Researchers Announce First-Ever Clinical Trial Combining MDMA and LSD

It's thought the euphoria of ecstasy could help take the edge off an acid trip—making the combo a powerful therapeutic tool.
August 28, 2020, 2:50am
man taking lsd
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Scientists are set to investigate whether outcomes for patients undergoing psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy can be improved with a combined dose of LSD and MDMA.

The Phase 1 clinical trial, led by psychedelic pharmaceutical company MindMed and set to commence later this year, will be the first robust clinical trial to investigate what happens when you mix molly with acid. Researchers believe the empathogenic properties of MDMA could help take the edge off an LSD trip.

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"The potential of MDMA-LSD is to create a psychological state that may have the benefits of both substances and have longer lasting effects than standalone psilocybin or LSD,” says Dr Matthias Liechti, a professor of clinical pharmacology at Switzerland’s University of Basel and head of the research lab that will be working on the study.

“Inducing an overall primarily positive acute response during psychedelic assisted therapy is critical because several studies showed that a more positive acute experience is linked to a greater therapeutic long-term effect in patients," he says.

An initial sample of 24 healthy subjects will be enrolled in the trial, each of whom will undergo four different experimental sessions. Those sessions will see patients being dosed with: 100 micrograms of LSD mixed with an MDMA placebo; an LSD placebo mixed with 100 milligrams of MDMA; an LSD placebo mixed with an MDMA placebo; and 100 micrograms of LSD mixed with 100 milligrams of MDMA.

Researchers will mainly assess the acute subjective effects of each combination, along with other effects such as heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature. Dr Liechti hypothesizes that the two drugs, in concert with one another, may function synergistically to deliver greater therapeutic outcomes than when administered alone.

“In a controlled setting, both MDMA and LSD dose-dependently increased feelings of closeness and trust and impaired identification of negative emotions including fear and sadness,” he previously observed in a report for the University of Basel’s Department of Biomedicine. “These effects of MDMA and LSD on emotion processing may be useful for substance-assisted psychotherapy.”

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A number of studies and clinical trials around the world have separately investigated the potentiality of LSD and MDMA as psychopharmacological treatments for post-traumatic stress disorders and anxiety.

One study comparing the effects of each substance found that while LSD produced much more acute effects than MDMA—rating higher among subjects in terms of its potency, its good and bad reactions, and experiences of ego dissolution—it was more likely to result in feelings of introversion and anxiety. Researchers involved in MindMed’s landmark clinical trial believe a combination of the two could help mitigate these risks: with the influence of MDMA, a drug known for inducing feelings of comfort and well-being, hopefully reducing some of the negative or overwhelming experiences associated with LSD.

Of course, trippers, ravers and psychonauts around the world have been conducting their own experiments on mixtures of ecstasy and acid for decades. The mixture, popular among recreational drug users since at least the early ‘80s, is commonly referred to as “candyflipping”.

The problem, though, is that actual hard data on what an LSD-MDMA combo does to an individual is remarkably scarce, meaning the effects are not fully understood in any scientifically meaningful way.

“Combining LSD or another psychedelic with MDMA produces a particularly intense trip. The combination has stronger effects than you'd expect from the individual drugs,” Matthew Baggott, a neuroscientist who studies the pharmacology of psychedelics, told VICE earlier this year. “Unfortunately, the combination also increases the toxic effects of MDMA, including on the neurons that make serotonin.

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“Too much dopamine release in a brain that's already working overtime can produce a lot of oxidative stress [an imbalance in body chemicals that can lead to cell and tissue damage].”

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In short, it appears that far more research is needed to better understand the effects of an LSD-MDMA high, and how it can best be utilised in therapeutic settings. And MindMed is leading the charge.

Earlier this year it was revealed that the psychedelic pharmaceutical company and Dr Liechti were also working on the development of an LSD-neutralizing compound that would function as an “off-switch” for any acid trip that becomes too discomforting—effectively giving users the option to abort a bad trip within 20 to 30 minutes. It’s hoped this could also help improve the possibility of LSD-assisted psychotherapy, as one of the main issues involved with using the drug in a clinical setting is the fact that its effects last for so long.

“If you can neutralize LSD, you potentially can help in emergency situations,” says Scott Freeman, chief medical officer at MindMed. “Our concern is: Can we make a better therapeutic experience?”

The Phase 1 MDMA-LSD trial is scheduled to commence in Basel toward the end of this year. Researchers are not yet recruiting.

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