Breakthrough: MDMA Has Been Approved For Clinical Trials
2 min

Breakthrough: MDMA Has Been Approved For Clinical Trials

2 min
News Research
DEA gives MDMA the greenlight for use in clinical trials to treat anxiety.

In another huge leap forward, MAPS has secured the DEA’s approval for the use of MDMA in a clinical trial to treat anxiety caused by terminal illness.

When it comes to MDMA, most people see a party drug that can be found through festivals across the globe, and dealt by shady dealers thanks to its illicit status. However, the feelings of euphoria and empathy this drug can induce have more than a recreational application, with many now believing MDMA can be successfully used as a part of therapy.

It is the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), currently leading the way in this. To date, they have conducted six experiments into the therapeutic use of MDMA, covering all kinds of applications – such as treating PTSD and training therapists to actually use MDMA as part of their therapy. They are now planning to conduct clinical trials into the use of MDMA in the treatment for the anxiety caused by terminal illness, and they have just secured the DEA’s approval to do so. What’s more, if the trial is successful, they will have a strong case to put forward to the FDA for the therapeutic legalisation of MDMA, which could see the process of it becoming a mainstream treatment beginning as soon as 2017.

It is a big step forward to finally reaching a point where MDMA can actually be put to good use, and outlines clear goals for its potential implementation as a recognised medicine.


The clinical trial itself will be conducted using 18 participants that have all been diagnosed with a terminal illness, have a life expectancy of less than nine months, and have developed associated anxiety to go with it. Five of the subjects will be randomly assigned a placebo, whilst the rest will receive a dose of 125mg of MDMA, to be used in conjunction with psychotherapy. And we are talking about pure, lab made stuff here, not the molly or XTC you can buy on the street – that often doesn't even contain any MDMA at all! As an act of fairness (and potential compassion), those who are assigned the placebo will also receive MDMA during the second phase of the trial.


One of the biggest criticism of MDMA as a treatment for anxiety is that MDMA is known to potentially induce anxiety itself, with particularly strong doses often catching the blame. However, according to Brad Burge, director of communications for MAPS, it is all about intention and setting. "It's not so much anxiety that MDMA produces but rather arousal. When that arousal comes about in an unsafe situation, such as outside of therapy, or in a recreational context it may be experienced as anxiety. But in the context of psychotherapy, that arousal may be experienced as a form of fear but also excitement and tension that comes with MDMA. So that anxiety can be used productively to assist the therapeutic process."

Of course, for many, there is no anxiety at all – or at least, what they would consider anxiety. The feeling of elation and empathy can be a great way of breaking negative thought patterns (under guidance), and help people better understand themselves, as well as come to terms with their situation. We wish MAPS the best of luck in their endeavours.

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