For the past half decade, the Academy of Integrative Pain Management (AIPM) has carried the policy mantle for integrative pain treatment into ever more influential places. The beacons were the 2017 and 2018 Integrative Pain Care Policy Congress. The most recent convened 70 stakeholder organizations, including key payers and federal agencies. On January 29, 2019, AIPM announced that it has ceased operations. Amidst the present opportunities for transforming pain treatment, the integrative pain field lost its engine. Oddly, the very challenges to the pharma industry in the center of the dominant pain model were part of AIPM’s undoing.
The January 23, 2019 press release did not mention that that date is celebrated annually as International Integrative Health Day. Yet the announcement from the Integrative Health Policy Consortium (IHPC) on new bipartisan political action is potentially one of the field’s most powerful enduring boosts. The US Congress’ Integrative Health and Wellness Caucus has been re-booted with two new co-chairs strongly committed to integrative approaches to pain management: Judy Chu (D-CA) and Jackie Walorski (R-IN). An interview with the integrative health lobbyist closest to the action, IHPC government affairs director Kallie Guimond underscores the opportunity for bi-partisan action.
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.)