Supplementing psychotherapy with small doses of MDMA could be an effective strategy to prevent relapses of alcohol addiction in patients, an ongoing small clinical trial suggests. The research is yet another example of how scientists and doctors are finding or rediscovering therapeutic uses for recreational and illicit drugs.
MDMA-assisted therapy is actually an old idea, which enjoyed some popularity in the 1970s and 1980s. Though the exact mechanisms are unclear, the synthetic drug’s euphoric effects are thought to amplify the positive patterns of thinking taught by therapy, as well as make people feel less anxious during sessions. Of course, these same mood-boosting attributes made MDMA a popular recreational drug. This popularity led the U.S. government to ban MDMA in 1985, by classifying it as a Schedule 1 drug with no accepted medical use.