The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has approved the first clinical trial of MDMA being used to treat patients with debilitating anxiety due to terminal illness, highlighting a changing attitude toward using psychedelic drug therapy on those with severe nervous disorders.
Communications Director Brad Burge at the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) tells Al Jazeera America that the trial will test 18 subjects, each with proven life-threatening illnesses, in a non-hospital setting. The sessions will be monitored by on-site therapists to offer “support and conversation” to the patients. By pairing the drug with psychotherapy, MAPS hopes that the month-long trial will prove to lessen patients’ anxiety symptoms associated with being terminally ill and create opportunity for more studies and trials to be conducted with psychedelic drugs. He explains that the trial is part of a larger $20 million plan to make MDMA an FDA-approved prescription medicine by 2021.
This trial is one of many that MAPS has overseen, including MDMA testing with sufferers of PTSD in addition to studies with LSD, Psilocybin (“magic mushrooms”), and the plant-based brew Ayahuasca, to lessen the symptoms associated with mental illnesses. A similar trial, brought to light by Vice earlier this year, studied the dissociative drug Ketamine and its effectiveness as an antidepressant.
It is the ultimate hope of MAPS that trials like these will prove the therapeutic quality of MDMA and other psychedelic drugs. Burge remains convinced that this is what “really good science shows, despite decades of propaganda and government misinformation.”