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Feds Approve Ecstasy Therapy Study In Marin County

MARIN COUNTY (CBS SF) -- A team of psychotherapists at a Marin County clinic now have permission to start using ecstasy in therapy trials.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, San Anselmo psychiatrist and MDMA psychotherapy advocate Dr. Philip Wolfson is recruiting 18 people for a research project sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Association For Psychedelic Studies. Two months earlier, the Drug Enforcement Agency approved his team to administer the banned drug to patients.

Now Wolfson has permission from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to conduct the study to see whether psychotherapy sessions infused with ecstasy helps patients suffering from traumatic anxiety or depression, such as PTSD.

Wolfson said a psychedelic journey with MDMA can be "transformationally potent" when used in a safe setting with trained therapists.

"It's a substance that supports deep, meaningful and rapidly effective psychotherapy," he told the San Francisco Chronicle.

And there's some data to back up those claims.

A 2010 MAPS study using MDMA-assisted psychotherapy to treat PTSD found that 83 percent of those who had been treated while on the drug no longer showed symptoms of PTSD. A follow-up study in 2012 found that most of those subjects remained symptom free.

For Wolfson's study, 13 participants will take the drug then sit through three eight-hour therapy sessions while the remaining five patients take a placebo capsule. Follow up and evaluation of the effectiveness could take up to 15 months.

And like many drugs, MDMA can have serious side effects, like an increased heart rate. That's why people with cardiac issues will not be considered for this project.

Wolfson and other MDMA-assisted therapy advocates hope this experiment will pave the way for the FDA and the DEA to reclassify MDMA so doctors can prescribe it as medication during treatment.

For more information, call the study office at (877) 372-2692 or e-mail sf@mdmasites.org.

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