The future of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy | Rick Doblin

Preparing for this talk
has been scarier for me than preparing for LSD therapy. (Laughter) “Psychedelics are to the study of the mind what the microscope is to biology and the telescope is to astronomy.” Dr. Stanislav Grof spoke those words. He’s one of the leading
psychedelic researchers in the world, and he’s also been my mentor. Today, I’d like to share with you
how psychedelics, when used wisely, have the potential to help heal us, help inspire us, and perhaps even to help save us. In the 1950s and 60s, psychedelic research flourished
all over the world and showed great promise
for the fields of psychiatry, psychology and psychotherapy, neuroscience and the study
of mystical experiences. But psychedelics leaked out
of the research settings and began to be used
by the counterculture, and by the anti-Vietnam War movement. And there was unwise use. And so there was a backlash. And in 1970, the US government
criminalized all uses of psychedelics, and they began shutting down
all psychedelic research. And this ban spread all over the world
and lasted for decades. and it was tragic, since psychedelics are really just tools, and whether their outcomes
are beneficial or harmful depends on how they’re used. Psychedelic means “mind-manifesting,” and it relates to drugs
like LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, iboga and other drugs. When I was 18 years old, I was a college freshman, I was experimenting
with LSD and mescaline, and these experiences
brought me in touch with my emotions. And they helped me have
a spiritual connection that unfortunately,
my bar mitzvah did not produce. (Laughter) When I wanted to tease my parents, I would tell them
that they drove me to psychedelics because my bar mitzvah had failed
to turn me into a man. (Laughter) But most importantly, psychedelics gave me this feeling
of our shared humanity, of our unity with all life. And other people reported
that same thing as well. And I felt that these experiences
had the potential to help be an antidote to tribalism, to fundamentalism,
to genocide and environmental destruction. And so I decided to focus my life on changing the laws and becoming a legal
psychedelic psychotherapist. (Applause) Now, half a century after the ban, we’re in the midst of a global renaissance
of psychedelic research. Psychedelic psychotherapy
is showing great promise for the treatment of post-traumatic
stress disorder, or PTSD, depression, social anxiety,
substance abuse and alcoholism and suicide. Psychedelic psychotherapy is an attempt
to go after the root causes of the problems, with just relatively few administrations, as contrasted to most
of the psychiatric drugs used today that are mostly just reducing symptoms and are meant to be taken
on a daily basis. Psychedelics are now also being used
as tools for neuroscience to study brain function and to study the enduring mystery
of human consciousness. And psychedelics and the mystical
experiences they produce are being explored for their connections
between meditation and mindfulness, including a paper just recently published about lifelong zen meditators
taking psilocybin in the midst of a meditation retreat and showing long-term benefits
and brain changes. Now, how do these drugs work? Modern neuroscience research
has demonstrated that psychedelics reduce activity in what’s known as the brain’s
default mode network. This is where we create our sense of self. It’s our equivalent to the ego, and it filters all incoming information according to our personal
needs and priorities. When activity is reduced
in the default mode network, our ego shifts from the foreground
to the background, and we see that it’s just part
of a larger field of awareness. It’s similar to the shift that Copernicus and Galileo were
able to produce in humanity using the telescope to show that the earth was no
longer the center of the universe, but was actually something
that revolved around the sun, something bigger than itself. For some people, this shift in awareness is the most important and among the most important
experiences of their lives. They feel more connected
to the world bigger than themselves. They feel more altruistic, and they lose some of their fear of death. Not all drugs work this way. MDMA, also known as Ecstasy, or Molly, works fundamentally different. And I’ll be able to share with you
the story of Marcela, who suffered from
post-traumatic stress disorder from a violent sexual assault. Marcela and I were introduced in 1984, when MDMA was still legal, but it was beginning also
to leak out of therapeutic circles. Marcela had tried MDMA
in a recreational setting, and during that, her past trauma
flooded her awareness and it intensified her suicidal feelings. During our first conversation, I shared that when MDMA
is taken therapeutically, it can reduce the fear
of difficult emotions, and she could help move forward
past her trauma. I asked her to promise
not to commit suicide if we were to work together. She agreed and made that promise. During her therapeutic sessions, Marcela was able to process
her trauma more fluidly, more easily. And yet, she was able to tell that the rapist had told her
that if she ever shared her story, he would kill her. And she realized that that was
keeping her a prisoner in her own mind. So being able to share the story and experience the feelings
and the thoughts in her mind freed her, and she was able to decide that she wanted
to move forward with her life. And in that moment, I realized that MDMA could be very
effective for treating PTSD. Now, 35 years later,
after Marcela’s treatment, she’s actually a therapist, training other therapists to help people
overcome PTSD with MDMA. Now, how does MDMA work? How did MDMA help Marcela? People who have PTSD
have brains that are different from those of us who don’t have PTSD. They have a hyperactive amygdala,
where we process fear. They have reduced activity
in the prefrontal cortex, where we think logically. And they have reduced activity
in the hippocampus, where we store memories
into long-term storage. MDMA changes the brain
in the opposite way. MDMA reduces activity in the amygdala, increases activity
in the prefrontal cortex and increases connectivity
between the amygdala and the hippocampus to remit traumatic memories
to move into long-term storage. Recently, researchers at Johns Hopkins
published a paper in “Nature,” in which they demonstrated
that MDMA releases oxytocin, the hormone of love and nurturing. The same researchers
also did studies in octopuses, who are normally asocial,
unless it’s mating season. But lo and behold, you give them MDMA, and they become prosocial. (Laughter) Several months after
Marcela and I worked together, the Drug Enforcement Administration
moved to criminalize Ecstasy, having no knowledge
of its therapeutic use. So I went to Washington, and I went into the headquarters
of the Drug Enforcement Administration, and I filed a lawsuit demanding a hearing, at which psychiatrists
and psychotherapists would be able to present information
about therapeutic use of MDMA to try to keep it legal. And in the middle of the hearing,
the DEA freaked out, declared an emergency and criminalized all uses of MDMA. And so the only way
that I could see to bring it back was through science, through medicine and through the FDA
drug development process. So in 1986, I started MAPS as a nonprofit psychedelic
pharmaceutical company. It took us 30 years, till 2016, to develop the data that we needed
to present to FDA to request permission to move
into the large-scale Phase 3 studies that are required to prove
safety and efficacy before you get approval
for prescription use. Tony was a veteran
in one of our pilot studies. According to the Veterans Administration, there’s over a million veterans now
disabled with PTSD. And at least 20 veterans a day
are committing suicide, many of them from PTSD. The treatment that Tony was to receive
was three and a half months long. But during that period of time, he would only get MDMA on three occasions, separated by 12, 90-minute
non-drug psychotherapy sessions, three before the first
MDMA session for preparation and three after each
MDMA session for integration. We call our treatment approach
“inner-directed therapy,” in that we support the patient
to experience whatever’s emerging within their minds or their bodies. Even with MDMA, this is hard work. And a lot of our subjects have said, “I don’t know why they call this Ecstasy.” (Laughter) During Tony’s first MDMA session, he lay on the couch, he had eyeshades on, he listened to music, and he would speak to the therapists, who were a male-female co-therapy team, whenever he felt that he needed to. After several hours, in a moment of calmness and clarity, Tony shared that he had realized his PTSD was a way
of connecting him to his friends. It was a way of honoring the memory
of his friends who had died. But he was able to shift and see himself
through the eyes of his dead friends. And he realized that they
would not want him to suffer, to squander his life. They would want him to live more fully, which they were unable to do. And so he realized that there was
a new way to honor their memory, which was to live as fully as possible. He also realized that
he was telling himself a story that he was taking opiates for pain. But actually, he realized,
he was taking them for escape. So he decided he didn’t need
the opiates anymore, he didn’t need the MDMA anymore, and he was dropping out of the study. That was seven years ago. Tony is still free of PTSD, has never returned to opiates and is helping others less fortunate
than himself in Cambodia. (Applause) The data that we presented to FDA from 107 people in our pilot
studies, including Tony, showed that 23 percent of the people
that received therapy without active MDMA no longer had PTSD
at the end of treatment. This is really pretty good
for this patient population. However, when you add MDMA, the results more than double,
to 56 percent no longer having PTSD. (Applause) But most importantly, once people learn that if they don’t need
to suppress their trauma, but they can process it, they keep getting better on their own. So at the 12-month follow-up
one year after the last treatment session, two-thirds no longer have PTSD. And of the one-third that do, many have clinically significant
reductions in symptoms. (Applause) On the basis of this data, the FDA has declared MDMA-assisted
psychotherapy for PTSD a breakthrough therapy. FDA has also declared psilocybin
a breakthrough therapy for treatment-resistant depression and just recently approved
esketamine for depression. I’m proud to say that we have now
initiated our Phase 3 studies. And if the results are as we hope, and if they’re similar
to the Phase 2 studies, by the end of 2021, FDA will approve
MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD. If approved, the only therapists who will be able
to directly administer it to patients are going to be therapists that
have been through our training program, and they will only be able
to administer MDMA under direct supervision
in clinic settings. We anticipate that over
the next several decades, there will be thousands
of psychedelic clinics established, at which, therapists will be able
to administer MDMA, psilocybin, ketamine
and other psychedelics to potentially millions of patients. These clinics can also evolve
into centers where people can come for psychedelic psychotherapy
for personal growth, for couples therapy or for spiritual, mystical experiences. Humanity now is in a race
between catastrophe and consciousness. The psychedelic renaissance is here
to help consciousness triumph. And now, if you all just
look under your seats … Just joking! (Laughter) Thank you. (Applause) (Laughter) (Applause) Thank you. (Applause) Corey Hajim: You’ve got to stay
up here for a minute. Thank you so much, Rick. I guess it’s a supportive audience. Rick Doblin: Yes, very. Many of them have also
been to Burning Man. (Laughter) CH: There’s some synergy. RD: (Laughs) CH: So, in your talk, you talked
about using these drugs to address some pretty serious traumas. So what about some more common
mental illnesses like anxiety and depression, and is that where microdosing comes in? RD: Well, microdosing
can be helpful for depression, I do know someone that has been using it. But in general, for therapeutic purposes, we prefer macro-dosing
rather than microdosing, in order to really help people
deal with the root causes. Microdosing is more for creativity, for artistic inspiration, for focus … And it also does have
a mood-elevation lift. But I think for serious illnesses, we’d rather not get people thinking
that they need a daily drug, but do more deeper, intense work. CH: And what about outside
the United States and North America, is this research being done there? RD: Oh yeah, we’re globalizing. Our Phase 3 studies
are actually being done in Israel, Canada and the United States. So once we get approval in FDA, it will also become approved
in Israel and in Canada. We’re just starting research in Europe. And we’re actually going to be training
some therapists from China. CH: That’s great. We were going to do an audience vote to see if people felt
like this was a good idea to move forward with this research or not, but I have a feeling I know
the answer to that, so … Thank you so much, Rick. RD: Thank you. Thank you all. (Applause)

About the author


  1. Fascinating topic. As someone who used to be frightened by psychedelics, yet is fascinated in topics such as consciousness, the human brain itself and everything connected to those topics because of the experience with them… I appreciate videos like this.

  2. How can you placebo MDMA? I mean the effects are obvious. I guess they can give another psychoactive substance but how can they get that through the ethics board?

  3. Another way to experience this without psychedelic, well assume that you an outdoor person, is climb the top of the mountain before sunrise. Then watch that sunrise while drink some tea. I promise that you get the same effect. The issue is that our brain think too much, by release the stress through physical workout, and then relax it through good warm tea and the awesomeness of something out of your control will provide a person with the same clarity. Well using psychedelic work great only if you have some expert help you which is not an issue, but if you similar to me who is both outdoor and don't want administer drug, I don't like anything that change my brain chemical, then that something I recommend. However, Rick Doblin is doing great work, and I do hope that more Rick out there who care about human mental health.

  4. Yes, let's change the brains with these chemicals of millions of children today that will be our leaders tomorrow. I see no flaw with this plan. This will definitely push up the sales of antipsychotics. It's a win win for everyone.

  5. There is such a huge media push these days for meditation, psychedelics, 'new-age' practices and ideology. Who's funding/backing this saturation?

  6. The opposition to psychadelic drug theraphy has been big pharma. The idea that the US govt would be so concerned about counterculture abuse of psychadelics to cause a worldwide ban and criminalization is absurd. Look at the tremendous growth of psych drugs since a prozac capsule made the cover of Time Magazine, and you will have to agree with my view. It is all about the benjamin's baby.

  7. People are always looking for a pill, an easy way out. I tried out these drugs plenty and yes they can open up some things. But cant be compared to deep meditation which gives much deeper development, which is real. I worked 30 years with PTSD, and cant agree with psychedelics as a real way to remove these problems fully. There is this focus on the brain and its not understood properly, not either by this speaker. Our so-called problems are gates to deep learning. When I work with people in pure therapy and the trauma is properly solved it gives a total shift in peoples lives. And strong spiritual openings together with important life lessons learned. For the ones still looking for a pill there is always drugs. Yes, there are reactions in the brain but theyre symptoms, not causes. We are living souls who inhabit these bodies and theyre an expression of us. Getting lost in chemistry is a side track. It builds on a misunderstanding of what a human being really is. Why I work with people, not problems. The results from the therapy I do are extremely fast and the changes are radical and go very deep, bringing about a total transformation. Without the side effects of drugs. People afterwards know they, not a chemical made this happen, bringing in a new foundation and self confidence.

  8. Hallucinogenic drugs are dangerous to human soul, or Astral body. They saturate it with false data and it may take several lifetimes for the soul to recover. You can read "Thiaoouba Prophecy" for more details (it's a free book available online)

  9. I'm really interested in a future where psychedelics are legal and we educate people about the proper and safe use of these substances.
    I'm not saying psychedelics will solve every problem or that there won't be any new ones to deal with, but I do believe we can become a lot more insightful and loving towards each other.

  10. Am i the only one who was thinking we should use psychedelics on schizophrenic patients so we could see what trippy stuff their brains do then, lol?

  11. Sorry, but the way this researcher is talking seems to be just like a former neighbor who was abusing some psychedelics…
    I don't know, maybe I'm outdated and old-fashioned, but I believe that neurological medication should be taken only by people who suffer from a physical or mental incapacitating situation …
    He's saying Lsd was good for him while being 18!?

  12. LSD healed my depression and restored me to joy. No lie. It’s a therapy that should be available to anyone who needs it.

  13. He presents a good case for dealing with PTSD but there's so much he doesn't go into. These are mind-altering chemicals we're talking about; surely, there are other effects. Couldn't repeated exposure habituate the mind into sliding into those states more easily? And what's this talk of spiritual and mystical experiences? Sounds like a step in the right direction for PTSD, but let's be careful to consider it from every angle. Bad ideas often come disguised as good ones.

  14. Well, psychedelics won't ever be allowed for any use in my country, I guess I'm still on my own against all of my demons and major depression. Ah, good times.

  15. If we got to the point that we think that psychedelics can save us, we are in very deep trouble. One only thing can save us from ourselves. Humanity has been knowing it for thousands of years. It's called love.

  16. Isn't it a little weird that those who have experience with psychedelics become so passionate about them that they drastically change career paths? This field is rife with bias.

  17. I wish I could be 18 again & starting college, I would love to be a therapist who heals with the aid of psychedelics ✌️

  18. so glad to see this video and hear those words… here a little contribution in the spirit of consciousness, shared humanity and unity with all life! =) much LOVE!

  19. Once we start humanity will suddenly do nothing else than explore the mystical experience. I believe those clinics won't just become centers they will become universities.

  20. Don’t forget: Set and Setting!
    These can be powerful drugs and if you are full of demons, don’t be surprised if you end up unwillingly having to face them.

  21. This is such wonderful news. At the same time, I can’t help but be greatly saddened knowing how many lives will be lost inbetween now and the time before this is finally approved.

    My second thought is whether or not insurance companies will pay for this? Is it an expensive therapy? I just hope it doesn’t end up being another type of therapy that is out of reach for many due to the cost. I know many already take these drugs recreationally, but it seems like such an unsafe way to do so.

  22. Being severely autistic and depressed, this is something I'm absolutely looking forward to. Rick, thank you very much for you, your team and your hard work in this area, for fighting for all those impaired people out there.

  23. From experience: Psychedelics have invigorated my love of life and i can't believe they have been demonized for such a long time for so stupid reasons.
    Listen. Mankind has been ingesting and inhaling mushrooms that contain Psilocybin for tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of years. It's a natural thing and has been in our history. Only recently in history drugs have been made illegal. All drugs should be legalized and let people do what they want to themselves.

  24. Is there a way to read about the MAPS studies? I am curious to see the dosage that they used on patients and the effects from the pilot studies in detail. I’m glad this science is finally coming out and being researched; people who have experienced psychedelics and MDMA as a personal growth tool to help self awareness have been waiting for this.

  25. Such a humble hero. He endures the long game with vigor and godly patience as it is his destiny to write this empathy into the history books. Thank you Mr Doblin 🥰

  26. Israeli's come to India after 2 years of mandatory military service to deal with ptsd. They don't go to goa or to Taj Mahal. They go to places like Rishikesh where they tag along with followers of Dalai Lama or a Aghori Baba. Most of them just know what is the right thing but the why is lost. Hence faith becomes blind faith. Then the same thing is repackaged by western researchers who just translate and repackage the knowledge with some pseudo research.

  27. Yet opiates, the killer drugs, are available with almost no impediments at all, is this corruption or just complete incompetence
    on the part of our regulatory, and justice system agencies.

  28. One high dose of mushrooms and the grief from my dads death was gone. I just wish i could convince my brothers to take the ride.

  29. It would be great to see this being used as the basis for treatment of addiction/alcoholism.
    In Ireland we're just handed to big pharma, left to die from that poison… global use eh? should reach Ireland's shores by 2050..

  30. After I gave my pet octopus LSD it fell
    head over tentacle in love with me, im still very happy with the outcome and can only recommend the Ted talk!

  31. I am curious to see what MAPS research says about marijuana and if it assists w curing depression, anxiety, ptsd, etc.
    I have watched a few talks in which they referenced studies that say marijuana actually speeds up the Default Mode Network, whereas psylocibin, MDMA, and LSD slow it down drastically. This is still in research phase, but it does explain why marijuana tends to become a lifelong habit, daily dosing (same as anti-depressants) to escape from symptoms based in fear. Whereas, most psychedelics help cure you of the fear by facing it eventually, especially through professionally assisted therapy.

  32. Religion talks about god. Psychedelics let you talk to god. That’s why they’re illegal. People in power don’t like competition.

  33. im wondering could this kind of distractive medicines be addicted to patients? I mean if the relapse come, they will use med to fraud themselves or like they need med to keep from relapse

  34. bro, wut r u doing talking to a TED audience? dont u know they pump you full of antipsychotics before they let you into the audience?? :3

  35. It'd be interesting to hear if it affects the two genders differently. Without further inquiry, it appears men are more likely to become wise and women get fried.
    Men tend to find their inner Sam Harris, while women go down the spirituality, astrology extremism road.

  36. The same FDA that does nothing to make tobacco products (carcinogens) illegal, but keeps non-food products like wood cellulose a perfectly legal additive to products like grated parmesan cheese? No thanks.

  37. TED YOU NEED TO CONTACT ME ITS URGENT ….. only you can help me ….. i know you can…… !!!!! think and ask all the W"s

  38. cut down on the jokes it's unprofessional if your doing studies on my network people that are all upset and some well they live it and can handle it …..especially when your in default with wrong timing mmmmm no pushing shoving picking instagating just a little more LOVE REMEMBER ITS ALL ABOUT JESUS

  39. This is just more control and monopolizing natural substances. Only having legal access via one group, which is MAPS, is total bullshit. 3/5 of the substance mentioned are naturally occurring and have been used in the Americans for centuries.

  40. Really fascinating talk. Excited to see where this renaissance of psychedelic research takes us. On a side note, I think what Alan Watts said about LSD is great to keep in mind in light of all this:
    "Psychedelic experience is only a glimpse of genuine mystical insight, but a glimpse which can be matured and deepened by the various ways of meditation in which drugs are no longer necessary or useful. If you get the message, hang up the phone."

  41. I seriously cannot wait to be treated. Alas, I live in Australia that is alway 5-10 years behind the times.😢

  42. Too bad you can’t volunteer. I don’t fit the criteria exactly, but I could use the help. And that’s per my old shrink. Oh well. Misery it is for those that fall in the cracks.

  43. Fort detrick military laboratory supposedly shut down in August 2019..Other people breaking in material homes illegally to Illegally administor unneeded medsupplies to healthy civilians without consent;testing drugs on civilians in America,can lose limbs for that with a prayer..The FBI supposedly arrested doctors and nurses in middle TN for illegally administering unneeded medsupplies to healthy civilians in spring 2019 and pulled their license to practice;while all other scragglers involved in those crimes were still running loose..Testing drugs on civilians without consent while working for state and federal agencies and Illegally entering homes to do that is against the law..Nobody cares about Illegally acquired statistics mister; bigger fish to 🔥 fry..

  44. LSD confirmed for me the amazing world of mind and revealed a world that had always been sensed but seemed veiled. I used LSD over a period of 2 years and usually dropped acid alone. I learned more from these experiences than all of my school years. I stopped using drugs after having a child as losing my child was not worth the risk, however and the drug scene went bad once it became a financial endeavor and taking drugs became a party scene thing. When I started taking it was with a group of people who explained to me that when I took acid I was totally responsible for my behaviors, actions etc while on it. They did not allow for blaming the drug for bad behavior. If you needed help you had a buddy system to help you through. The drug scene became ugly. I am very happy to see that finally science is catching up with what so many of us know who used these drugs responsibly. They have many helpful aspects. Thanks to you Sir.

  45. The fact that psychedelics are illegal is a complete absurdity with no other basis than ignorance and fear of the unknown.

  46. i suffered by depression time ago, growing up i was conscious about that than i tried several drugs to help myself, lsd and mdma helps me alot to get in peace with my mind.
    btw i can't trust majority of the doctors nowadays, they just cure symptoms without knowledge the roots of the diseases so in that way you going to spend more money to cure yourself, yes is all about money

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