DEA approves study using MDMA for anxiety in seriously ill patients

Henry Riley (CC BY 2.0)

Henry Riley (CC BY 2.0)

Amid growing support for the therapeutic use of psychedelics, the DEA has approved a clinical trial that uses MDMA to treat anxiety.

Renee Lewis has the story at Al Jazeera:

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has approved the first clinical trial using MDMA along with psychotherapy to treat anxiety among people with life-threatening illnesses, researchers told Al Jazeera on Tuesday, adding that public support for the therapeutic use of psychedelic drugs is rapidly growing.

“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.”

Continue reading.