Here’s a Very Unusual $10MM Bet…

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“I felt like I went through 15 years of psychological therapy in one night.” 
— Actual patient featured in Trip of Compassion

“The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.”
— William Gibson

This post is about my largest bet of 2020.

It relates to pain and promise. I’ll start with the pain, but please read through to get to the promise, as the payoff is worth it.

Every year, ~8,000,000 people in the U.S., and tens of millions worldwide, suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Every day, an average of ~22 U.S. veterans commit suicide. Millions more suffer from emotional and physical abuse but never get diagnosed. I would put myself in the latter category.

Based on the events of 2020 thus far, many in public health are projecting sharp increases in both PTSD and PTSD-related suicides.

So, what to do? Historically, PTSD has been notoriously difficult to treat and cure. Conventional treatments fail all the time, despite the fact that treating trauma has never been more relevant or more important.

Now, the good news: it appears that one odd candidate—MDMA-assisted psychotherapy—holds incredible promise. As a patient succinctly put it in Trip of Compassion, a documentary about this treatment: “I felt like I went through 15 years of psychological therapy in one night.”

But that’s an anecdote. Let’s look at some hard data instead: In MAPS’ completed Phase 2 trials with 107 participants, 56% no longer qualified for PTSD after treatment with MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, measured two months following treatment. At the 12-month follow-up, 68% no longer had PTSD. Most subjects received just 2–3 sessions of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. All participants had chronic, treatment-resistant PTSD and had suffered from PTSD for an average of 17.8 years. On August 16, 2017, the FDA granted Breakthrough Therapy Designation to MDMA for the treatment of PTSD.

2–3 sessions and 68% are asymptomatic 12 months later… after an average of 17.8 years of suffering. This is addressing the root causes of PTSD and not simply masking symptoms, as many maintenance drugs do. It’s actual processing instead of numbing.

Below is a pie chart of results from another cohort of 25 subjects. “CAPS-5” is an assessment of PTSD severity:

It’s truly amazing.

Furthermore, in follow-ups to these studies across hundreds of people, there is no evidence that anyone has abused or become addicted to MDMA following their sessions. Of course, MDMA-assisted psychotherapy isn’t a panacea, and there are risks, but the risks are easily managed and mitigated. The data are incredibly compelling and reflect this.

For all of these reasons and more, I’ve helped organize a $10 million challenge grant for the MAPS Capstone Challenge. I’m contributing $1 million.

Why? Because there is a clear path for making MDMA a legal medicine for millions of people who are suffering.

The MAPS Capstone Challenge will help provide the funds—$30 million total—needed to complete the studies required for FDA approval of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD. 

And just as important: If we succeed on this path, MDMA sets precedent and open the door for dozens of other therapeutic compounds, including psilocybin. This is why I’m putting my muscle behind this lead domino. It matters for much more than MDMA.

MAPS has already raised $10 million. If another $10 million is raised by September 10th, this will unlock a $10 million challenge grant that I’ve helped put together, alongside the Psychedelic Science Funders Collaborative (PSFC), getting us to the finish line. Half of the grant comes from the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation (@cohengive), and the rest is split equally between me; James Bailey from Bail Capital; Peter Rahal, the founder of RxBar (@peterrahal); Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS (@blakemycoskie); and one anonymous donor I hope to say more about soon. 

This challenge grant is all or nothing. If MAPS fails to raise $10 million by September 10th, they do not receive the $10 million challenge grant. There is no partial credit, and there is real urgency. This $10 million challenge grant was just announced in my interview with Rick Doblin, the founder of MAPS. Please give it a listen, as we cover many other topics and stories. 

Every dollar matters, so if the spirit moves you, please consider giving what you can by clicking here. You can also donate cryptocurrencies.

If you can contribute $100,000 or more over two years, please get in touch with Rick and his team by emailing
capstone@maps.org

MAPS is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit and all donations are tax-deductible.

***

Thank you so much for reading this far.

And remember: this healing is possible now. The tools have been developed. To quote William Gibson, “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.”

Let’s help make this treatment more evenly distributed.

Much love to you and yours,

Tim

P.S. I encourage you to watch the short but powerful video below from The Economist. It shows one before-and-after transformation, including actual session footage.

Recommended resources:
Rick Doblin — The Psychedelic Domino That Tips All Others (#440) (The Tim Ferriss Show)
The World’s Largest Psychedelic Research Center (#385) (The Tim Ferriss Show)
Michael Pollan — Exploring the Frontiers of Psychedelics (#365) (The Tim Ferriss Show)
How MDMA is being used to treat PTSD (The Economist)
Business gets ready to trip: How psychedelic drugs may revolutionize mental health care (Fortune)
Johns Hopkins Opens New Center for Psychedelic Research (New York Times)
Tim Ferriss, the Man Who Put His Money Behind Psychedelic Medicine (New York Times)
“Trip of Compassion” — The Most Compelling Movie I’ve Seen In The Last Year

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 500 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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28 Replies to “Here’s a Very Unusual $10MM Bet…”

  1. Tim, you are directly improving the lives of some of the most hurt people out there today. This is truly impactful work that will alter history. I daresay this is your most inspiring work yet – and that’s saying something. Thank you.

    More food for thought – you might consider setting up a Donor-Advised Fund or something similar to provide scholarships for aspiring psychedelic therapists. My hunch is that there will be a large need for more folks in this occupation in the near future, and being able to meet the upcoming surging demand would be huge in maintaining momentum on this front.

    I’d be lying if I failed to mention that this is partially a selfish request.

    1. Thank you so much for the kind words, Calvin. This is an interesting idea. I do have a foundation, which is what I use to fund all of the major psychedelic science initiatives like this one.

  2. Do you have data on how the PTSD affects populations differently between either socioeconomic or geographic differentiations?

    1. Hi, Liana from MAPS here.

      We do have geographic data since we’ve conducted research in eleven locations in the US, and in Spain, Israel, Canada, and Switzerland. We have looked at comparative outcomes in a range of locations. We’ve attributed any differences to the therapist and patient variables rather than the geographic location or culture since there’s a mostly similar western culture in all those countries.

      We don’t collect income/net worth data from subjects in our studies, though this question makes me wonder if we should.

      When treating PTSD, outcomes can vary based on the participants socio-economic status. People under financial stress can have a more difficult time therapeutically. One of the subjects in our study made significant progress reducing her PTSD symptoms but relapsed afterwards in part because of the stress of being homeless and living out of her car.

      Whether MDMA-assisted psychotherapy is effective is independent of the cause of the PTSD. We find that many people who develop PTSD suffer from more than one trauma, often starting from childhood.

      Zoloft and Paxil, the prescription SSRIs that are FDA-approved for PTSD, work better in women than in men, and failed in combat-related PTSD. MAPS’ current Phase 3 study enrolls participants with PTSD from any cause. MAPS’ Phase 2 studies enrolled 107 people with PTSD from all causes, with one study enrolling a group of 24 veterans, firefighters, and police officers with PTSD related to service. 77% of the veterans + first responders group no longer qualified as having PTSD, compared with 68% overall with PTSD from other causes. (reference: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpsy/article/PIIS2215-0366(18)30135-4/fulltext)

      The VA’s National Center for PTSD has an index of published research on treating specific populations with PTSD. There is additional published research on this topic, available through searching medical journal databases. (eg.: Do assault-related variables predict response to Cognitive Behavioral Treatment for PTSD? https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2004-95166-016)

      Hope this helps!

  3. Hello Tim. Long time listener, reader, etc. You do very good work, so thanks for that. Just read the challenge and have an idea. I am the Mid-America US Regional Chairman of YPO. I’ve heard you reference our org before, so won’t go there. We are putting together virtual calls to host within our Region as part of our Learning year. We’ve got family entertainment (Rachel Ray), timely (Founders of Black Lives Matter), political (Trump and Biden), musical (Colbie Cailat and Nathaniel Rateliff), etc. Bunch going on.

    Reading your post it struck me that having you on a virtual call with our members might be very impactful in your drive for this cause in awareness and possibly raising money to meet the challenge.

    We are currently in week 8 of 10 of a program called ‘leadW.E.L.L’. (Well-being, Education, Leadership, Living) hosted by Ken Falke who founded Boulder Crest to help our soldiers with PTSD and recovery. They call their efforts ‘Post Traumatic Growth’. It’s been an interesting journey over these past 8 weeks. Your effort and theirs I think are coming from different directions, but aiming for the same result – to help our soldiers recover from their hell. And to help all who suffer from mental illness, as you have described many times.

    No idea if you’d be interested, but thought i’d throw it out there to find out.

    Think it wold be very cool, fun, insightful and possibly impactful on your efforts. We’ve got 3,500+ members in our Region whose combined annual revenue exceeds $1.3 trillion and employ over 1.5 million folks. Pretty big group. Some influence too.

    I know you’re not big on the return email thing, but if interested would love to figure out how to make it work.

    Keep up the fight,

    Bill

    1. Thanks so much for the comment and kind offer, Bill. This is a great idea, and I think it could have a real impact.

      Would you open to possibly having Rick as a guest speaker?

      I’m trying to ensure that MAPS raises the $10MM necessary to activate the $10MM challenge grant that I’m a part of, as it’s important that I see them getting after it. Rick is also the real expert here, and he’s an excellent communicator.

      All the best,

      Tim

  4. Thank you to Tim and all of those who have donated! For those of us who are not in a position to support the cause financially, what’s the best way to support getting MDMA and other stigmatized drugs to the clinicians who can utilize their potential?

  5. Tim,

    Amazing episode, and, although I was only turned on to your podcast around the time COVID hit, I’ve quickly started to tear through the archives and learn that most are amazing. I really appreciate the value and diversity of what you do. Hearing the passion from you and Rick, and the value proposition of a donation as you lay it out, has inspired me to seriously consider getting involved in a significant way.

    I don’t want to waste much space getting into all the details of a long story here, but this is an issue of great importance to me personally, as well as on a larger societal and philosophical level. The short version is that I was blindsided a few years ago, early in my adult life, by the revelation that I have an autoimmune disorder that had already permanently degraded my health, and that will need managing for the rest of my life, barring a medical breakthrough. I have been fortunate enough to continue to live a pretty full life, and to be able to position myself to have some financial success and recently to sell my business. We aren’t talking SV startup money, or anything close, but enough that a $100,000 contribution is very much in my wheelhouse. $1MM is theoretically possible, but probably a greater hit than I’m willing to apply to my post-sale investing base, although the details of the timing and deductibility might affect that. I know you are incredibly busy, but I have a handful of questions and thoughts I would like to run by you regarding this potential MAPS donation. I understand Rick might be a better person for certain things, but I think you might be more likely to be able to convince me to take the plunge on a revolutionary cause and not get hung up on the damage this would do to my future investment earnings potential. I would love an opportunity to lay out some details in an email for you to read to determine if you would be willing to allocate some time to communicating with me in one form or another.

    I have never taken an approach like this before, so I’m not expecting much. I’m sorry to jam this request in comments, but I didn’t know where else to try and grab your attention. I know you have countless demands on your time, so I will not be offended if you direct me to the MAPS website and say, “Make your own decision.”

    Thanks for all the inspiration you have provided.

    1. Thank you for the thoughtful comment, Dan. I also appreciate the background and vulnerable sharing.

      As much as I would love to be able to do one-on-one with people, I sadly don’t have the bandwidth, as there are a lot of requests. I’m also trying to ensure MAPS does the heavy lifting on the remaining $10MM, as I put in a lot of time to help get the $10MM challenge grant together.

      If you think $100K might be possible, I’d strongly consider reaching out to Rick and his team at capstone [AT] maps.org.

      All the best to you and yours,

      Tim

  6. Hi Tim, very interesting and promising approach. To witness how the pain stuck in the brain and nervous system of the people is releasing is truly moving. I was just wondering as ICD-11 is now (and thankfully) distinguishing between C-PTSD and PTSD how the drug is reacting with C-PTSD (which might be even more common than PTSD in a non-veteran population). Do you have any insights on that and does the study also integrate the aspect of complex post traumatic stress disorder which is building up far more subtle through relational and/or emotional traumatic experiences over a long time mostly from early childhood on. Thank you very much in advance.

    Best

    M.

    1. I also would like an answer to this question. I hope people will support this initiative as it has the capability to be lifechanging for people who are stuck in trauma. Not only that, it might set the course for much more research into psychedelics and a plethora of mental diseases. I hope that the people who have resources and have a heart, support this cause.

    1. Hi Aleksandar. There are tens of millions of cases worldwide, but I would also be interested in a more precise number.

  7. Hey Tim and Team,

    I hope you’re doing well.

    I just wanted to ask how you go about transcribing your podcasts, please?

    Many thanks,

    Andy

  8. Not urgent. I ask how to discontinue your dual creative “animated” photo montage screen saver that often pops up and takes over my screen. I can’t find where it stored to finally delete it. Tis a puzzle. Nifty idea, but enough is enough. PS – Also one of a kind since I have been on the web since late 80s.

  9. Hi Tim, Have you ever checked out the osteopathic brain work of Dr. Bruno Chikly or the trauma work of Dr. Jean Pierre Barral or Craniosacral Therapy? They are all very effective for PTSD and I think you might the work very interesting. I’m in Menlo Park if you ever want to try it and I’m sure you can find practitioners in Austin. Wishing you the best, Kristi Elliott

  10. Hey Tim, Thanks for putting your influence and $$ behind this. The stats on current mental health drugs are pretty poor, and the side effects can be harsh. I was legally forced to take the drugs for a month, then told that if I didn’t keep taking them for a year, I would end up back in hospital. I was a zombie that year, and it had a profound effect on so much more than the illness did. So glad you’re backing an alternative. We need one. Cheers, Lisa.

  11. Please, let us allow ourselves to be open-minded -> “The zeitgeist of intolerance that has already been institutionalised in higher education is now spreading through the rest of society. It will overwhelm our lives unless we have the courage to challenge its attempts to dictate what we may say and what we may think.” (Frank Furedi)

  12. I’d like to create a challenge in support of the MAPS Capstone Challenge. I wanted to challenge you to mentor me but read that you don’t have the bandwidth for mentoring. That being said, would the following be more reasonable:

    I challenge you to successfully mentor me through delegation and automation. If you hear me out, either personally or through an executive assistant, and feel it’s worth it, we can come up with what the exact conditions and donations that make sense. I’ll also put skin in the game and pay for some/all of this experiment, depending on what it might cost.

    I’m open to other ideas, as well. If not, would you help me come up with an alternative and impactful challenge?

    In case you’re somewhat interested, here’s just a bit more about me. I’m a part time entrepreneur, part time homeschool teacher to my kids. I’m a disabled veteran and own a business in the Cannabis Industry, as well as a white label CBD company. I was an NSA contractor and government hacker. I’m a Force Multiplier as a leader and strategist. I was also forged through adversity from damn near day 1. There’s more to say about all that but this isn’t the place for it, Top Secret security clearances and all that jazz.

    Lastly, and most importantly to me, I’m a father + husband. I’m fortunate enough to be in the position to pay myself a salary for the next 2-3 years while I work my way into the NR. Though, now that I’m listening to your audiobook, I strongly believe it’s less than a year away. With your support, maybe mere months.

    Thanks for taking the time to read my wall of text and humor my challenge. I look forward to hearing back from you, Tim.

  13. I created the comment issuing you a challenge. I’m blown away. I just read a bit more on your blog and stumbled upon the manic depressive disorder articles. I’m the same and have looked up similar articles in the past. Your content has just helped push me further from the Crash & Burn and closer to Informed Optimism. Thank you, Tim.

    I’m currently manic and have been losing sleep over the last several days. Your audio book has lit a fire under my ass and I’ve been having a blast. I’m going to hire an assistant tomorrow, hold myself accountable, and fight like hell to keep the crippling depression at bay for as long as possible. If not for me, for my wife and children who deserve it.

  14. Thank you, Tim. Thousands of people in pain (recovering in hospitals, veterans with PTSD, people suffering from anxiety) have been drawn to our art in recent years. People have told me that watching my art being handcrafted, specifically in Live videos, has helped them calm down and relieved stress. It’s something I never could have predicted, as an artist working to share the process honestly. The reason I’m grateful for this project because lessening pain in the world is a worthy cause. Psychedelics have helped lessen pain in my life, and I believe more people would benefit from at least having them as an option for treatment. My donation was minuscule compared to what you need, but I’m honored to participate, and curious if there are ways art might serve this cause. Thanks again for your work!

  15. Hi Tim (and team Tim and Tim tag alongs),

    I have been following the recent movement on the psychedelic research for mental health applications because of the attention you have brought to the issue. Your involvement and willingness to share your own experiences have been incredibly inspiring. I have a similar relationship to the cause as you and at times have had significant struggles with hopelessness. If I had the big dollars to give I would do it without hesitation. I will give what I can monetarily and the rest in advocacy.

    Is there a good sharing link you can point me to for social media? I also was to draw attention to my current home state Oregon, where we are trying to make access to psilocybin therapy a ballot measure but are a few signatures short. See yesonip34.org . Please mention that somewhere in your outreach if you can. Wondering if you have called out your buddy Kevin Rose on this? I have a feeling he could spare some change for a cause like this?! It could have major far reaching impacts on the world his children (all our children) inherit. Healing tools with this much potential have cascading effects that multiply. Think of all the brain power that is tied up in coping with mental illness that could be freed up to impact climate change, social justice, and much more.

    1. Also, wondering if you have insight on future opportunities for investment in this area that may garner monetary returns? I am totally grounded in and bought into the societal returns, but aware that things like this will undoubtedly go in that direction. Do you have thoughts on what we can learn from cannabis industries that apply here? Thanks:)

    2. Hi, Jennifer –

      Thank you for your comment. Under the title of this blog post and right above the image of the spinning roulette wheel you can find all of the sharing buttons to post on social.

      You can also embed Tim’s tweet about this Capstone Challenge by going to https://publish.twitter.com/?query=https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2FMAPS%2Fstatus%2F1273324261793427461&widget=Tweet.

      The direct donation link is https://maps.org/.

      Thank you again!

      Team Tim Ferriss

  16. as much as I love MAPS works as much as I want them to make sure that the MAPS programs in Palestine are applying on everyone belongs to the land. I don’t want to see MAPS’s works covered with Israeli racism.

    “This message is written with all love to my Jewish brothers and sisters”

  17. Hopefully this is will be a breakthrough for people who so desperately need it. Thank you for creating this challenge. I read that emotional trauma may be passed down through generations through epigenetics. Therefore, parents with PTSD may pass it down to their children and possibly to their grandchildren.

    Another thought – cure or prevention for mental health problems? No doubt this challenge will help provide a cure for so many people suffering. But I think that if half of all mental health problems are established in children by the age of fourteen, then there needs to be prevention or early intervention before adolescence in order to help prevent the possible long term effects of mental health problems. Helping to prevent a child from suffering in the first place (or early intervention when their trauma first occurs) is I think another approach that can be taken towards mental health problems.

    I write this not as a person from the outside looking in, but from the inside with experience.

    Thanks again!