The psychoactive drug MDMA - known as ecstasy in common parlance - maybe illegal, but that may well be about to change as researchers test out the potential of the drug for alleviating anxiety in terminally ill people.

Scientists in California are conducting tests to find out whether ecstasy could aid in alleviating anxiety in patients who are ailing terminally.

Brad Burge, the spokesperson for the Santa Cruz' Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, revealed that nearly 18 subjects who are suffering from severe medical conditions such as cancer (and were anticipated to live for at least 9 months) would be participating in the "double-blind trial." The research will be conducted by psychiatrist Dr. Philip Wolfson in the course of next year.

The purpose of the study is to observe whether terminally ill individuals who suffer from depression, anxiety or fear due to an upsetting diagnosis are able to find an inlet of peace as a result of several psychotherapy sessions, while they are under the effect of MDMA.

Per Wolfson ecstasy when used in treatment by trained therapists in a controlled environment can be "transformationally potent."

"It's a substance that supports deep, meaningful and rapidly effective psychotherapy," per Wolfson.

MDMA is known for creating feelings of euphoria, empathy and heightened energy. It is often referred to as an entactogen or empathogen for this reason.

According to co-researcher Julane Andries, MDMA has the ability to help an individual "experience awe, and that eases anxiety and depression." She adds that "later, you can hold onto that memory of feeling vital, alive, happy and full of awe."

The researchers will either give the subjects a random full dose of ecstasy i.e. 125 milligrams, or a dose of 30 milligrams - an "active placebo" dose.

The subjects in the study will also undergo preliminary therapy. While 13 of the subjects will undertake three 8-hour long sessions of therapy post the drug intake, 5 of the subjects will get placebo capsules.

This will be followed up by psychological testing and counseling and the well-being and mental health of both the groups will be compared.

Federal law bans the use of MDMA; however, the researchers reveal that the Drug Enforcement Administration has approved the clinic's security infrastructure. The researchers expect results in the next 12 to 15 months.

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