- X. Molly. Ecstasy. The substance MDMA goes by many names, and has developed a reputation as a club drug, though it was first synthesized in 1912 by researchers at the pharmaceutical company Merck, in an attempt to create a new drug to help blood to clot. MDMA began showing up in Chicago in the 1970s, and was labelled as a Schedule I substance in 1985. The DEA’s scheduling system is based on how much medical use the agency believes a substance has and how addictive they believe it to be. That MDMA is a Schedule I substance means that it has high potential for abuse and no medical application. Though the DEA has been quite rigid on their past scheduling decisions in the face of opposition, they have been more willing to allow research on medical applications of pure MDMA. In 2015, they approved studies investigating the use of MDMA to treat anxiety and depression in patients who were living with life-threatening illnesses. Last November, a separate organization, the FDA, approved a Phase 3 clinical trial using MDMA to treat PTSD. This Phase 3 trial was preceded by six Phase 2 studies, which evaluated the safety and efficacy of the substance. A phase 3 clinical trial allows the drug to be tested on a large group of people to confirm its efficacy.
The approval of this research provides new opportunities for legitimately treating previously debilitating mental health issues. “It allowed me to see my trauma without fear or hesitation and finally process things and move forward.” said C.J. Hardin. Hardin is a veteran who served three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Before his treatment with MDMA, Hardin suffered from depression and alcoholism, and had shut himself away from the world due to his PTSD. The success of MDMA treatments stems from a changed perspective on life during the event and up to a year after. Participants in earlier trials were given controlled doses of MDMA during psychotherapy sessions which allowed them to have an increased rate of success in their treatment. These findings run contrary to old schools of thought regarding drug use, which views novel treatment efforts as utilizing a drug induced haze, and new mental health treatment methods may soon be discovered thanks to the acceptance of current research on substances previously branded as dangerous and addictive out of fear and misinformation. Still, these studies draw an important distinction between recreational drug use and therapeutic drug use, the latter requiring careful dosing and observation to ensure the desired effects without going overboard.