Rick Doblin

Redefining psychedelics

2 minute read

When Rick Doblin, 70, was in his 20s, he had a dream that changed not only his life, but also—in a roundabout way—the trajectory of U.S. public health. Doblin awoke believing psychedelic drugs would be an antidote to the traumas of the world. Decades later, he’s close to making that a reality.

In 1986, Doblin founded the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) to convince the medical establishment that MDMA—otherwise known as ecstasy—has a place in mental-health care thanks to its ability to help people open up and process trauma. Now, 38 years later, Lykos Therapeutics, a drug-development company born from decades of MAPS research and advocacy, has asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve the drug as a PTSD treatment, potentially making it the first psychedelic approved for medical use. The agency is expected to decide as soon as August. “I never want to celebrate too soon,” says Doblin, who’s president of MAPS, but he’s optimistic that approval is coming.

“I feel incredibly lucky to see the change that I’ve been working for happen in my own lifetime,” Doblin says. “I can die happy, whenever that comes around.”

But that’s not to say Doblin is going anywhere. The anticipated FDA approval of MDMA is only a stepping stone toward his ultimate goal: pushing for countries around the world to accept psychedelics as the powerful mental-health treatments research has shown them to be.

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Write to Jamie Ducharme at jamie.ducharme@time.com