MDMA treatment moves a step closer in the USA

As scientific knowledge of the possible mental health benefits of talking small doses of psychoactive substances grows, a major leap forward is underway in the US.

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) plans to file for regulatory approval for the drug Methyl​enedioxy​methamphetamine (MDMA) as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder in the US later this year.

MDMA was first developed in 1912 by Merck. It was used to enhance psychotherapy  beginning in the 1970s and became popular as a street drug in the 1980s.

PTSD is a disorder caused by very stressful events and can significantly disrupt patients’ lives. MDMA, used in the street drug Ecstasy, is currently illegal in the US.

MAPS, a not-for-profit organisation, said it would file an application with the US Food and Drug Administration based on data from 18 mid and late stage clinical trial,  according to a statement.

The decision to seek approval comes after data from a second late-stage study of nearly 100 patients indicated that MDMA coupled with therapy helped 71.2% of patients no longer qualify for a PTSD diagnosis, versus 46.2% of patients on a placebo.

While PTSD is commonly associated with combat, civilians are not immune to it. Natural disasters, abuse or other trauma may trigger the condition.

Psychoactive ingredients, whether derived from cannabis, LSD or magic mushrooms, have long in interested mental health researchers. MAPS, founded in 1986, said it hopes the MDMA-assisted therapy will be approved next year and inspire other researchers studying therapeutic psychedelics.