MAPS board member & psychedelic therapist allegedly took millions from a Holocaust survivor, highlighting worries about elders taking hallucinogens

Stat News reports…

He made a new life for himself in California. After surviving the Holocaust and growing up under Hungarian fascism and Russia’s communist regime, George Sarlo arrived in the United States as an 18-year-old refugee. Over the decades, he became a wealthy venture capitalist and philanthropist, and from the outside, looked like someone who’d overcome the horrors of history to achieve success.

Inwardly, though, he suffered from depression and struggled to make sense of his childhood. About a decade ago, he discovered psychedelics, starting with ayahuasca and moving on to MDMA, psilocybin (the active compound in magic mushrooms), and ketamine. The hallucinogenic experiences gave him a deep sense of closure over some of his early emotional wounds and gratitude for his life since, which made him a prominent advocate for using these drugs to treat psychological trauma.

The relief didn’t last. On a trip to Hawaii last year, Sarlo was in deep despair. He was joined part of the time by his longtime companion and personal assistant Vicky Dulai, 46. A trained psychedelic therapist, she helped oversee his use of the drugs, according to court records, which also say their relationship was romantic. When Sarlo, now in his 80s, repeatedly expressed suicidal thoughts, Dulai allegedly offered to help him end his life.


Vicky Dulai, Board of Directors

A friend overheard this conversation and warned Sarlo’s family that his life was in danger, according to a lawsuit filed in May 2021, which also alleges Dulai exploited her relationship with Sarlo to take more than $4 million from him.

“It’s a whole new frightening possibility of elder abuse,” Donovan Maust, a geriatric psychiatrist and health services researcher at the Michigan Medicine Department of Psychiatry, said about the risks faced by older people treated with psychedelics.

Dulai maintains in court documents that she received the money from Sarlo as gifts and that she was always working to help and protect him. The filings do not address the claim in the lawsuit that she offered to help end his life, and Dulai’s lawyer did not respond to questions about it.

The allegations against Dulai are especially noteworthy because she is a board member of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a leading proponent of legalizing psychedelics as medicine. The nonprofit is at the forefront of clinical research into psychedelics, sponsoring and running several studies, including Phase 3 trials of MDMA combined with therapy as treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder — the most advanced research on any Schedule I psychedelic drug. If MAPS research continues to produce strong results, the drug is expected to be legalized as a PTSD treatment in the coming years.

Dulai remains on the board, and MAPS has taken no public steps to distance itself from her alleged actions. In a statement, MAPS spokesperson Betty Aldworth said the organization did not investigate the accusations against Dulai because no credible claims had been made.

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A psychedelic therapist allegedly took millions from a Holocaust survivor, highlighting worries about elders taking hallucinogens

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