In 1994, the FDA formally approved for research use in humans the hallucinogenic agent Ecstasy. Researchers believe that Ecstasy, technically known as MDMA, may relieve the pain and emotional distress of terminal cancer patients and speed the recovery of soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Dubbed "the love drug" for effects that include profound feelings of empathy and a nirvana-like contentment, Ecstasy was outlawed by the Drug Enforcement Agency in 1986. But the same effects that have made it a popular underground agent make it of interest to psychiatrists today. MDMA may accelerate the therapeutic process of psychotherapy.
"Between 1977 and 1985, roughly half a million doses were administered for the treatment of depression, anxiety, rape-related trauma, and even schizophrenia," reports Richard Doblin, a doctoral student at Harvard University who heads the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Research. He charges that "politics over science" stifled proper funding and recognition of MDMA research thereafter.
What's more, he claims that in giving the signal for formal research on MDMA only in 1994, the FDA has "failed to recognize the successful results of the past." So the drug must undergo "lengthy and expensive testing in order to establish what we already know-- that MDMA is safe for clinical use."