Researchers from California are currently experimenting with the street drug, Ecstasy, to see if could help alleviate anxiety for terminally ill patients.
Ecstasy is the common name for a currently illegal psychoactive drug. During the next year in Santa Cruz the drug will be tried on patients who are suffering from life threatening illnesses such as cancer with an expected life expectancy of around nine months.
Brad Burge, a spokesman for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies in Santa Cruz, said that the participants in the double blind trial will be subjected to randomly giving either a full dose or less of MDMA. The active placebo dose is equal to 30 milligrams and a full does is equal to 125 milligrams.
"Our hypothesis is that something is happening with MDMA that makes psychotherapy easier. So with a lower dose of MDMA in the active placebo, it might fool the subject or the therapist" Burge says. "And by giving people the option of following up with another half dose, it just extends the window for therapy rather than making it more intense."
MDMA is known for creating feelings of euphoria, empathy and heightened energy. According to co-researcher Julane Andries, MDMA has the ability to help an individual "experience awe, and that eases anxiety and depression." She adds that "later, you can hold onto that memory of feeling vital, alive, happy and full of awe."
For decades, the psychoactive MDMA drug known as ecstasy has been banned by Federal law. The Drug Enforcement Administration has not yet commented on the drug, but according to Burge a certification of permission has been received from the federal agency.
Burge said the main focus of the illegal drug is to find whether or not patients suffering from debilitating anxiety, depression, or fear because of the diagnoses can get some peace during psychotherapy sessions using ecstasy.
Subjects in the study will also go through preliminary therapy. While 13 of the subjects will undertake three 8-hour long sessions of therapy after taking the drug, five of the subjects will get placebo capsules. This will then be followed up by psychological testing and counseling and then the well-being and mental health of both groups will be compared.
Dr. Philip Wolfson, principal investigator of the trial said, the experience of the drug lasts up to five hours and it can be transformationally potent under controlled settings with a pair of trained therapists. "It's a substance that supports deep, meaningful and rapidly effective psychotherapy.