For many years, psychotherapy has been used to treat anxiety in people suffering from life-threatening illnesses. Now, it has a new partner in that fight: MDMA. A new trial in Marin, California, approved by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), has both public and official backing. This follows on from studies which suggest that suicidal thoughts and psychological distress can be reduced by using drugs like LSD and psilocybin.
According to Brad Burge of the California-based Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies institute (MAPS), the public is becoming increasingly comfortable with the use of drugs like MDMA in research. To underline this, he points to the strong growth in public support for the use of medical marijuana.
The basics of MDMA
MDMA works by creating feelings of euphoria, empathy, trust and calmness. The dangers of street MDMA – better known as Ecstasy – come largely from the unknown, dangerous substances added to it by illegal dealers. MAPS claims that pure MDMA, in limited doses, doesn’t have this problem. And unlike drugs such as LSD and magic mushrooms, hallucinations aren’t a risk, meaning MDMA can be given in a psychologist’s office – with a therapist present in a supporting role – rather than a hospital.
About the study
The trial, which will last some months, will involve 18 patients to determine the affect of MDMA on their anxiety levels. Burge hopes that this will make the patients less fearful and more comfortable, allowing them to open up about their emotions.
This first study will concentrate on how safe and effective MDMA treatment may be. If it’s a success, MAPS wants to extend its research. The ultimate aim is to have FDA approval for prescription MDMA in six year’s time. Early trials of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy have shown good results, especially when treating people with post-traumatic stress disorder. This has helped to increase respect for MDMA treatment among scientists, which coincides with the increased use of other taboo drugs in medicine – the institute previously investigated the treatment of cluster headaches using LSD and psilocybin as an aid in quitting smoking.
According to researchers like Burge, there’s now a lot of evidence showing the treatment value of psychedelic substances. The idea that these drugs have no useful value and can do nothing other than ruin people’s minds is becoming outdated.