In 1976, Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin, a brilliant and eccentric chemist who concocted hundreds of psychoactive drugs in a home-based laboratory in the hills of Berkeley, California, cooked up a batch of MDMA, the drug that later became known as Ecstasy or Molly. He then tried some, as was his habit.
He loved it. “I feel absolutely clean inside, and there is nothing but pure euphoria,” he wrote in his lab notes afterwards. “I have never felt so great, or believed this to be possible. The cleanliness, clarity, and marvelous feeling of solid inner strength continued throughout the rest of the day and evening. I am overcome by the profundity of the experience.”
This is quite the endorsement, if only because Shulgin took a lot of drugs during his long life.
Thirty five years later, MDMA is having a moment. A clinical trial of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD, run by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, or MAPs, produced impressive results, moving the combination of MDMA and therapy closer to FDA approval. The first study of MDMA-assisted therapy for alcohol-use disorder, conducted by researchers at Imperial College in London and the University of Bristol, delivered encouraging, albeit very preliminary, findings. Researchers studying MDMA, as well as experienced users, say that the drug could be an effective way to treat other psychological ailments, while improving the health and happiness of so-called “healthy normals.”
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