Findings From the Two NIDA-Funded MDMA Human Studies

MAPS Bulletin Autumn 1990 Vol. 1, No. 3

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NIDA has funded two major studies of the effects of MDMA on humans, neither actually administering MDMA to the subjects. A sociological description of MDMA users based on their self-reports cost NIDA $200,000 and was completed over the course oftwo years by a research group in San Francisco, with Dr. Marsha Rosenbaum as principle investigator and Jerome Beck, Deborah Harlow, Douglas McDonnell, Patricia Morgan, and Lynne Watson as co-investigators. A study comparing MDMA users to non-users for signs of serotonin neurotoxicity is costing NIDA $500,000 and is halfway through its three year schedule at Johns Hopkins, conducted by Dr. George Ricaurte.

In the sociological study, researchers interviewed 100 MDMA users in depth. Jerry Beck went on to analyze the study for his Ph.D. thesis in Public Health at the University of California at Berkeley. The recently minted Dr. Jerry Beck reviewed the data from 100 MDMA users and concluded in his Ph.D thesis that virtually all the people who were interviewed felt they had benefited from their use of MDMA, and that very few experienced periods of problem use. He observed:

Based on MDMA’s reputed qualities, one might assume that a significant number of users would eventually experience major problems resulting from abuse and/or dependence in the pursuit of “Ecstasy”. However, the low levels of such problems seen with MDMA are perhaps best explained by limiting factors intrinsic to the experience itself.

(The NIDA report, which has not been widely publicized by NIDA, is available from MAPS for $30. Jerry Beck’s Ph.D. thesis is also available from MAPS for $30.)