Ecstasy and Other Club Drugs: A Review of Recent Epidemiologic Studies

Kit Sang Leung; Linda B. Cottler


Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2008;21(3):234-241. 

In This Article

Debate Over the Therapeutic Potential of MDMA

MDMA and the other ring-substituted amphetamine derivatives are categorized as illegal in the UK (class A) and in the US (schedule I). This categorization declares MDMA as having a high risk of addictive potential and no evidence of medical application. The detailed history of the legal status of MDMA can be found at the website for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies ( Since then, MDMA has no longer been used in therapeutic settings and research on the therapeutic potential of MDMA has come to a halt. Only recently has debate over the therapeutic potential of MDMA begun to emerge. In 2007 alone, three review papers concerning this issue were published.[38•,39•,40] Since MDMA may facilitate communication, enhance the therapeutic alliance between therapist and client by inviting self-disclosure, decrease fear about traumatic experiences, and reduce defensive anxiety,[41,42] it is believed that MDMA can be used in psychotherapy for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety disorders due to a general medical condition.[43,44]

Parrott[38•] has provided a comprehensive review on the psychotherapeutic potential of MDMA. Owing to a lack of clear evidence for the beneficial effects of MDMA in psychotherapy, Parrott was skeptical about the clinical utility of MDMA. Sessa[39•] and Sessa and Nutt,[40] however, advocated the use of MDMA as a therapeutic agent, and described the current policy on MDMA as illogical and bad for science and patients. Despite the fact that MDMA is still illegal in the US, several private-funded double-blind placebo-controlled studies are under way to evaluate the therapeutic potential of MDMA for patients diagnosed with PTSD and patients with advanced stage cancer (see for more details). It is expected that these controlled clinical trials may shed new light on the therapeutic potential of MDMA.


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