DEA Approves MDMA Study for People with Life-Threatening Illnesses

By Victoria Kim 03/26/15

The trial could pave the way toward using psychedelics for therapeutic use.

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The first clinical trial to test MDMA-assisted psychotherapy was approved by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) this month, Al Jazeera reports.

"MDMA can be useful in psychotherapy, especially for people suffering from anxiety due to life-threatening illnesses, because it produces a sense of calm, trust, and confidence," said Brad Burge, communications director for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) which is sponsoring the study.

The clinical trial will study 18 subjects diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses, who will attend months of psychotherapy. MDMA will be used in some sessions.

“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,” said Burge.

If successful, the trial will add to growing evidence that psychedelics have legitimate therapeutic uses. Previous studies, also funded by MAPS, have tested MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for post-traumatic stress disorder, ayahuasca-assisted therapy for drug addiction, LSD for cluster headaches, and psilocybin for nicotine addiction.

This is all in an effort to challenge the decades of propaganda and government misinformation that has long demonized psychedelics as mind-destroying drugs, said Burge.

If the trial is successful, MAPS plans to continue with further studies, different approaches, and more subjects. This trial is part of a plan to make MDMA an FDA-approved prescription medicine by 2021.

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