Author Michael Pollan’s powerful 2015 New Yorker essay “The Trip Treatment” suggested that a book was coming, as it did with last year’s best seller: How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression and Transcendence. Pollan’s essay also suggested that a companion book might be needed: How to Change the Psychotherapy Industry. Long-term value from 1-3 doses of these agents presents its challenges for both the manufacturers of competing pharmaceuticals and also for clinicians accustomed to banking on long-term treatment processes. So when I learned that integrative psychiatrist Scott Shannon, MD is part of the Phase III trial of MDMA – the pharmaceutical version of the street drug known as “Ecstasy” or “Molly” – I reached him to learn more about this “medication-assisted psychotherapy” and the impact he anticipates MDMA will have on his field.
He is known as “Ambassador” for his work as US President Jimmy Carter’s United Nations Ambassador from the United States. He is “Congressman” as Georgia’s first, post-Reconstruction, black member of the US House of Representatives. He is “Mayor” for his two terms in the 1980s guiding Atlanta into prominence as an international city. Those with longer memories will know him as “Reverend” and as “Executive Director” with the influential Southern Christian Leadership Conference when in the 1960s he gained prominence nationally as a close friend and colleague of Martin Luther King, Jr. Few know that this same individual, Andrew Young, presently 86-years-old, is now exerting his influence as an ambassador and advocate for traditional African medicine – and, in particular, for a Senegalese-based, global scientific and educational institute devoted to that work, PROMETRA International-Promoting Traditional Medicine. (Note: This article is a first in a series exploring the intersection of integrative health and global traditional medicine, with a focus in Africa on the work of PROMETRA.)
Nancy Sudak, MD became known nationally as a leader in the board certification of integrative holistic medical doctors and then as the founding executive director of the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM). In these roles, Sudak knew the challenges of sustainability for integrative medicine models in large delivery organizations. So when she left AIHM, she developed an opportunity in a large upper Midwest system to create and prove an model. Now, two years plus into her experiment that is now a growing enterprise, Sudak has strategies to share in what she continues to view as a way to “normalize” the delivery of integrative medicine as a consultative practice in a large delivery organization.
The January 2019 newsletter from the Integrative Health Policy Consortium (IHPC) led off with a call to action. A 90 day comment period is open on the new HHS Draft Report on Pain Management Best Practices: Updates, Gaps, Inconsistencies and Recommendations. I read the document with an eye to its inclusion of “complementary”, “integrative”, and “non-pharmacologic”approaches (including a 3-page section on “Complementary and Integrative Health”) and any specific reference to related practices and practitioners. The document offers remarkable signs both of how far these have penetrated pain policy strategy and of their absence in key action steps. Changes in these would be optimal for the final report. This article is a guide to inclusion and offers suggestions for how the integrative health community might register comments to advance best practices in pain treatment that will help get the opioid money off our collective backs. Public comments are due March 28, 2019.