Trip of Compassion

Trip of Compassion is an Israeli documentary about a clinical case study at the Beer Yaakov Mental Health Center that used MDMA (Ecstasy) as a treatment for PTSD.

About 18 months ago a friend of mine sent me the Ayelet Waldmen book, A Really Good Day, about her experience micro-dosing with LSD. And thus began my journey researching the world of modern psychedelics. I even managed about half (so far) of the Michael Pollen book How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression and Transcendence (in case the title doesn’t give it away, it’s a rather exhaustive book). 

I happily discovered there is a whole therapeutic environment where LSD, MDMA and psilocybin (those three primarily) are being studied. As the Pollen book details, some of the things being studied are: PTSD, depression, anxiety, drug addiction, alcoholism, smoking cessation and assisting terminally ill patients accept their diagnosis. Sometimes they’re academic studies (NYU, St. Johns, Yale), sometimes they’re private (MAPS, Compass Pathways) and sometimes they’re clandestine (uhhhh).

Now if you’ve spent any time with me in the past year, you’ve been subjected to my nattering about the controlled and therapeutic use of these drugs. Now, I can neither confirm nor deny my recent experience with the benefits of micro-dosing. Suffice it to say, yes, I’m an ardent supporter of psychedelics.

Recently, entrepreneur and author Tim Ferriss wrote about this documentary. Again, Trip of Compassion is movie is about an Israeli study that uses MDMA in the treatment of PTSD. It chronicles three out of the ten participants in the study. One was sex abuse survivor, one a kidnap survivor and one a first responder survivor and all three presented crippling PTSD symptoms.

As is typical with a clinical study, there was a protocol that was followed. In this case, three therapy sessions, two MDMA sessions and a fourth and final therapy session (no time frame is given).

Worked into the film are re-enactments of the three participants inciting events. These add an Investigation Discovery vibe to the film, but they’re hardly distracting.

The three participants in the film were bold enough to have their therapy sessions videotaped, including their MDMA sessions. What makes the film particularly interesting is that for the first time in years we get to see how patients react to the clinical use of psychedelics. Certainly, these scenes are jarring. However, you will come to see the therapeutic power of the MDMA as each patient works through their trauma.

Of course, these three participants agreed to have their therapies videotaped. However, this is a film. And even though it is a documentary, there is a question worth asking. Were all ten participants videotaped and these three the most cinematic/dramatic? I don’t know. Ultimately, that’s not the point but it was a question I returned to.

Nonetheless, we’re at an interesting place with psychedelics. The drugs are inching their way back to their true origins. Academic and clinical evidence continues to mount that these drugs provide real relief, if not actual cures. Not from everything, but from a number of psychological maladies and in some cases, addictions. And yet they remain naively vilified and harshly criminalized. Make no mistake, the reasons for this are ignorance and greed.

In a controlled and therapeutic environment these drugs can be very beneficial. Properly used, you’re not going to jump off a building because you think you can fly. You’re more likely to find pleasure in the Grateful Dead or house music or may want to hug someone. None of those are harbingers of evil.

Look, these drugs are not everyone and they’re not for every ailment. But they are for some. And for those people where psychedelics can work we need to let them.

Oh wait a minute.

All three of these psychedelics (LSD, MDMA and psilocybin) are off patent. So the motivation of Big Pharma is nil. They can’t get a stranglehold on the drugs in order to rape the public. And then there is the pesky fact that they may actually cure an illness. And we all know there’s just no money to be made in actually curing people. Right. Right.

As a result of their participation in the study, all three of the participants in Trip of Compassion have had their symptoms of PTSD eliminated. Of the ten participants in the clinical study? Eight have been cured of all symptoms and no longer require medication. 

Yes, small study. Still, promising results.

You should really watch this movie.

Further Reading: