorder” – Rick Doblin

How MDMA Treats PTSD

  •  Who is Jon Lubecky?
    • He’s a veteran who served in Iraq, suffered from PTSD, and attempted suicide on multiple occasions
      • Out of desperation, he volunteered from an MDMA study. MDMA treated his PTSD and greatly improved his life.
        • Now he works as a consultant for MAPS
  • In one study, 56% of patients no longer required treatment for PTSD after two months of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy 
    • After 12 months, 68% no longer had PTSD  
      • “Most subjects received just two to three sessions of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy” – Tim Ferriss
        • The average patient in the study suffered from PTSD for 17.8 YEARS before being treated and healed with MDMA 
  • When you take MDMA, you’re actually rewiring your brain
    • When mice take MDMA, their brains release oxytocin which helps stimulate new neural connections in pro-social areas of the brain
  • In humans, taking MDMA releases association of trauma to a negative memory and makes people safer when they recall that incident again
    • “The next time that you remember the incident, you remember the incident with a different emotional tone and that can be encoded in new neural pathways in your brain” – Rick Doblin
  • You need MDMA and therapy to get the most effective treatment for PTSD
    • “It’s not really MDMA, it’s psychotherapy facilitated by MDMA” – Rick Doblin

Raising $10 Million for MAPS

  • Tim Ferriss and several friends have come together to raise $10 million (Tim put in $1 million of his own money) towards MAPS’s goal of $30 million
    • If you’d like to get involved, you can donate to MAPS here
      • “If you’re looking for a very high leverage asymmetric payoff possibility, this is an excellent place to put money and I do think that a dollar now is worth ten dollars, five years from now” – Tim Ferriss
  • The funds will push MDMA to get approval from the FDA in the US, the Israeli Ministry of Health, and health authorities in Canada
    • MAPS currently has 15 phase-three sites
      • 11 in the US
      • 2 in Israel
      • 2 in Canada
  • $30 million may seem like a lot of money, but pharmaceuticals companies usually spend hundreds of millions or billions of dollars to get a drug approved
    • “In fact, the latest numbers is roughly $2 billion to make a drug into a medicine” – Rick Doblin
  • Once MDMA is a legal drug, MAPS will sell it as a public-benefit corporation and profits will get reinvested into the mission of MAPS
  • If MDMA, it will likely open up the rest of the psychedelic field up to research

Additional Notes

  • MDMA and MDA are similar, but MDMA is more gentle 
    • A high MDA dosage can cause heart problems and even death
  • MDMA brings unconscious thoughts to the surface, but if you’re not prepared for that you could have a breakdown instead of a breakthrough
  • For decades, studying MDMA and psychedelics was considered career suicide for scientists
  • About 20 veterans commit suicide every day
    • About 50,000 people commit suicide every year in the US alone
      • “And we need to help them” – Rick Doblin
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Notes By Alex Wiec

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