A recreational drug known for making people uninhibited and getting them dancing in clubs could get a new use: to help treat social anxiety among autistic adults, according to a new proposal by a group of researchers.
MDMA, the active ingredient in the street drug Ecstasy, has been administered to 1,133 individuals without serious drawbacks over the last year, according to the new paper, published in the journal Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry.
New clinical trials could prove to break through some social anxiety that has proven immune to treatments up until now, according to the authors, who were partly supported by a non-profit called Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies, or MAPS. The trials as proposed would involve 12 patients, four of whom would receive a placebo.
“Unsolicited accounts of personal MDMA/Ecstasy use have provided consistent statements about its effects on social behavior,” the authors wrote. “Some comments have included descriptions of overall improvement in functioning, whereas other examples have described psychosocial healing and relief from symptoms such as anxiety and trauma. Another common theme reported is improved connectedness to others.”
MDMA is a laboratory-synthesized drug first created in Germany in 1912. Its use for psychological treatment was investigated in the 1970s, but stopped when side effects were reported, according to the authors. The compound has been illegal in the United States since the 1980s.
MDMA is also still being used experimentally to treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. So far, those trials have shown promise.
According to the scientific literature, MDMA has proven to be predominantly safe – though recreational incidents of overheating, drinking too much or too little water, or drug interactions have been reported.
The new paper outlines the details of signing consents, screening, possible patients, and establishing safety protocols to further explore the viability of MDMA treatment in autism, the authors said.
“Informed understanding of the facts about MDMA, a psychotherapeutic compound known to engage prosocial behaviors, is as relevant to clinicians, researchers, the public and policymakers now as in any earlier point in its history,” wrote the authors.
Filed Under: Drug Discovery