May 4, 2023
The groundbreaking Conference on Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy recently took place in Ukraine
Kyiv, Ukraine – Ukrainian Psychedelic Research Association (UPRA), in collaboration with the Center for Psychological Health and Rehabilitation of Veterans "Forest Glade," successfully organized the very first and surely not the last International Scientific and Practical Conference titled: The Use of Psychedelic Assisted Therapy in the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Conditions: International Experience and Prospects for Implementation in Ukraine.
This unprecedented event brought together international experts to explore the role and potential of psychedelic-assisted therapy (PAT) in addressing trauma and post-traumatic disorders.
The conference, broadcasted in both Ukrainian and English, disseminated recent clinical trial findings and global experiences related to the use of PAT for trauma treatment. Esteemed Ukrainian psychiatrists and scientists delved into the national context, while veterans shared powerful first-hand accounts of their therapy experiences.
Highlights from the Conference
👉 Opening remarks from the organizers and partners
👉 Dr. Rick Doblin's remarks on the broader relevance of PAT beyond just veterans
👉 Dr. David Nutt's examination of the safety profiles of psilocybin and MDMA
👉 Dr. Karen Tsarfati's insights into clinical trials involving MDMA and psilocybin
👉 Dr. Olga Chernoloz's analysis of the hidden costs of PTSD
👉 Amanda Feilding's rallying call for persistence in pushing PAT forward
👉 Dr. Eric Vermetten's perspective on the necessity of specialized therapy for military PTSD
👉 Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris's thoughts on the imminent focus on post-war psychological rehabilitation
👉 Panel discussion featuring veterans who have found relief through psychedelic-assisted therapy
👉 Dr. Oleg Chaban's advocacy for the controlled medical use of specific drugs
👉 Dr. Victor Dosenko's commitment to tackling PTSD and neurodegenerative diseases
👉 Dr. Vladyslav Matrenytskyi's alert on the rising tide of post-traumatic disorders and the immediate need for pioneering treatment methods
Remarks from the Organizers and Partners
Elizabeth Ames, the Founder of Heal Ukraine Trauma and a cherished advisor and supporter of UPRA, praised the bravery and resilience demonstrated by Ukrainians in the face of challenges. Sam Cooke, the Founder of the Borderlands Foundation, shared his personal journey, from his time in combat to his discovery of psychedelic-assisted therapy (PAT). Sam expressed his gratitude for being part of the community and his dedication to promoting the progress of PAT in Ukraine.
Outstanding PAT experts, including Rick Doblin, Amanda Fielding, Ben Sessa, and Friederike Michel Fischer, offered words of support during the conference. Thank you all sincerely.
Ksenia Voznitsyna, the Chief Medical Officer of Lisova Polyana, delivered a heartfelt opening speech, explaining the significance of our gathering and the importance of post-war psychological recovery based on her nine years of experience treating veterans at Lisova Polyana. Oleg Orlov, the Head of UPRA, expressed gratitude for the support received and reaffirmed our commitment to effective communication and collaboration with governmental institutions.
Dr Rick Doblin: Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy is Crucial Beyond the Veterans' Sphere
Rick Doblin, the founder of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), opened the conference with an important reminder. Despite the high-profile attention given to military PTSD, other traumatic experiences such as forced displacement, sexual assault, and loss of loved ones also necessitate therapeutic attention. Within the Ukrainian landscape, it's critical to remember this aspect.
Moreover, Dr Doblin expressed his eagerness to support the training of Ukrainian psychotherapists and provide assistance to the veteran community in their recovery journey.
Dr. David Nutt: Assessing the Safety of Psilocybin and MDMA
Dr David Nutt, a renowned figure in British drug policy and the author of a well-known study comparing the harm of various psychoactive substances began the report section of the conference. He highlighted a "revival" of interest in psychedelic-assisted therapy following the total bans imposed on these substances in the 1950s and 1960s.
In his 2010 Lancet article, Dr Nutt emphasized that substances like MDMA and psilocybin are significantly less toxic and pose fewer risks pharmacologically and psychokinetically compared to alcohol and tobacco.
Dr Nutt believes that Ukraine, more than ever, needs widespread implementation of psychedelic-assisted therapy. He emphasizes that the opposition to psychedelics is purely political and populist, lacking any scientific foundation. As J. Bernard Shaw once said, "Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything," a sentiment echoed by Dr. Nutt.
Dr Karen Tsarfati: Key Insights from Clinical Trials of MDMA and Psilocybin
The Clinical Director of Open Access provided an in-depth look at the promising MAPS-supported studies conducted in Israel🇮🇱, the United States🇺🇸, and Canada🇨🇦, which involved over 1,600 participants. Dr Tsarfati shared findings from double-blind, placebo-controlled studies focusing on severe PTSD cases among emergency workers, military personnel, and general citizens. These studies demonstrated that combining psychotherapy with MDMA- or psilocybin-assisted sessions could have a lasting impact on treating depressive disorders, trauma, addictions, and eating disorders.
Currently, Dr Tsarfati and her colleagues are examining the efficacy of psychedelic-assisted therapy across various clinical conditions, including chronic PTSD (up to 20 years). In response to an audience question, she confirmed that PAT is also beneficial in less severe instances. Dr. Tsarfati also expressed her readiness to share her knowledge and provide training to Ukrainian professionals.
Dr. Olga Chernoloz: The Economic Impact of PTSD
Professor at the University of Ottawa, Dr. Olga Chernoloz, discussed statistics highlighting the economic benefits of psychedelic-assisted therapy in both short and long-term contexts. With over 14 million internally displaced Ukrainians, more than a third of the population didn't sleep in their own beds today. While war casualties are typically quantified in terms of fatalities, the immense psychological and humanitarian aftermath of the Russian aggression will have far-reaching implications.
The traumatic experiences endured by a substantial number of Ukrainians will hinder their return to regular life, impacting relationship-building and work routines. This represents a direct threat to the country's economy, with a potential three to four million affected Ukrainians. Dr Chernoloz noted that a peaceful Europe loses more than 4% of its GDP (roughly 600 billion euros) to mental health issues. Families with a PTSD-afflicted member may lose up to 26% of their income; a percentage expected to be considerably higher in Ukraine. The current healthcare system is inadequately prepared to handle treatment on such a scale.
Amanda Fielding: Encouraging Mr and Ms Zelenskiy to Make Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy Happen in Ukraine
Amanda Fielding, a pioneer of psychedelic-assisted therapy and founder of the Beckley Foundation, addressed the assembly of therapists and officials with warmth and optimism. She stated, "With many studies to my name, I firmly believe in the extraordinary potential of psychedelic substances in treating trauma and other mental health issues that Ukraine is presently grappling with."
Amanda Fielding sees psychedelic-assisted therapy as a potent tool, augmenting Ukraine's current impressive efforts before the world. She emphasised the urgency and importance of the cause and encouraged Mr and Ms President to lead the change.