The scheduling of psychedelics, including psilocybin, during the late 20th century was an unpopular move among psilocybin users and supporters alike. But, the resulting elimination of psychedelics research was what sparked the creation of an organization known as the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) – a not-for-profit psychedelics pharmaceutical organization. To date, MAPS has become an established organization known for its efforts in leading, supporting, and advocating for psychedelics research around the world. As the direct result of the organization’s efforts over the past few decades, we are currently experiencing a second wave of interest in psychedelics research. In this article, MAPS affiliates, Emerson and colleagues discuss the mission and genesis story of MAPS, as well as the organization’s ongoing projects and future directions.
MAPS was founded in 1986 by Rick Doblin, a man who vowed to dedicated his life to renewing psychedelics research. After experimenting with various psychedelics in his teens, Dobin strongly believed that these substances had the potential to alleviate many psychological and even social problems that existed in the world, and he was dismayed by the governments readiness to prohibit these drugs without fairly researching their potential benefits among humans. Dobin’s first foray into the psychedelics advocacy field involved the revival of a non-profit organization known as the Earth Metabolic Design Lab, which sought to combat the scheduling of MDMA by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), during the Reagan Administration’s War on Drugs. After a few unsuccessful attempts at advocating for therapeutic MDMA research at the federal level, Dobin decided to start MAPs as a platform to fund and carry out this research.
MAPS’s mission to date has been to develop a favourable medical, legal, and cultural environment to allow people to benefit from the careful uses of psychedelics, as well as marijuana. The MAPS mission includes: (1) developing psychedelics and marijuana into prescription medicines; (2) training therapists and working to establish a network of treatment centers; (3) supporting scientific research into spirituality, creativity, and neuroscience; (4) educating the public about the risks and benefits of psychedelics and marijuana. In its early days, the MAPS organization dedicated most of its resources to supporting MDMA research (MDMA prove to be the most “acceptable” psychedelic at the time given its relative safety and early research demonstrating its benefits for treating clinical depression, which garnered interest from some scientists and governments). However, in the past decade, MAPS has expanded its research agenda to include other types of psychedelics, including LSD (the most controversial of all psychedelic drugs) to treat a wide array of psychological conditions ranging from social anxiety to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). MAPs-affiliated researchers, such as Dr. Charles Grob (UC Irvine), have also been conducting studies on the use of psilocybin to treat conditions such as cancer-related anxiety with promising results. In addition to establishing a host of psychedelics harm reduction and education endeavours at popular public events such as Burning Man, today, MAP also employs a sophisticated research and operations team to carry out its ongoing clinical trial activities that take place at several study sites in the US and internationally.
Since Doblin’s original vision, and its inception, MAPS has remained a steady force against ongoing legal and political pressures to block research into the medical benefits of psychedelics in humans. Note: MAPS has compiled a list of active/past psilocybin studies on humans.
Summary of: Emerson A, Ponté L, Jerome L, Doblin R. History and future of the multidisciplinary association for psychedelic studies (MAPS). Journal of psychoactive drugs. 2014 Jan 1;46(1):27-36.