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DEA Approves Ecstasy For Anxiety, MDMA Trials Begin In California

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has approved the first clinical trial of MDMA to treat anxiety and other psychological illnesses, amid a growing resurgence in therapeutic psychedelic drug usage in the medical community.  

Aljazeera.com reports:

“The tide has changed for psychedelic research,” said Brad Burge, the communications director for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a California-based nonprofit research group that studies medicinal uses for psychedelics and marijuana and is sponsoring the study. The DEA approved the project on Friday, he said.

Unlike Ecstasy or Molly — names for MDMA sold on the street and often mixed with dangerous adulterants — pure MDMA has been proved “sufficiently safe” when taken a limited number of times in moderate doses, MAPS says on its website. The DEA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

MDMA can be useful in psychotherapy for people suffering from anxiety due to life-threatening illnesses because it produces in users a sense of calm, trust and confidence, Burge said. Unlike psychedelics such as LSD and psilocybin, MDMA does not produce hallucinations, he added.

The clinical trial will be held in Marin, California, in a psychologist’s office, as opposed to a hospital setting, Burge said. The patients will lie on a couch with a therapist nearby for support and conversation.

In the trial, 18 subjects diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses will attend months of psychotherapy, with MDMA being used in a few sessions in order to facilitate the process, he said. The outcome will be measured by whether using the psychedelic helps reduce people’s anxiety, which will be determined at the end of the sessions by the patient’s feedback and the therapist’s assessments.

Researchers hope that using MDMA alongside psychotherapy will let subjects confront their situation more clearly and allow the positive steps they take during the therapy to “stick,” Burge said. “It opens them up and makes them more comfortable with the therapist while reducing fear and making them more able to talk about difficult emotions.”

If the pilot is successful, MAPS plans to continue with further studies involving more subjects and different approaches. For now, researchers hope to establish basic safety and effectiveness, he said.

The trial is part of a larger $20 million plan to make MDMA an FDA-approved prescription medicine by 2021, Burge said. MAPS is the only organization in the world funding MDMA-assisted psychotherapy trials, he added.

The institute has carried out successful pilot studies of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for post-traumatic stress disorder, adding to the drug’s scientific credibility, he said. Other research by the institute includes ayahuasca-assisted therapy for drug addiction, LSD for cluster headaches and psilocybin for nicotine addiction.

Researchers hope to back up growing evidence that psychedelics have legitimate therapeutic uses — and to counter the narrative that has demonized them as mind-destroying drugs.

“That’s what the really good science shows, despite decades of propaganda and government misinformation,” Burge said. “Just a couple weeks ago, a phenomenal study showed that there are no long-term associations between psychedelic use and mental illnesses.”

That study was published this month in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. In addition, a recent report by Johns Hopkins Medicine, a leading U.S. medical institution combining the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Johns Hopkins Hospital, showed that the use of psychedelic drugs — primarily psilocybin and LSD — could reduce psychological distress and suicidal thinking.

  • amanda

    why would the ‘DEA’ have anything to do with a decision like this. Wouldn’t it be the FDA?

    • FirstNameTynan

      Drug Enforcement Agency. The drugs being used in this study isn’t legal stuff lol

  • withheld

    MDMA absolutely can and does produce hallucinations. Just want to clear that up. But this is definitely headed in the right direction. http://mentalhealthdaily.com/2014/03/21/does-ecstasy-mdma-make-you-hallucinate-evidence-suggests-that-it-could/

    • seeker

      You have had medical grade MDMA and hallucinated? Just wondering.

      • withheld

        Actually. Yes.

    • chris oldfield

      iv never once had a hallucination or heard any friends report tripping from pure MDMA maybe pills but more to do with ketamine or another mixes – at best your eyes loose focus making things look softer…

    • Marta David

      Of course you can get hallucinations if you abuse of MDMA and take a too big doses. If you know properly how much MDMA your body can assume and you don’t over-take, if you don’t take it every weekend but let 4-6 weeks pass, no hallucinations. It’s the abuse by people, not the substance!

      • withheld

        I’m not saying hallucinations are a bad thing – and I think you’re way off with your comment that abuse of it would produce them. It’s simply not true that they don’t have that affect.

      • somefellayano

        The hallucinations when you smoke it with weed are fucked hahaha

  • ANEKi

    It’s only taken about 50 FUCKING YEARS.

  • michael

    Why do articles about MDMA always use dumb-ass stereotypical pictures like this? If you want to help change public opinion of MDMA as more than just a ‘party drug’ then pictures like this don’t help.

  • pollychrome

    This picture is ENTIRELY misrepresentative of the subject. It only stands to reinforce that MDMA is purely a “party drug” without legitimate uses. So it undermines the entire story.

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  • midnightrider

    I wonder how true this is. The DEA would not be an agency to perform drug trials of any kind. The FDA maybe but the drug would have to be commercially produced and then all appropriate safety studies completed before any clinical trial would be performed.

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