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Scientists are trying to find out whether MDMA, which is the active ingredient in Ecstasy, can aid in the treatment of social anxiety in adults suffering from autism.
Los Angeles scientists want to see if MDMA can reduce the anxiety of interacting with people. It is the first such study that evaluates MDMA for autistic people, lead researcher Alicia Danforth explained.
MDMA has been proven to boost confidence, increase understanding of social cues, heighten bonding and all qualities which could improve social anxiety, scientists said.
Researchers are not attempting to “cure” autism but to find data on MDMA’s effect on social fears. “That’s really hard for people to wrap their minds around. It’s not another quack treatment for autism. Yet traditional medication does not work as effectively for people with autism,” Danforth said.
The study is extremely important because few therapy options exist for adults with autism the researchers from the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute and Stanford University said.
The MDMA which will be used in the research is safer than Ecstasy because it is pure. The drugs which are generally used are contaminated most of the time, with less than 20% of Ecstasy pills event having MDMA in their composition. Street drugs can be harmful, scientists warn, who add that the pure version has rarely had any adverse effects in lab studies
The first study, which was given the green light by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, started more than a year back but gathered attention during Memorial Day weekend.
To recruit participants, researchers searched for people with autism with “rigorous criteria,” among which were at least two years of college, in order to find 12 patients over the age of 21. The team of scientists have not yet completed its search.
The MDMA is offered to eight of the patients in two monitored sessions which happens every month. The other four subjects receive placebos.
The participants can chose to listen to music while being blindfolded in order to become more relaxed with their thoughts or to interact with the scientists.
In a six months period after the MDMA treatment sessions, subjects were brought in for “integrative therapy”. This step analyzes their progress and their concerns. At this point, the four subjects who got placebos can choose to try taking the MDMA.
Unitl now, seven subjects have been given either placebo or MDMA.
Image Source: The Atlantic