For almost as long as the federal government has harshly prosecuted drug use, researchers have been studying the psychologically beneficial effects of the very drugs that can land a person in prison. Clinical studies on both animals and humans have demonstrated the beneficial effects of many hallucinogenic drugs in treating PTSD, anxiety, depression, addictions, and other mental health disorders. Drugs, commonly taken recreationally, such as LSD, Ayahuasca (DMT), Ecstasy (MDMA), and magic mushrooms (psilocybin), show varying degrees of promise in a clinical setting. These drugs, along with marijuana, are currently classified as Schedule 1 drugs by the federal government. A Schedule 1 classification means that “there are no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a research and educational organization focused on discovering beneficial uses of psychedelics and marijuana, with a goal of translating those benefits into safe and legal prescription medicines, has long lobbied the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to move forward to that goal. Recently MAPS succeeded in its efforts to convince the FDA to consider MDMA as a treatment for PTSD. The drug received “Breakthrough Therapy Designation” by the FDA, meaning that the FDA has agreed that MDMA may be a better treatment for PTSD than what is currently available. In granting this designation, the FDA has indicated the FDA’s intent to assist in the development and review of MDMA treatment for PTSD, putting MDMA above the other PTSD therapies up for review by the FDA.

MDMA, the main ingredient in the recreational drug known as Ecstasy or Molly, binds to serotonin transporters, giving the user feelings of euphoria. We’ve all heard of the “love” that Ecstasy users experience; this is a product of the flood of serotonin in the brain. Researchers have found that these feelings of euphoria and empathy open the otherwise troubled mind of a PTSD sufferer to psychotherapy. Using established psychotherapy techniques, a trained psychotherapist employs these techniques on the PTSD sufferer while he or she is under the influence of a controlled dose of MDMA.

The results of the clinical trials have been phenomenal. Sixty-one percent of the 107 participants were cleared of their PTSD after only three sessions. Further treatments on the remaining participants saw another seven percent “cured” of their PTSD. In all, that is almost a seventy percent “cure” rate (I put “cure” in parenthesis because the researchers define the results as “no longer qualified for PTSD”). These participants had all previously suffered from chronic PTSD, without relief despite the participants having received standard PTSD treatment for an average of almost 18 years.

As one neuropsychopharmacologist noted, it is not new news that psychedelic drugs have therapeutic properties as medicines, but this is big news because it portends a future when the mainstream and government will acknowledge and accept that.

As I alluded to in the beginning of this post, other hallucinogenic drugs have shown promise in the lab. There may soon come a time when the FDA sets aside its unwarranted fear of letting the genie out of the bottle and opens the way for these very promising therapies.

Orange County criminal defense attorney, William Weinberg, has been defending those accused of drug offenses and other crimes for almost 25 years. If you or someone you care about would like to speak to Mr. Weinberg about your criminal matter, you may contact him for a complimentary consultation at (949) 474-8008 or by email at