December 10, 2011

Should Ecstasy be used to treat autism?

A recent Request for Proposals by MAPS (pdf) essentially asks the question: Can Ecstasy be used to treat autism?
We are welcoming proposals for a MAPS-sponsored pilot study of MDMA for Asperger's syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorders from interested researchers until December 16. A number of people with high-functioning autism and Asperger's Syndrome have reported improvements after taking MDMA outside of research contexts. MDMA shows promise for treating Autism Spectrum Disorders since the effects of MDMA that increase empathy and enhance communication are precisely the abilities that autism tends to degrade.

MAPS is offering a grant of $10,000 for protocol development expenses for this pilot study. We have prepared a Request for Proposals (RFP) for researchers based in the U.S. We're looking for an established research team that would also have a good chance of obtaining funds for research from other grant agencies, as autism research is currently a well-funded field. At present, we have not yet raised funds for the study itself, but we do have funds for protocol development. Once we have a completed protocol, we will develop a budget and a fundraising plan. We will also work to raise additional funds through MAPS and perhaps other sources.
My thoughts:
  1. MDMA is, quite unfortunately, a nasty neurotoxin. The long term effects of the drug, with its deleterious effects on the production of serotonin, could undermine the purpose of such a treatment
  2. We have to seriously consider whether or not we want to "treat" autism and Asperger's in this way. As I've argued before, autism needs to be understood under the larger lens of neurodiversity and better appreciated as an alternative psychological modality
Now, that said, the benefit of using ecstasy for such a purpose (its long term effects notwithstanding), could allow those with autism to choose when and when they do not want to have a more neurotypial experience. This fits in nicely within my idea of designer psychologies and the ability to choose contextually appropriate cognitive modalities.

1 comment:

ZarPaulus said...

Hell no!

I like being Aspergarian, it means I'm studying (or trying to) while my roommates are playing Madden 24/7 [[/half sarcastic]]