Scientists in California are testing whether the pure form of the drug ecstasy, also known as MDMA, could help people suffering from social anxiety. Currently, the tests are being carried out on terminally ill patients suffering from diseases such as cancer as well as patients expected to live at least 9 months.
Patients suffering from PTSD will participate in a double-blind trial over the course of the next year in Santa Cruz, as reported by the Daily Mail, and the subjects will be randomly given either a full 125 milligram dose of MDMA or a 30 milligram “active placebo” dose. Those ple receiving the full dose are later provided with the option of taking another half-dose, 62.5 milligrams, as a part of the same session, whereas patients who have received the placebo are eligible to re-enter the trial.
Dr. Burge, spokesman for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies in Santa Cruz, believes that the trials with lower doses of MDMA might help both patients as well as therapists during the therapy sessions.
Our hypothesis is that something is happening with MDMA that makes psychotherapy easier. So with a lower dose of MDMA in the active placebo, it might fool the subject or the therapist. And by giving people the option of following up with another half dose, it just extends the window for therapy rather than making it more intense.
Dr. Philip Wolfson, the trial’s principal, said that the MDMA lasts from four to five hours and can be “transformationally potent” when used under controlled settings and in the presence of trained therapists.
It’s a substance that supports deep, meaningful and rapidly effective psychotherapy.
Similar testing, which started over a year ago, is underway for adults with autism. Since MDMA is known to boost confidence, increase the understanding of social cues and heighten bonding, it could ease the main symptoms of social anxiety. According to the Daily News, the lead researcher behind the study, Alicia Danforth, clarified in saying that they’re not actually trying to find a “cure” for autism. Instead they are trying to find data regarding the effects of MDMA on social anxiety.
That’s really hard for people to wrap their minds around. It’s not another quack treatment for autism.
Danforth also indicated that the study is urgent in light of only a few treatment options in existence for adult autism. She also adds that traditional medicine has not proven to work as effectively.
The choice to use MDMA is based on the fact that, unlike “ecstasy” or “molly,” it is a pure form of the drug. The so-called street versions — ecstasy pills, sometimes stylized as “XTC” — can contain less than 20 percent MDMA and have proven to be harmful. The pure form rarely has serious effects when studied in a laboratory environment.
The participants were found by screening people with autism; the researchers found 12 subjects over the age of 21 but are still recruiting. Participants attend preparatory therapy sessions in order to prepare the patients for the expected “shift in consciousness” induced by the drugs consumption. Eight of the subjects are to be given MDMA whilst the other four are to receive placebos. The tightly monitored sessions are scheduled to occur twice a month.
According to the study, which was published in the journal Progress and Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, researchers involved in various studies have examined MDMA’s effects on 1133 people over the last century and the psychoactive drug has been found to have few negative effects while helping those afflicted with various anxiety-related health issues.
The long term aim of the research is to decriminalize MDMA and to convince the U.S. federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of its benefits. However, at the moment, the study is mainly concerned with the safety of MDMA and currently recommends the drug only as a treatment for social anxiety.
According to Dr. Burge, the federal agency monitoring the research has certified the security infrastructure of the clinic, however, the FDA has stated that U.S. regulations and the FDA prohibit the agency from disclosing any information on the drugs being developed or studied. The DEA has declined to comment.
Results of the study are expected within 12 to 15 months.
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