In-depth: Psychedelic drugs being researched in Bay Area to treat mental disorders


SAN ANSELMO (KRON) — Psychedelic drugs are being researched in the Bay Area for their potential to help people suffering from depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

KRON4’s Gabe Slate met with a woman taking psychedelics through an FDA-approved clinical trial and another who experimented by self-medicating.

Ayelet Waldman is a 52-year-old author and mother of four living in Berkeley. She recently turned to psychedelic drugs, seeking relief from her depression.

She recently turned to a psychedelic drug, seeking relief from her depression.

“I was having all sorts of suicidal ideation,” Waldman said. “I was a nightmare to be around. I was sinking lower and lower and nothing else was working, none of the medications I have relied on all my life were working, and I needed to do something desperate and this is what I chose.”

For one month, she took one-10th of a normal dose of LSD, also known as acid, every three days.

She said that microdosing saved her life and her marriage.

“It catalyzed the end of my depression,” Waldman said. “I was nice to be around. I was fun to be around. My kids liked having me around.”

Using psychedelic drugs for medical purposes is now getting attention from the federal government.

An FDA-approved clinical trial is going on right now in the Bay Area. Not for LSD, but for a different psychedelic, MDMA, also known as ecstasy or molly.

“This is probably the most intense psychotherapy study ever performed,” Psychiatrist Dr. Phil Wolfson said.

Dr. Wolfson, based in San Anselmo, is helping to conduct a clinical trial studying whether MDMA-assisted psychotherapy can help heal those affected by traumatic experiences.

“We do I think a total of 20 sessions of psychotherapy per person,” Dr. Wolfson said.

This trial is organized and privately funded by MAPS, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, based in Santa Cruz.

Veva Edelson is a breast cancer survivor who has suffered from debilitating anxiety and depression ever since the cancer went into remission.

“I would wake up in the morning and just feel like a sense of dread, and I would think, ‘How am I going to make it through this day?’” Edelson said.

To control the fear of the cancer returning, she tried different prescription drugs and natural remedies.

Nothing was working so she signed up for this study.

“I really think it helped, it helped me to have more acceptance for things that have happened in my life, and I have more empathy for myself and others,” Edelson said.

Julane Andries is co-therapist of this clinical trial. She said the MDMA helps people open up who otherwise might not.

“Your depression, your anxiety, you can talk about that, you can talk about what happened to you in childhood, without feeling fear and shame,” Andries said.

Andries and Dr. Wolfson said all 18 of the subjects taking part in the study have benefited by the MDMA-assisted therapy without any side effects.

However, they don’t want people who are suffering and have not found relief with prescription drugs to hear that and then seek out illegal street ecstasy, or molly, or any other psychedelic drug and self-medicate because you don’t know what you’re getting.

Researchers admit these drugs can be dangerous, but they believe the data will show if MDMA is taken safely under a doctor’s care, it has the potential to change the way mental disorders are treated.

This phase of the clinical trial is wrapping up next month and will begin the final phase in the summer.

The researchers say that will be the last hurdle before MDMA could become legal for medical use.

And they hope that will happen in 2021.


Book – A REALLY GOOD DAY by Ayelet Waldman –

A revealing, courageous, fascinating and funny account of the author’s experiment with microdoses of LSD in an effort to treat a debilitating mood disorder, of her quest to understand a misunderstood drug, and of her search for a really good day –

MAPS – Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies – Founded in 1986, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit research and educational organization that develops medical, legal, and cultural contexts for people to benefit from the careful uses of psychedelics and marijuana     –

MAPS – Psychedelic Conference April 19-24, 2017 — Oakland, California At Psychedelic Science 2017, the international scientific community will come together to share and discover new research into the benefits and risks of MDMA, LSD, psilocybin, ayahuasca, ketamine, ibogaine, medical marijuana, and more.

Book – The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide

Dr. James Fadiman –  &


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