MDMA, or ecstasy, has been illegal in both the US and Canada for years despite its history of being used in a therapeutic setting. Now, Stanford University scientists are calling for a "rigorous scientific exploration of MDMA's effects to identify precisely how the drug works"—the resulting data of which therapeutic compounds could be developed from.
Though the drug has a reputation firmly grounded in partying—especially in the electronic-music industry—clinical trials in 2013 have already shown that there is a potential for MDMA to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including the possibility to help patients form a stronger bond with therapists. On top of that trial, a 2015 study set out to see if MDMA could help people with autism.
"If we start understanding MDMA's molecular targets better, and the biotech and pharmaceutical industries pay attention, it may lead to the development of drugs that maintain the potential therapeutic effects for disorders like autism or PTSD but have less abuse liability," Robert Malenka, a psychiatrist and neuroscientist at Stanford University, said in a press release.
Though the Stanford scientists calling for the inquest into MDMA's effects don't condone the recreational use of the substance, they say that now we have the tools available to properly study the drug that it is "worth it," despite the extensive paperwork and safety measures needed to do so.
"Drugs like MDMA should be the object of rigorous scientific study, and should not necessarily be demonized," Malenka said.
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