Nonprofit Chronicles

Journalism about foundations, nonprofits and their impact


MDMA, the man-made drug often called ecstasy or molly, has a colorful history. It was patented in 1914 by the German drug company Merck, and set aside for decades. The US Army studied it during the Cold War, perhaps seeking a chemical weapon or interrogation tool. Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin, an iconoclastic chemist, rediscovered MDMA during the 1970s and gave some to a psychotherapist friend, who in turn shared it with hundreds of therapists around the world; some called the drug “Adam” because it returned patients to a more innocent state. Only after MDMA gained popularity as a party drug did the US Drug Enforcement Administration ban it in1985, declaring that it had no medical use and a high potential for abuse.

Now MDMA is on the verge of making history again — as the first psychedelic drug to become available as a prescription medicine.

First, though, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Science, a nonprofit seeking to develop psychedelic medicines, must raise about $7.5m by September as part of what it calls the MAPS Capstone Challenge. The funds are needed to unlock a challenge grant of $10m and to complete a final round of clinical trials, now underway in the US, Canada and Israel, that are designed to demonstrate that psychotherapy assisted by MDMA is safe and effective for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

FDA approval, which could come in 2022, is important for two reasons. First, MDMA-assisted therapy will almost surely bring relief to millions of people suffering from PTSD: Military veterans, victims of sexual assault, first responders, perhaps even doctors or nurses who today are treating COVID patients.

Second, FDA approval of MDMA will open the door for other psychedelic drugs, particularly psilocybin, that, when combined with talk therapy, can alleviate the suffering from a remarkable range of mental ailments, including depression and anxiety.


Which donors are stepping up? Which are not? You can read the rest of this story on Medium.

One thought on “At a pivotal momentum for psychedelic medicines, a challenge for philanthropy

  1. jonbockman says:

    Wonderful news. There’s so much potential and it seems like the tide is starting to turn. I look forward to listening to the podcast with Doblin, have followed MAPS for a long time.


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