The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is a non-profit research and educational organization that was founded in 1986. MAPS has been a leading force in advocating for the therapeutic use of psychedelics and developing medical, legal, and cultural contexts for people to benefit from the careful uses of these substances.
History of MAPS
The founder of MAPS, Rick Doblin, became interested in psychedelics as a tool for personal growth and spiritual exploration in the 1970s. He was inspired by the work of pioneers in the field like Albert Hofmann, the discoverer of LSD, and Stanislav Grof, a psychiatrist who used LSD in therapy sessions. However, as the government cracked down on the use of psychedelics in the 1970s, research into their therapeutic potential came to a halt.
In 1986, Doblin founded MAPS to support research into the therapeutic uses of psychedelics, which he saw as a way to address some of the most pressing issues facing society, such as PTSD, addiction, and depression. MAPS has since grown into a respected organization that has helped to pave the way for the legalization of psychedelics in the United States.
Mission of MAPS
MAPS' mission is to develop medical, legal, and cultural contexts for people to benefit from the careful uses of psychedelics. MAPS believes that these substances have great potential to help people suffering from a wide range of mental health conditions, including PTSD, anxiety, depression, and addiction.
MAPS' work is based on the principles of harm reduction, which means that they believe that the risks associated with drug use can be minimized through education, responsible use, and careful monitoring. MAPS also believes that the use of psychedelics should be part of a holistic approach to mental health that includes therapy, support groups, and other forms of treatment.
Research on Therapeutic Uses of Psychedelics
MAPS has been a leader in sponsoring and conducting research on the therapeutic uses of psychedelics. The organization has focused on studying MDMA, psilocybin, and ayahuasca, among other substances.
MDMA-Assisted Therapy for PTSD
One of MAPS' most notable research projects has been its clinical trials exploring the use of MDMA-assisted therapy for treating PTSD. PTSD is a debilitating condition that affects millions of people, particularly those who have experienced trauma, such as combat veterans, victims of sexual assault, and survivors of natural disasters.
The clinical trials sponsored by MAPS have shown promising results. In a Phase 2 clinical trial, 107 participants who had chronic, treatment-resistant PTSD were randomly assigned to receive either MDMA-assisted therapy or a placebo. After three sessions of therapy, 56% of participants who received MDMA no longer met the criteria for PTSD, compared to 23% of those who received the placebo. These results have led to the approval of Phase 3 clinical trials by the FDA, which could pave the way for MDMA to become a legal prescription medication for treating PTSD.
Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy for Depression and Anxiety
MAPS has also sponsored research into the use of psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, for treating depression and anxiety. In a study published in JAMA Psychiatry, researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that a single dose of psilocybin produced significant improvements in symptoms of depression and anxiety in cancer patients.
Other research has shown that psilocybin may also be effective for treating addiction, including smoking cessation and alcohol dependence. While more research is needed to fully understand the potential of psilocybin for treating these conditions, the results so far are promising.
Ayahuasca-Assisted Therapy for Addiction
MAPS has also supported research into the use of ayahuasca-assisted therapy for addiction. Ayahuasca is a traditional plant medicine used in South America that contains DMT, a psychedelic compound. Some research has suggested that ayahuasca may be effective in treating addiction, particularly to substances like cocaine and opioids.
One study published in Frontiers in Pharmacology found that participants who received ayahuasca-assisted therapy had a significant reduction in their cravings for cocaine and a decrease in their use of the drug. Another study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology found that ayahuasca-assisted therapy was effective in reducing depression and anxiety in people with a history of addiction.
Overall, the research on the therapeutic uses of psychedelics is still in its early stages, but the results so far are promising. MAPS has been a leading organization in sponsoring and conducting this research, and their work has helped to bring attention to the potential benefits of these substances for mental health.
Legalization of Psychedelics in the United States
The history of psychedelics in the United States is a complex one. In the 1950s and 1960s, psychedelics like LSD and psilocybin were seen as promising tools for exploring the human mind and for treating mental health conditions. However, as the counterculture movement of the 1960s gained steam, the government became increasingly concerned about the use of these substances, which were associated with anti-authoritarianism and social unrest.
In 1970, the United States government passed the Controlled Substances Act, which classified LSD, psilocybin, and other psychedelics as Schedule I drugs, meaning that they were considered to have no medical value and a high potential for abuse. This classification made it nearly impossible for researchers to study these substances, and it also led to harsh criminal penalties for people who used them.
In recent years, however, attitudes towards psychedelics have begun to shift. As more research has been conducted on their therapeutic potential, and as public opinion has become more supportive of drug policy reform, a growing number of cities and states have begun to decriminalize psychedelics.
In 2019, Denver became the first city in the United States to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms, followed by Oakland and Santa Cruz in California. In 2020, Oregon became the first state to legalize psilocybin therapy, and several other states are considering similar measures.
These changes are a reflection of the growing recognition of the potential benefits of psychedelics for mental health, as well as the failures of the War on Drugs, which has disproportionately affected communities of color and has done little to address the underlying causes of drug addiction and mental health conditions.
The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) has been a leading force in advocating for the therapeutic uses of psychedelics and developing medical, legal, and cultural contexts for people to benefit from the careful uses of these substances. MAPS' research on the therapeutic uses of psychedelics has shown promising results, particularly in the areas of PTSD, depression, anxiety, and addiction.
The history of psychedelics in the United States is a complicated one, marked by government crackdowns, criminalization, and a growing recognition of their potential benefits. As attitudes continue to shift and more research is conducted, it is likely that we will see continued progress in the legalization and acceptance of these substances as tools for promoting mental health and wellbeing.