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WHV & VA Webinar – Psychedelic Therapy for End-of-Life Distress: Potentials and Pitfalls

February 8, 2023 @ 3:00 pm 4:30 pm EST

After decades in which research into the potential medical applications of “psychedelic medicines” such as psilocybin and MDMA were limited by their Schedule I status, interest in these compounds has intensified in recent years among lay people and health care professionals alike.  Early small-scale studies suggested that these agents may offer greater treatment benefits in certain disorders than currently available therapies. Psilocybin, a “classic psychedelic” agent, was accorded Breakthrough Therapy status for major depressive disorder and treatment-resistant depression, while MDMA which shares partially overlapping effects with psychostimulants and classic psychedelics, was granted Breakthrough Therapy designation for PTSD. 

Importantly, the reported benefits of these agents resulted not from stand-alone treatment, but from a highly structured regimen of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy that may be costly and difficult to scale up if these compounds are ultimately approved for medical use.  Additionally, study findings were obtained in a relatively small number of subjects that may not be representative of the broader population.  It is unknown whether individuals with a broad range of mental and physical health conditions, and people from underrepresented populations will receive the same benefits and safety profiles reported in existing studies of psychedelic medicines. Finally, it is unknown how therapeutic benefits and safety profiles of these medicines will be affected by cost-saving attempts to reduce therapy hours, or by medical use of these agents outside the structured psychotherapy paradigm used in most of the available studies. 

Learning objectives include:

  • Describe elements of the most widely studied modality of psychedelic-assisted therapy, including set and setting, preparation, administration, and integration 
  • Identify rationale for potential use of psychedelic-assisted therapy in people with end-of-life distress 
  • Discuss current evidence base for psilocybin-assisted therapy near the end of life, including limitations of existing data and potential benefits and risks  
  • Compare and contrast psilocybin- and MDMA-assisted therapy 
  • Describe expected competencies for psychedelic therapists 

Register for no CE credits here

Register for CE credits here

CEs provided to those who pre-register through VHA TRAIN, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ continuing education system. You can also register here for the February 8 webinar.


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