Pure Curiosity: Natalie Ginsberg on MDMA Assisted Psychotherapy, Psychedelics & a New Paradigm of Medicine

When most people hear the term “psychedelic” it tends to conjure up images of tie dye and Woodstock at best, and people winding up homeless or losing their minds at worst. The media backlash after the 60’s, and the war on drugs did a great job distorting the public’s conception of these substances. What if I told you that despite what you’ve heard, psychedelics may be the world’s most powerful tool for healing trauma and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder? That over 60% of people could be completely PTSD free after just 3 sessions?

The research being done at the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is showing us just that. MDMA assisted psychotherapy is now in Phase III trials with the FDA with unprecedented success rates for PTSD. Research for other conditions and substances are currently underway, and we have reason to believe that the effectiveness of these medicines will blow traditional pharmaceuticals out of the water. Natalie Ginsberg, the director of Policy & Advocacy for MAPS joins us for an in-depth look at the research currently being done, and what we can expect to see in the future.

I’ve personally benefited from psychedelic medicine more than I can express. They can be extremely intense, especially if you’ve experienced trauma, so I DO NOT recommend doing them without supervision from someone experienced. Do your research! If you’re curious to read something I wrote during an intentional MDMA ceremony a while back (read: not at a rave), I’ve posted my journal entry below. That one session freed me from old thoughts and beliefs about myself I had been struggling with for years. After 5 hours of “treatment,” they lifted. It’s hard to argue with that.

About Our Guest:

Natalie is the Policy & Advocacy Director at MAPS, where she advocates for psychedelic research to provide evidence-based alternatives to both the war on drugs and the current mental health paradigm. Natalie earned her Master’s in Social Work from Columbia University, and her Bachelor’s in History from Yale University. Before arriving at MAPS in 2014, Natalie served as a Policy Fellow at the Drug Policy Alliance, where she helped legalize medical cannabis in her home state of New York, and worked to end New York’s racist marijuana arrests.

Natalie has also worked as a therapist at an alternative-sentencing court with individuals arrested for prostitution and drug-related offenses, and as a guidance counselor at Bronx middle school. Natalie is passionate about psychedelic therapy because it works by addressing the root causes of trauma, rather than only targeting its symptoms. Natalie is particularly interested in psychedelics’ abilities to heal intergenerational trauma, as trauma is created and compounded by social and political marginalization. Towards this end, Natalie is codeveloping a study examining psychedelics’ potential role in community conflict resolution and restorative justice.

To learn more about MAPS go to MAPS.org.

Read few of Natalie’s recent articles:

Psychedelics and the Trauma of Daily Injustice

R/evolutionary Medicine: Psychedelics, Trauma, and the Pharmaceutical Industry

Follow Natalie on Instagram.

My MDMA Journey:

It’s hard to describe what I’m feeling right now, other than clarity. I spend most of my life trapped in my head, cut off from my body and feelings. I can see how I wear it. It comes out through my skin, and it gathers on my stomach, arms, butt and thighs. It’s simultaneously mine and not. I carry it. The weight I feel from my past. The pressure I place on my future. It leaves me without a present. The weight of the two squeezes every last bit of the moment in between them. I feel trapped by it.

As I breathe and relax my muscles, I feel grateful to my body. I put it through so much for so long. Binging and purging so often for so many years. Even now with my drinking and overeating. The indulgence that leaves me without pleasure. It is a poor man’s alternative for what I am experiencing right now. I sell out for cheap thrills as often as I can.

But that is not the life I’m creating. In this moment I see how strong my desire is to free people from this prison I slip into–that we all slip into. Nothing we think matters really matters. Money, fame, flashy things. They’re nice, don’t get me wrong, but there’s no heart in that. I am creating a life my heart is in, and where my wealth is purely a reflection of how open my heart is, how many lives I’m transforming, and how big my love gets. A generous life, where what I’m bringing in is outweighed only by the love I’m pouring out. I have infinite love to give. We all do.

I can see how much I punish myself. In this moment, I’m not really sure what I’m punishing myself for. There’s still a part of me that thinks I’m bad. Just fundamentally bad. That I don’t deserve good things. I don’t get to be successful. That’s only for good people. I feel that heaviness in my chest as I write this. Like a lead collar. It’s so heavy.

I feel the collar loosening as I realize how good the people in my life are. My friends are truly extraordinary. These people choose to be in my world, and love me. I bring that in because I am a good, loving person. It is not a coincidence. I am not just lucky. And I am so fortunate.

I was going to say I have a lot of work to do, but really I just have a lot of love to give. More of myself to bring into the light. More of myself to share. The more of myself I share, the more of me there is. I feel the expansiveness that I am calling into being. I am willing to be that big. I am willing to be seen. I am willing to be loved. I am willing to be hurt. I am willing to be devastated. I am willing to feel tremendous joy. I invite it all. That is who I am. I am the space for these things to arise and pass. The more I allow, the more will come.

I can see how much I don’t allow. Not yet. Not yet. Not yet. Too fast. Too fast. Too fast. It’s just like how I came into this world–induced and cut out before I was ready to emerge. That is my karmic debt. I must go before I’m ready. I must be seen before I’m prepared. I will probably never feel ready, but I was born ready. Perfect. Whole. Complete. All of us are.

In that old paradigm no one is ever really ready for anything. We pop out of the womb, and it’s going. It’s all already happening. No time to catch up, or take a breath. The clock’s been ticking all along. It’s silly to imagine there’s ever a moment where we can catch up. It’s all already happening, and it’s always been happening, and it will always happen. Right now. I can catch up right now. And again right now. I see how much I try to grab on to it. Like “If I can just hold on to something for a while, I can catch my breath. I’ll have some time to feel situated. Then I’ll be ready.” This, of course, never happens. I can’t stop time.

I’ve been talking to my therapist recently about how I’ve been longing for so many years to feel this feeling of “home.” It never feels quite like home and I want it to. I think what I’ve really been wanting is to feel situated in time. I don’t. I don’t understand time. What I’m seeing now is that once again, the only time I can feel situated and at home is now. And then now. And then now. Time stops for no one, but I can inhabit the moment. How can I feel at home if I’m not inhabiting the moment? Impossible.

Living in the moment requires a lot of movement. That’s where the challenge is. It’s like trying to jump into a moving car over and over again. I still have yet to learn how to do that without it feeling like work. How do you surrender and allow for it? Maybe that’s why I’m so tired all the time. I’m chasing, and then resisting. Chasing and resisting. Not a lot of room for vitality left in that.

Today I feel myself shaking off old beliefs. Old pains. Stifled energy. I am stepping into something new, beautiful and exciting. I am grateful. I am very grateful.

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