Experts call for standardized approach to training on MDMA-assisted psychotherapy

Therapy assisted by use of substance – commonly known as molly – should be done within 'skilled therapeutic practice,' says expert

Experts call for standardized approach to training on MDMA-assisted psychotherapy

Experts are calling for stakeholders to come up with a standardized approach to training physicians on the use of MDMA – also known as ecstasy or molly – when providing psychotherapy.

This should apply especially to the training of therapists who are working with vulnerable people, said Dr. Ishrat Husain, head of the clinical trials unit at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, in a CBC report.

"We want to make sure that we have some oversight into the standards that therapists are adhering to and the training requirements that they meet. At this point, there is no governing body to oversee psychedelic therapies, including MDMA therapy," he said.

Many HR leaders lack the resources they need to meet workers’ mental health needs, according to a previous report.

Positive results from trials on MDMA-assisted psychotherapy

Currently, Health Canada is monitoring the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) review of MDMA "with interest," according to CBC. The agency has not yet received an application for market authorization of MDMA, according to the report.

Husain notes that there have been some positives resulting from the use of MDMA in psychotherapy.

"The rates of improvement were substantially larger than with what we have traditionally at our disposal and that includes antidepressant medicines and usual talk therapies."

In 2023, Phase 3 of clinical trials led by Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) in the U.S. showed that about 71% of participants who took MDMA no longer qualified for a diagnosis of PTSD after receiving three dosing sessions, along with therapy.

Overall, 23% of workers in Canada have taken medication for their mental health, according to a previous report from TELUS Health. Among these workers, however, nearly half (46 per cent) have had to try more than one medication or dosage to treat their condition.

‘Within the context of skilled therapeutic practice’

However, Husain still sides with caution.

"Oftentimes people with other psychiatric illnesses or addictions or substance use disorders were not included in these studies. Those that were actively suicidal were not included in these studies. So we don't know if MDMA therapy is necessarily going to help all patients with post traumatic stress disorder," he said.

Canada needs to be prepared to train more health-care professionals in MDMA therapy in case it's approved in the U.S. and Canada follows suit, said Mark Haden, adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia school of population and public health. Haden is also the founder and former executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) Canada, and is an advisor to a psychedelics company.

"It's really important that they do it within the context of skilled therapeutic practice," he said, according to the CBC report.

"MDMA-assisted therapy is completely different from regular therapy and we need as many therapists trained as possible so when the door opens we can provide this service widely."

Licensed doctors and other health-care practitioners have been able to request access to MDMA through Health Canada's Special Access Program since regulatory changes came into effect in 2022.

Alberta's ATMA Journey Centre is the first government-approved independent centre in the country and offers more in-depth training and certification options, such as the Advanced Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy Certification Program, noted Indeed.

Canadians’ perception of their mental health is at its worst since the end of the pandemic,

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