Switzerland Leads the Way

MAPS Bulletin Summer 1989 Vol. 1, No. 2

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Great News! Finally, somewhere in the world, psychotherapeutic research with MDMA is taking place. About two years ago, over 30 Swiss psychiatrists interested in psychedelic psychotherapy and research formed the Swiss Psycholytic Association in order to formally request legal permission to use MDMA in treatment and research. In June of 1988, Swiss officials in the Office of Pharmaceuticals and Narcotics, of the Department of Public Health of the Ministry of the Interior, granted permission to six of the Association’s psychiatrists to treat patients and conduct research not only with MDMA but also with LSD, mescaline, DMT and 2CB. Psychiatric patients suffering from reactive depression, addictive disorders, character neuroses, phobias, psychosomatic illness, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and anorexia nervosa are being treated with MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, with very positive initial reports from both psychiatrists and patients. The Swiss psychiatrists have been told they will be permitted to administer these drugs for the next year or two, but in order to continue their work beyond that time will be required to show scientific data supporting their view that the drugs are both safe and efficacious.

In May of 1989, I went to Switzerland to observe the Swiss experience with regulated psychedelic research as part of my work towards a Masters in Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. The report I wrote was submitted for critique to U.S. officials in the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Being here at the Kennedy School learning to be a bureaucrat (or at least think like one!) has provided me with an insightful training in governmental decision making, and remarkable opportunities to engage the present drug policy officials in dialogue. The fact that hundreds of patients have been successfully treated with MDMA in Switzerland strengthens the circumstantial case for research into the therapeutic use of MDMA.