Prescription: Euphoria

New Research Brings Ecstasy Back to the Couch


Scientists hoping to study taboo drugs like MDMA must continue to jump through bureaucratic hoops. The success of the movement has relied heavily on trading tie-dyes for ties, and paranoia for faith in paperwork—Investigational New Drug applications, Schedule I permits, and outlines for good manufacturing procedures, to name a few. A model for psychedelic scientists has been the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research, created in 2000 by California's state legislature to make studying medical marijuana easier. "The reason we needed a center established is no one scientist can easily navigate the regulatory process," explains the director, Dr. Igor Grant.

Still, for medical-MDMA researchers, who have no state initiative and no mass base of support, the barriers are higher. Researchers like the Heffter Institute's Nichols seem antsy about impending controversy. Initial media attention has upset officials at the University of South Carolina, and Nichols worries "congressmen and angry drug warriors" may have the last word. Rick Doblin, however, remains undeterred in his $5 million, five-year plan to develop MDMA as a prescription medicine. He's got patience, he's raising money, and he may surprise a lot of his detractors. He's done it before. "I think we can demonstrate that our society can handle this type of research," says Doblin. "We have to craft messages based on truth."

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