New Study Researches MDMA Therapy for Autistic Adults with Social Anxiety

Intellihub covers the initiation at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute’s of MAPS’ new study of MDMA-assisted therapy for social anxiety in autistic adults. Charles Grob, M.D., and Alicia Danforth, Ph.D., will conduct the MAPS-sponsored study and measure how MDMA-assisted therapy affects 12 participants’ reported levels of social anxiety.

Originally appearing here.

Yesterday, researchers at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute (LA BioMed) announced the start of a study that hopes to help understand the safety and effectiveness of MDMA-assisted therapy for autistic adults with social anxiety.

Until recently, any kind of scientific research into the benefits of psychedelics have been strictly forbidden by the US government.  However, the studies that are beginning to take place are showing that these compounds have incredible healing abilities.

According to a press released published by the research group, the study is the latest in an expanding program of research into the therapeutic use of MDMA by the nonprofit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). The research seeks to examine effective treatments for adults on the autism spectrum, who often face social adaptability challenges and greater anxiety, depression, and victimization than typically developing adults.

“We know we need new supportive treatments, and we have anecdotal evidence that autistic adults who had experimented with MDMA experienced a reduction in anxiety and an increased confidence in their abilities to interact socially,” said Charles Grob, MD, LA BioMed’s lead researcher for the study. “We also have been impressed with the results of other MAPS-sponsored MDMA-assisted psychotherapy research, which has demonstrated clinical improvement in patients with chronic posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). With our current study, we will administer MDMA in a carefully controlled environment to establish the safety and efficacy of MDMA-assisted therapy in a small sample of autistic adults with social anxiety.”

Alicia Danforth, PhD, an LA BioMed researcher for the study, has previously conducted interviews with numerous adults on the autism spectrum who have taken MDMA recreationally and reported a reduction in social anxiety. She reported that 72% of the more than 100 autistic adults she surveyed reported feeling “more comfort in social settings” as a result of using MDMA recreationally and 77% found it “easier than usual to talk with others.” In some cases, she said, these effects lasted a year or more. But she pointed out that the recreational drugs identified as MDMA, or “Ecstasy,” may not necessarily contain MDMA.

“This new study will give us a chance to determine the actual effects of differing dosages of medication that we know for certain is pure MDMA on adults on the autism spectrum,” she said. “If the results of this research warrant further investigation, data from this study will be used to design additional clinical trials.”

The randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled pilot study will assess the safety and feasibility of MDMA-assisted therapy to treat social anxiety in 12 autistic adults who have not previously taken MDMA.

“We know from other research findings that MDMA can reduce activity in the portion of the brain that communicates the fear that can lead to social anxiety,” said Dr. Grob. “Other studies also found MDMA can increase oxytocin, a neuropeptide associated with bonding and social affiliation in humans, which could also be beneficial to adults on the autism spectrum.”