The Airing of Grievances
Monday, December 27, 2004
The FDA Approves Ecstacy Study
Score a victory for Rick Doblin and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). From the Washington Post:
This month, in a little-noted administrative decision, the Food and Drug Administration gave the green light to a Harvard proposal to test the benefits of the illegal street drug known as "ecstasy" in patients diagnosed with severe anxiety related to advanced cancer.Wow, this really is excellent news. The debate over the legalization of drugs in our country has been a significant issue for well over a century. The medical community has consistently clashed with the government over whether or not particular drugs should be legalized for therapeutic purposes. The conflict concerning medical marijuana has been the loudest to date. And with a lot less public fanfare, proponents of therapeutic MDMA (the chemical name for ecstasy) have been pressing for its legalization for quite some time.
The FDA's approval puts the study on track to become the first test of a psychedelic substance since 1963 at Harvard, where drug guru Timothy Leary lost his teaching privileges after using students in experiments with LSD and other hallucinogens.
Advocates of MDMA are mostly physicians who champion its therapeutic value as an adjunct to psychotherapy. Their opponents are the federal government, led by the Drug Enforcement Agency, who (through a series of questionable legal decisions) permanently banned ecstasy in 1988 by placing it in the most restrictive schedule, Schedule I, of the Controlled Substances Act. The Schedule I categorization was paramount because it severely limited the ability to use MDMA in research.
Since 1989, however, when the FDA -- the key arbiter in determining whether or not psychedelic studies may go forward -- reorganized and formed the Pilot Drug Evaluation Staff, psychedelic research has been approached in an increasingly fair and balanced manner.
And finally, after a long uphill struggle, it appears as if the government is living up to its stated "established process" of relying on "science, and not ideology." As a result, MDMA advocates such as Rick Doblin as well as the people of MAPS, have been granted the opportunity to prove the benefits of therapeutic MDMA and to hopefully share them with those unfortunate individuals so desperately in need.
(Interestingly, the folks at MAPS are making progress with MDMA and other psychedelics because they have independent sources of supply. With respect to marijuana, however, the federal government has a monopoly on the supply that is legal to be used in research. The government uses this monopoly to restrict marijuana studies. The struggle to break the government monopoly will be addressed in an upcoming Administrative Law Judge hearing, in which MAPS is suing the DEA to get a license at UMass Amherst for a production facility.)