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Medical use of MDMA in Australia prompts calls for UK legalisation

In late February, the drug MDMA – more commonly known as ecstasy – was legalised for medical use in Australia, the first country on earth to do so. From July, approved psychiatrists in Australia will be able to prescribe MDMA to patients suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

MDMA in the from of ecstasy pills: the most common way MDMA is sold and taken illegally (Photo: Flickr/Me)

Dr. Ben Sessa, a leading psychedelic researcher in the UK affiliated with Imperial College London, described the move as “a major step forward in the global psychedelic healthcare industry”.

The decision comes after decades of clinical trials and lobbying from various scientific institutions, with the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) being at the forefront of this research.

In 2021, MAPS completed its first phase three clinical trial (a trial involving a large pool of test subjects), and the results were very encouraging.
The study found that 87% of people treated with MDMA had significant improvement in their PTSD, while 67% “no longer qualified for a PTSD diagnosis”. These results are groundbreaking and extremely promising for people who suffer from PTSD.

MDMA clinical treatment involves multiple sessions of counselling paired with a dose of MDMA (Photo: pexels/Alex Green)

In light of Australia’s legalisation, prominent British medical experts such as David Nutt (a neuropsychopharmacologist at Imperial College London) have called on the UK government to do the same, claiming there is “no reason” not to at this stage.

Dr. Ben Sessa explained that MAPS is “leading the way in getting MDMA approved and licenced by the FDA” - the US regulatory agency - with the hope that it will simultaneously get an EMA/MHRA licence, which would allow for UK use. According to MAPS' projections, MDMA will be legally available somewhere in the latter half of 2024.

However, this is not guaranteed and will depend on the drug getting FDA approval and then the UK following suit. Whether or not this new treatment is introduced and expanded in the UK will come down to whether UK politicians choose to follow the ever-growing clinical evidence or stick with the anti-drug political dogma.


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