MAPS and Rick Doblin: Psychedelics Profile

The Psychedelic Research Association at the Heart of Current Advances

Like ancient Rome, it seems to any researcher looking for information in the current psychedelic space that all roads will lead to MAPS. You can at least be sure of passing it by. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies was founded in 1986 by current Executive Director Rick Doblin as a “non-profit research and educational organization that develops medical, legal, and cultural contexts for people to benefit from the careful uses of psychedelics and marijuana.”

It’s hard to understate Doblin’s and MAPS’ contribution to the psychedelic space. There were long years when previously sound work had been eclipsed by the noise of the counterculture figures who came to embody psychedelics in the public eye. Since that time, MAPS has counted itself among the few entities which grew through carrying serious psychedelic research and advocacy forward. Much of the current framework for commercial and medicinal legalization has been laid by MAPS. Their research is frequently cited, and their presence keenly felt as the conversation on psychedelics continues moving forward.

In-House Research at MAPS

MAPS, as the name implies, is interdisciplinary, but a common thread of healing approaches throughout their current streams of research is easy enough to spot. They are far from the only ones on this path, but Doblin’s early presence and academic writings firmly establish MAPS at the root of current psychedelic inquiry. Their ongoing programs include FDA-approved research into MDMA-assisted psychotherapy (which will be moving into its final clinical trials in 2021), a study of the effects of smoked medical marijuana on treating PTSD in war veterans, and an Ibogaine assisted treatment currently underway at facilities in Mexico and New Zealand.

Rick Doblin and the MAPS research team discuss MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD

Looming largest among MAPS recent accomplishments is its completion of “the first double-blind, placebo-controlled study of the therapeutic use of LSD in human beings since the 1970s.” LSD-assisted psychotherapy has been an often-derailed focus of laboratory research into psychedelics since Albert Hoffman’s development of the drug in 1938. Indeed, some of Doblin’s formative academic writings in the psychedelic space focus on this potential. Their phase two pilot study found positive trends of anxiety reduction in a pool of twelve subjects, each of whom engaged in two LSD-assisted therapy sessions. Also deserving of mention is the fact that MAPS is actively soliciting volunteers for upcoming studies.

Resources and Psychedelic Networking

In addition to its own clinical work and research, MAPS acts as a major hub in the network of psychedelic information sharing. Articles from scientific journals around the world, working on a wide variety of substances, are freely available. MAPS also directs visitors to its website towards an impressive selection of free essays, articles, and books, including such seminal works in the field as Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception, and Albert Hoffman’s own LSD My Problem Child: Reflections on Sacred Drugs, Mysticism and Science. Any visitor well-versed in the psychedelic research of the mid-20th century will recognize many other names on their reading list.

In a similar vein is their psychedelic integration list. While MAPS gives an extensive disclaimer that it does not in any way endorse the practitioners mentioned, it does offer contact information of a selection of individuals and organizations from within the mental health field. The purpose of these is to help psychedelic users to make sense of their experiences in a way that integrates with the rest of their lives. The list is extensive, spanning continents. Credentials are offered by practitioners more often than not, and are something of an alphabet soup representing medical, psychiatric, and counseling fields and bodies the world over.

Rick Doblin

No first look at MAPS would be complete without a mention of its founder. To Doblin belongs the distinction of being one of those few who kept the interest in serious psychedelic work alive despite the long shadow of 60’s counterculture influences. He’s previously been quoted as saying that in order for psychedelics to move forward “we must first bury the ghost of Timothy Leary.” Appropriate then, that Doblin’s academic efforts in psychedelics included follow-ups to Leary’s Concord Prison and Good Friday experiments, which address some of the issues in scientific rigor. Doblin has a background in public policy and psychology, having received a Ph.D. in the former from Harvard’s Kennedy Business school. In recent years, he has been featured in Forbes Magazine, and has hosted a popular TEDtalk on the future of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, which MAPS among others are currently working to bring to fruition.   

Impressions on MAPS

Currently partnered with multiple corporate and non-profit entities within the psychedelic space, it’s safe to say Doblin and MAPS have a bright future ahead of them. All those working on psychedelics owe MAPS a debt of gratitude for keeping the discussions of psychedelic-assisted therapy alive during decades where the legal and medical communities at large were unresponsive, even hostile to the idea. The Association is likely to remain a go-to resource for newcomers and dedicated researchers for years to come.

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