MDMA-assisted therapy treatment approved for new mothers battling opioid addiction in NM

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ALBUQUERQUE – The opioid epidemic continues to impact communities in New Mexico. Many people struggle with drug addiction, including mothers who are battling postpartum depression.

But a new study could help those with opioid use disorder and PTSD.

A team of health professionals will soon be working out of UNM Hospital’s ISUBI Center to study the use of MDMA-Assisted Therapy.

Led by UNM Medical Director for the Milagro Program, Larry Leeman, it’s the first pilot study in the world that looks at assisted therapy for people who had a childbirth within the last six to 12 months.

“We are one of the epicenters of the opioid epidemic. We know that our communities often have collective intergenerational trauma here and most of the research that’s happening in psychedelic assisted therapy has happened in John Hopkins, it happens in Yale, it happens in different places. This is the first study and it’s happening here in New Mexico,” Dr. Leeman says.

The new therapy study was recently approved by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration last week.

While it’s often misrepresented and sold on the streets as “ecstasy” or “molly”, MDMA in this study is being done using a pharmaceutical-grade pure drug.

“It’s a psychedelic type of drug that is different from classical psychedelics, such as psilocybin in that it really focuses on opening people up to be able to process their trauma,” says Leeman.

“Our hope for using MDMA-assisted therapy is to treat that trauma, decrease the likelihood of using opioids again and kind of help set up the mother and the baby and the family for a life that really what everybody who’s using opioids wants, which is not to be using and to be able to be there and be fully present for their babies.”

Among those who will be part of this research is nurse-midwife and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, Ariele Bauers.

“We’re hoping to be able to show this is a viable treatment option and that this is like a beautiful way to help people kind of launch on their journey into parenthood, and just disrupt kind of the harms that have happen to them in the past,” says Bauers.       

Bauers has worked with people who are pregnant and who are parenting young children who have substance abuse disorders and other types of addiction.

A total of 15 people will be part of this study, which begins in November.

There will be three MDMA therapy sessions that will happen about a month apart.

Leeman emphasized while the drug itself does not treat PTSD, he thinks the drug is assisting the therapy, so calling it MDMA-assisted therapy allows his team to help in a therapeutic way. He says this treatment is really a trauma-based therapy.

People who want to learn more about this work can visit this link.