Old Drug, New Tricks: Utilizing MDMA for Treating PTSD

October 21st, 2015Jim Grigsby, Ph.D.Professor, Departments of Medicine and Psychology, University of Colorado DenverWill Van Derveer, M.D. Private Practice in Integrative Psychiatry, Boulder, COHost: Cathy Johnston, Ph.D.

About The Presentation

In the 1950s and 1960s, a number of psychedelics were investigated for their therapeutic potential. Hundreds of studies were published, involving thousands of participants, with generally encouraging results. In reaction to the emergence of the counterculture in the 60s and 70s, as well as the abuse of psychedelics by the CIA, Department of Defense, and other federal agencies, research on the use of psychedelics as adjuncts to psychotherapy has been severely restricted for over 40 years. MDMA, which differs from the traditional psychedelics, was classed as a Schedule 1 substance in 1985, and studies of its therapeutic potential were also restricted internationally.

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest on the part of research scientists in the apparent therapeutic properties of these molecules, and clinical trials of MDMA, LSD, psilocybin, and other psychedelic compounds have been undertaken. A number of studies have yielded evidence of the efficacy of several such experimental medications in the treatment of several different populations.

This presentation will focus on FDA-approved phase 2 clinical trials conducted over the last 5-10 years using 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) in psychotherapy with individuals who have treatment-resistant PTSD. The presentation will cover work published by Michael Mithoefer, MD, of Charleston, SC, and subsequent research, including nearly-completed trials in Charleston and in Boulder. There will also be a brief discussion of studies of traditional psychedelics used for several other indications. The presenters will address both outcomes and therapy process issues, and will discuss possible mechanisms for the therapeutic effects that have been observed.

About the Presenters

Jim Grigsby Ph.D. is a Professor in the Department of Psychology and the Department of Medicine at the University of Colorado Denver. An NIH-funded cognitive neuroscientist with 250 publications, including over 100 peer-reviewed journal articles, he also is the author of Neurodynamics of Personality, a neuroscience-based theory of personality and therapy. A board-certified clinical psychologist, he treated combat veterans with PTSD for eight years at the Denver VA, and has published clinical papers on PTSD. He has been a therapist on the Boulder-based clinical trial of MDMA for PTSD.

Will Van Derveer, M.D. is the founder and medical director of the Integrative Psychiatric Healing Center in Boulder, CO, where he has practiced holistic psychiatry for 14 years. He is a board – certified as a diplomate of the American Board of Integrative and Holistic Medicine since 2013.

The spiritual and physiological dimensions of traumatic experiences such as Adverse Childhood Events (ACE’s) and their physiological sequelae are a central focus of his clinical work. A meditator of 15 years, he empowers patients with mind/body mindfulness techniques, provides somatic psychotherapy, as well as holistic medical recommendations.  In addition to working with patients and conducting PTSD research, he facilitates shadow work groups and co-facilitates heal-the-healer retreats with Gabor Mate.

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