Groups Team Up To Publish First Guidelines for Psychedelic Therapy

Practitioners looking to employ psychedelic-assisted therapy now have a fresh set of guidelines to assist them.

The American Psychedelic Practitioners Association and the nonprofit BrainFutures teamed up to release what they describe as the “first Professional Practice Guidelines for Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy.” 

(The APPA bills itself as “the national home for the diverse community of psychedelic practitioners” with a “mandate … to safely integrate psychedelic-assisted therapy into the US healthcare system”; BrainFutures, meanwhile, “is a national nonprofit dedicated to improving human outcomes by assessing and advancing the practical applications of new scientific understanding of the brain.”)

The guidelines, laid out in a 42-page manual available online, “are designed to address the evolving practice of psychedelic-assisted therapy.”

“A growing body of evidence has demonstrated the potential value of psychedelic-assisted therapy in recent years, culminating in late-stage clinical trials of 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA) for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and psilocybin for major depressive disorder and/or alcohol use disorder. Approval of these therapies by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could greatly increase interest among healthcare providers and patients. These guidelines aim to educate and guide psychedelic-assisted therapy practitioners as this model of care expands to a greater number of providers and patients outside of research settings,” the manual says.

“Research in the field of psychedelic-assisted therapy has been significantly limited by classification of psychedelics as Schedule I substances, which has constrained the development of a robust, evidence based library of data from which to draw strong conclusions. Thus, these guidelines are informed by available studies and published articles, as well as the expert input of the guideline writing workgroup, additional contributors, and external reviewers. The literature review conducted for these professional practice guidelines included clinical trials and commonly cited publications on psychedelic-assisted therapy.”

So, what are the guidelines exactly? 

The first is summarized succinctly: “Psychedelic-assisted therapy practitioners are in good standing with the healthcare licensure and/or certification body of their professional discipline.”

Guideline number four instructs such practitioners to “obtain and document informed consent before commencing treatment, respect the patient’s right to withdraw consent, and approach consent as an ongoing process to be addressed at multiple points over the course of therapy.”

Guideline number eight, meanwhile, states that those practitioners “prepare patients for a medication administration session by inviting them to share their personal histories, explaining medication administration session logistics, reviewing the range of possible experiences during the medication administration session, discussing potential therapeutic approaches that may be used, providing guidance for navigating challenging experiences that could arise, and answering patient questions.”

Each of the 12 guidelines is accompanied by a rationale and explanation for how the practitioners apply it.

Psychedelic-assisted therapy has become increasingly mainstream in recent years, with policymakers to practitioners all embracing it as a viable treatment option.

Last month, the brother of President Joe Biden said that the first-term incumbent is open to psychedelic therapy.

“He is very open-minded,” Frank Biden said in an interview with political commentator Michael Smerconish. 

“Put it that way. I don’t want to speak; I’m talking brother-to-brother. Brother-to-brother,” he added. “The question is, is the world, is the U.S. ready for this? My opinion is that we are on the cusp of a consciousness that needs to be brought about to solve a lot of the problems in and around addiction, but as importantly, to make us aware of the fact that we’re all one people and we’ve got to come together.”

But as the newly published guidelines indicated, research into psychedelic therapy and applying it in a medical setting are both hamstrung by the federal prohibition of the drugs.

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