Pubdate: Thu, 24 Nov 2016
Source: Metro (Vancouver, CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 Metro Canada
Author: David P. Ball
Page: 4


Therapists treat study patients on pure form of ecstasy

Several Vancouver psychotherapists behind a head-turning Canadian drug
study may not be raving ecstatically or blissed out.

But after wrapping up Canada's first-ever trial treating trauma using
the drug MDMA - the pure form of what's popularly called ecstasy -
they are nonetheless optimistic, Metro has learned.

According to psychiatrist Dr. Ingrid Pacey, the study's principal
investigator, the MDMA assisted psychotherapy trial showed promising
results for its six patients with post-traumatic stress disorder
(PTSD) so severe that no previous treatments had worked.

Because MDMA - or methylenedioxymethamphetamine - is an empathogen,
meaning it generates feelings of empathy and trust, the therapists
hoped to see how patients might respond to counselling while they were
on the drug.

"The biggest thing was there was a very increased level of trust,"
Pacey told Metro in a phone interview. "They were really able to talk
about painful material from the past that they were never able talk
about before in their life - they'd been so frightened they'd block

"With the MDMA, they'd be distressed and crying, but they could talk
it through and come to understand it in a way they couldn't before.
The trauma became a more manageable part of their history and they
could go forward with their lives."

PTSD is a mental-health condition associated with being exposed to
threatening events or abuse, often afflicting victims of violence,
soldiers, first responders, and sexual and childhood abuse survivors.

The illness is often tough to treat because many people with PTSD have
developed a deeply engrained sense of mistrust in others, numbing,
hyper-vigilance and isolation - and because it changes the brain itself.

Three of Pacey's subjects had experienced childhood abuse; the other
three survived adult traumas. Except for two given placebos for the
first part of the trial, subjects were given 125 milligrams of MDMA
with eight hours of therapy, followed by a supervised sleepover at the
clinic site; the next day, they got further counselling. Months later,
they were given half the original dose and offered more therapy,
followed up after a year.

The study was part of an international initiative led by
Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). Although
the results of the federally approved study - quietly authorized by
Health Canada in 2013 - are still being "collated" alongside similar
research in the U.S., other studies have backed up Pacey's initial

"We're facilitating a healing process, not just a treatment of
symptoms," explained Dr. Allison Feduccia, MAPS' clinical trial
leader, in an interview.

The neuropharmacologist was in Vancouver on Tuesday presenting MAPS'
findings at the Military and Veteran Health Research Forum - for which
she won the forum's Homewood Mental Health Treatment Award for
"improving and innovating clinical mental health" practice.

"Some people have been hurt by other people so much that they may not
even want to let anybody else in," she told Metro. "MDMA facilitates
an empathetic rapport between the therapists and the

MAPS Canada chairman Mark Haden, an adjunct professor UBC School of
Population and Public Health, told Metro that the Vancouver experiment
is being formally wrapped up this week and another site in the city is
being considered for the next phase of their research. So far,
MAPS-supported scientific research - much of it crowd-funded on the
Internet - has treated more than 100 severe PTSD cases.

"Most PTSD therapy takes years," Haden said in an interview. "We do it
in three months."

Feduccia said that after only two treatment sessions in MAPS' research
so far, 56 per cent of subjects "no longer met the criteria for PTSD"
at all.

"What's even more remarkable," she said, "is when we followed up 12
months later, 66 per cent of people no longer met criteria for PTSD …
the effects of the treatment are continuing to grow."

Pacey doesn't need to see the collated data to know the treatment has

"We have trauma survivors and war veterans here too," she said. "For
them to actually have a treatment to finally break through what before
was something that brought their lives to a halt - that is very exciting."
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MAP posted-by: Matt