MDMA-assisted therapy: A new treatment model for social anxiety in autistic adults

This overview/review paper lays the groundwork for offering MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for the treatment of social anxiety in autistic adults.


“The first study of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)-assisted therapy for the treatment of social anxiety in autistic adults commenced in the spring of 2014. The search for psychotherapeutic options for autistic individuals is imperative considering the lack of effective conventional treatments for mental health diagnoses that are common in this population. Serious Adverse Events (SAEs) involving the administration of MDMA in clinical trials have been rare and non-life threatening. To date, MDMA has been administered to over 1133 individuals for research purposes without the occurrence of unexpected drug-related SAEs that require expedited reporting per FDA regulations. Now that safety parameters for limited use of MDMA in clinical settings have been established, a case can be made to further develop MDMA-assisted therapeutic interventions that could support autistic adults in increasing social adaptability among the typically developing population. As in the case with classic hallucinogens and other psychedelic drugs, MDMA catalyzes shifts toward openness and introspection that do not require ongoing administration to achieve lasting benefits. This infrequent dosing mitigates adverse event frequency and improves the risk/benefit ratio of MDMA, which may provide a significant advantage over medications that require daily dosing. Consequently, clinicians could employ new treatment models for social anxiety or similar types of distress administering MDMA on one to several occasions within the context of a supportive and integrative psychotherapy protocol.”

Authors: Alicia L. Danforth, Christopher M. Struble, Berra Yazar-Klosinski & Charles S. Grob


This study was supported by MAPS and the Betsy Gordon Foundation.

This paper is followed by Danforth et al. (2018), where they find a reduction in social anxiety in autistic adults.

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MDMA-assisted therapy: A new treatment model for social anxiety in autistic adults

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Published in
Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry
January 4, 2016
93 citations

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