DENVER (KDVR) — MDMA-assisted therapy could be on its way to federal approval in 2024, and if that happens, Colorado already has a law in place to allow its use.
A study published Thursday found that the drug 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine – also known as ecstasy or molly – can reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder when combined with talk therapy.
The study was sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, which advocates for the development of psychedelic medicine. The group plans to file for approval with the Food and Drug Administration later this year, hoping that MDMA-assisted therapy will gain approval next year.
“This is the first innovation in the treatment of PTSD in more than two decades. And that’s important because I think it will pave the way for other innovations as well,” said Amy Emerson, CEO of MAPS Public Benefit Corporation, which administered the study.
Under a bipartisan Colorado law passed more than a year ago, FDA approval would be the first step in allowing MDMA in the state.
Legal MDMA provided for under current Colorado law
Colorado has been at the forefront of drug decriminalization in the United States – first with cannabis, thanks to a voter-approved constitutional amendment. Legal recreational sales began in 2014.
Last November, Colorado voters decriminalized psilocybin mushrooms and approved a legal framework to offer the psychedelic in a therapeutic setting. The same initiative also decriminalized mescaline, ibogaine and dimethyltryptamine – or DMT for short. Under the law, these psychedelics could also be considered for legal therapeutic use in the future.
But a few months before the psychedelics vote, in June 2022, Governor Jared Polis signed a bill that anticipates the legalization of MDMA in Colorado.
If the FDA approves a prescription drug containing MDMA and it is removed or exempted from its classification as a Schedule I narcotic under the Controlled Substances Act, the drug would be allowed in the state.
This includes the prescribing, dispensing, transportation, possession and use of what would be a new prescription drug in Colorado by any person legally authorized to do so, according to the bill’s summary.
The bill’s lead sponsors in the House were Republican Patrick Neville and Democrat David Ortiz. Lead sponsors in the Senate included Republican Minority Leader John Cooke and Democrat Joann Ginal.
MDMA studied for the treatment of PTSD
Earlier this year, Australia became the first country to allow psychiatrists to prescribe MDMA and psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in psychedelic mushrooms. These drugs are becoming more culturally accepted in the United States, in part due to the efforts of MAPS.
For the new MAPS study, researchers measured symptoms in 104 people with PTSD who were randomly assigned to receive either MDMA or a dummy pill over three sessions, one month apart. Both groups received talking therapy.
After treatment, 86% of the MDMA group improved on a standard PTSD assessment, compared to 69% of the placebo group. The assessment measures symptoms such as nightmares, flashbacks and insomnia.
At the end of the study, 72% of people in the MDMA group no longer met diagnostic criteria for PTSD, compared to about 48% in the placebo group.
MDMA is currently classified as Schedule 1, along with heroin, and considered to have “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.