“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 firstname.lastname@example.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,
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.
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.