MDMA-Assisted Therapy for Social Anxiety in Autistic Adults: Lessons from Phase 2 Clinical Research
Alicia Danforth, Ph.D., and Charles S. Grob, M.D.
Continuing Education (CE) • Continuing Medical Education (CME) • 0.5 Credits
This talk will feature highlights from the first randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trial of MDMA-assisted therapy’s potential for treating social anxiety in autistic adults. The investigators have applied both quantitative and qualitative research approaches to exploring whether MDMA’s prosocial effects can result in sustained improvements in various domains of social adaptability. This pilot study will also include biomarker analysis to assess treatment-related changes in neuromodulators such as oxytocin (OT), arginine vasopression (AVP) and cortisol (CORT), which are critically involved in anxiety and social behavior. Investigators will also briefly discuss how working with diverse populations and neurodivergent individuals in clinical research has challenged best practice standards for set and setting in psychedelic research in general.
Alicia Danforth, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist and researcher in California. She currently is the co-investigator for a pilot studyof MDMA-assisted therapy for the treatment of social anxiety in autistic adults. Alicia’s dissertation research was on the qualitative MDMA (Ecstasy) experiences of adults on the autism spectrum. She began her work in psychedelic research as a study coordinator and co-facilitator on Dr. Charles Grob's Phase 2 pilot study of psilocybin treatment for existential anxiety related to advanced cancer. At the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, she co-developed and taught the first graduate-level course on psychedelic theory, research, and clinical considerations for therapists and researchers in training with James Fadiman, PhD and David Lukoff, PhD. Alicia is also a nationally certified Trauma-Focused CBT therapist, and she has published on the potential advantages of Focusing-Oriented Therapy as somatic-based preparation method for psychedelic psychotherapy. Alicia recently returned to living in the redwoods with plans to continue working on clinical psychedelic research in the Bay Area and remotely on projects in Los Angeles.
Charles S. Grob, M.D., is Director of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, and Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at the UCLA School of Medicine. Dr. Grob conducted the first government approved psychobiological research study of MDMA, and was the principal investigator of an international research project in the Brazilian Amazon studying the visionary plant brew, ayahuasca. He has also completed and published the first approved research investigation in several decades on the safety and efficacy of psilocybin treatment in terminal cancer patients with anxiety. And, he has recently completed a pilot investigation into the use of an MDMA treatment model for social anxiety in autistic adults. Dr. Grob is the editor of Hallucinogens: A Reader (Tarcher/Putnam, 2002) and co-editor (with Roger Walsh) of Higher Wisdom: Eminent Elders Explore the Continuing Impact of Psychedelics (SUNY Press, 2005). He is also a founding board member of the Heffter Research Institute.
Continuing Medical Education (CME) is available for physicians. This activity has been planned and implemented in accordance with the accreditation requirements and policies of the Institute for Medical Quality/California Medical Association (IMQ/CMA) through the joint providership of CME Consultants and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). CME Consultants is accredited by the IMQ/CMA to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
This activity is geared towards Psychiatrists and Primary Care Physicians.
DESIRED OUTCOMES: 1) Inform their autistic patients about research into treatments for social anxiety 2) Develop strategies for conducting their own research working with autistic patients 3) Evaluate research on social anxiety treatments as new literature becomes available 4) Develop strategies for treating autistic adults, an underserved population 5) Apply aspects of the therapeutic methods developed in MDMA-assisted therapy research to other treatment methods
*This activity will encompass the following desirable physician attributes: Patient Care & Procedural Skills, Medical Knowledge, Professionalism, Interpersonal & Communication Skills, and Practice-Based Learning & Improvement.