Physicians across the United States could soon be prescribing MDMA, a methamphetamine-based psychedelic drug, to terminal patients suffering from severe anxiety. Researchers learned last week that they have been given a green light by the Drug Enforcement Administration to launch a clinical trial for MDMA in an effort to size up the drug’s potential in assisting patients with life-threatening conditions come to grips with their end of life.
The study is being sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a non-profit group fighting for advancements in research pertaining to the medicinal use of psychedelics and marijuana. Earlier last year, the organization, along with Dr. Sue Sisley, earned approval to begin studying the effects of marijuana on veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, a process that reportedly took three years to come to fruition.
The idea that MDMA has a medicinal benefit has been just as difficult to sell to the federal government.
At one time, the drug, sometimes mistaken for Molly, was determined to have “safe and accepted medical use” by the DEA’s chief administrative law judge, Francis Young, who recommended the drug be downgraded from its Schedule I classification to a Schedule III. Unfortunately, this did not fly with DEA administrator John Lawn. He argued the judge’s recommendation had no validity because the drug had not been approved by the FDA and later determined that MDMA would remain in its Schedule I classification indefinitely.
A federal circuit court judge later overturned Lawn’s argument by prohibiting the DEA from using the excuse of “lack of FDA approval” as a reason to maintain MDMA’s Schedule I status. Despite this backlash, Lawn announced that after reevaluating the evidence surrounding the drug, he believed it should remain a Schedule I controlled substance. That was nearly 20 years ago.
Fortunately, this has not prevented science from exploring the medicinal benefits of the psychedelic substance. The folks at MAPS have studied the drug for over the past decade as a potential treatment for post traumatic stress disorder, even while the federal government has become increasingly hell bent on imposing stricter penalties on those who distribute and possess the drug.
The success of the 2010 MDMA/PTSD study, which indicated the drug eased the symptoms of PTSD in 83 percent of the participants, is ultimately what facilitated the regulatory approval for the group’s latest investigation.
The new study, which will consist of 18 patients with terminal conditions, is set to take place in Marin, California, where lead researcher Dr. Philip Wolfson will conduct months of psychotherapy sessions with the use of MDMA. The goal is to discover how the drug can best be used to elevate a person’s quality of life at a time when death is imminent.
MAPS communications director Brad Burge said this research is all part of a $20 million master plan to bring MDMA to the pharmaceutical market by 2021.