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In the early 1980s, however, MDMA escaped the clinic to the dance floor, where it became known as ecstasy. In 1985, the Drug Enforcement Administration criminalized MDMA as a Schedule I substance, defined as having “no currently accepted medical uses and a high potential for abuse.”

Some mental health professionals continued to give MDMA-assisted therapy underground, but most stopped. The number of scientists who have pursued studies on MDMA has also declined. But a few people have continued to push for MDMA research, including Dr. Doblin, who founded his association in 1986 to focus on developing MDMA and other psychedelics into FDA-approved drugs. took nearly two decades to overcome scare-mongering claims about ecstasy. dangers, including the fact that it ate holes in users’ brains, ultimately gaining approval to begin studies. Animal and human research confirms that MDMA produces no neurotoxic effects at doses administered in clinical trials.

Ecstasy or molly, on the other hand, can be adulterated with other potentially dangerous substances, and users can take doses much higher than those that are unsafe. In 2011, MDMA accounted for 1.8% of all drug-related emergency room visits in the United States, according to a database maintained until this year by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. In Europe, MDMA was responsible for 8% of drug-related emergency visits to 16 large hospitals in 10 countries from 2013 to 2014.

Scientists still do not fully understand the source of MDMA’s therapeutic effects. The substance binds to proteins that regulate serotonin, a neurotransmitter that can, among other things, improve mood. Antidepressant drugs like Prozac bind to these same proteins and block their reabsorption of serotonin, but MDMA pushes this process further, causing proteins to pump serotonin into synapses, thereby boosting their chemical signal.

MDMA also elevates the levels of oxytocin, dopamine, and other chemical messengers, producing feelings of empathy, trust, and compassion.

But its main therapeutic effect may come from its apparent ability to reopen what neuroscientists call a “critical period,” the window during childhood where the brain has the superior ability to create and store new memories. Evidence from a mouse study published in Nature in 2019 indicates that MDMA can return the adult brain to this previous state of malleability.

It is estimated that 7 percent of the American population will suffer from PTSD at some point in their life, and up to 13 percent of veterans have it. In 2018, the US Department of Veterans Affairs spent $ 17 billion on disability benefits for more than one million veterans with PTSD.

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