“If this is in fact something that can help a lot of people and we’re at this stage of the research, which is at least 20 years behind where it would be if it had been guided only by science and not by politics and fears and other forces, that’s really, actually, a travesty,” says Michael Mithoefer, a psychiatrist and MDMA researcher.
Commonly known as ecstasy, MDMA is an empathogenic drug that was first synthesized in 1912 by Merck. The drug was mostly ignored until 1970, when people started using it recreationally. Alexander Shulgin, then at the University of California, Berkeley, became curious about the drug and synthesized his own MDMA in 1976. Over the next decade, psychotherapists in the U.S. and Europe used MDMA as a therapeutic aid. During that same period, MDMA became a popular recreational drug.
Despite its widespread reputation as an effective therapeutic tool, the DEA classified MDMA as a Schedule I drug in 1985. The following year, Rick Doblin founded the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) with the goal of developing psychedelics into legal prescription drugs. Today, MDMA is in Phase 2 FDA trials for use as a therapeutic aid for people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Reason TV spoke with MAPS founder Rick Doblin and psychiatrist Michael Mithoefer about the results so far.