If you're familiar with MDMA, otherwise known as the drug ecstasy, you wouldn't be surprised to find it at a rave, house party or a jam band concert, but in California the psychedelic amphetamine is currently being found in another type of venue altogether—at a research center, for the purpose of testing out how it can aid people with autism.
Researchers at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute (LA BioMed) in partnership with the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) are conducting a clinical trial to observe the effects of MDMA on those affected by autism—namely, if the drug can aid in mitigating the crippling anxiety many people with autism suffer from.
The clinical trial itself is simple enough to understand: a select group of autistic adults will take small doses of the drug, which is known for creating a euphoric, energized sensation when imbibed by users, in a safe, controlled environment, where scientists will then study the overall effects on their social skills. The drug is also known by street names of Ecstacy and Molly.
"We know we need new supportive treatments, and we have anecdotal evidence that autistic adults who had experimented with MDMA experienced a reduction in anxiety and an increased confidence in their abilities to interact socially," said Charles Grob, a psychiatrist and one of the leading players of the clinical trial in an official press release issued by MAPS. "We also have been impressed with the results of other MAPS-sponsored MDMA-assisted psychotherapy research, which has demonstrated clinical improvement in patients with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)."
The researchers are also quick to emphasize that the clinical trial is in place to explore possible coping aids for autistic adults.
"This is not about 'treating autism.' I am bored of sensationalist headlines that scream 'CAN ESCTASY CURE AUTISM,' " said Alicia Danforth, a registered psychologist at LA BioMed, in an interview with Motherboard.
"This was a collaboration that was informed from the bottom up," she said.
Photo: epSos.de | Flickr