How MAPS broke from the pack of profit-oriented psychedelic industry

With a stated mission of patients over profits, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is an outlier within the growing psychedelic treatment industry.

MAPS is a 501(c)(3) non-profit which aims to treat mental illness through the use of psychedelic-assisted therapies. Its model means, unlike organizations such as Compass Pathways, MAPS relies on donors rather than investors.

Brad Burge, communications director with MAPS, said this allows the organization to keep true to their mission statement without the complications which come from profit-seeking parties.

“MAPS has raised on donations until now…down the road, we are going to have an income from the sales of MDMA as a legal prescription treatment,” Burge said, admitting this plan is dependent upon FDA approval following the success of ongoing Phase III trials.

Although viewed more as a ‘party-drug’ than a psychedelic, MDMA is MAPS’ current focus due to the bevvy of research on its properties.

In MAPS’ completed Phase 2 trials with 107 participants, 61% no longer qualified for PTSD after three sessions of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy two months following treatment. At the 12-month follow-up, 68% no longer had PTSD. All participants had chronic, treatment-resistant PTSD, and had suffered from PTSD for an average of 17.8 years.


Phase III trials for MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for treating post-traumatic stress disorder are currently underway across Canada, the United States and as far away as Israel.

MDMA is a Schedule I substance according to the Drug Enforcement Agency, defined as a compound “with no currently accepted medical use,” and therefore ineligible for prescription.

Documents describing MAPS’ founding say Rick Doblin, MAPS’ founder, has been working since the 80s to change U.S. federal drug policy, the major impediment to MDMA’s widespread adoption.

As Albert Einstein wrote, “The splitting of the atom has changed everything but our mode of thinking and hence we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe. What shall be required if mankind is to survive is 55 a new mode of thinking.” Influenced by these statements pointing to the crucial nature of psychological factors in human survival, Rick decided to work towards reviving psychedelic research and mainstreaming psychedelic psychotherapy and spirituality. This seemed to Rick the 60 most potent strategy to building a healthier, sustainable world.

–History and Future of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS)

Burge said MAPS was founded as a non-profit because finding investors during the Reagan era’s War on Drugs campaign would have been impossible.

But if the Phase III trials are successful, and MDMA is found to have therapeutic benefits, the FDA will be forced to recognize the compound as such, carrying vast implications at the federal level, according to Burge.

Examples of Schedule II drugs include oxycodone, fentanyl and ritalin.

“As soon as the FDA says ‘this has a medical use,’ the DEA has a certain amount of time in which they’re required to move it to a different schedule, but it can’t be Schedule I.”

Burge said, if the results of the trial are “anything close” to the safety and efficacy levels outlined in the Phase II trial, the FDA is bound to approve MDMA. If so, approval could be given as early as late 2021.

Although focused on MDMA currently, MAPS’ mission statement is broad enough to encompass ayahuasca, LSD, psilocybin and cannabis.

Burge said MAPS recently conducted a small Phase II trial for LSD in Switzerland and is about to publish the results of their medical cannabis study for veterans of PTSD in the new year.

Since cannabis activism and attempts to pressure legislators up to now has been wholly unsuccessful at the federal level, Burge said taking the FDA approval route for whole-plant cannabis represented the path of least resistance.

In his opinion, the time is right for alternative treatments to have their day in the sun.

“If there is one thing people are more skeptical of than psychedelics and cannabis, it’s prescription pharmaceuticals.”


–Ethan Reyes

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