MDMA-Assisted Therapy for Social Anxiety in Autistic Adults

What is MDMA?

MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) is a synthetic compound first synthesized in 1912 with  unique pharmacological properties which may make it an effective adjunct to therapy for social anxiety in autistic adults. MDMA is capable of inducing unique psychological effects, including:

  • Decreased feelings of fear
  • Increased feelings of well-being
  • Increased sociability
  • Increased interpersonal trust
  • Alert state of consciousness
  • Increased awareness of some domains of empathy

The MDMA Investigator's Brochure describes the physical, chemical, and pharmacological characteristics of MDMA, its effects in nonclinical and clinical studies, and the safety profile of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy.

What is MDMA-assisted therapy?

MDMA-assisted therapy is an innovative mode of treatment that combines therapeutic techniques with the administration of MDMA, a pharmacological adjunct that may enhance or amplify certain aspects of therapy. The therapeutic method will be adapted from therapy techniques that have shown clinical effectiveness in adults with an Autism Spectrum diagnosis. Best practices from clinical research on MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD also will be applied.

The therapeutic method will focus on developing a therapeutic relationship with the subjects that will provide a permissive setting in which to learn and practice social skills.

More details are available in the study protocol.

Why MDMA-Assisted Therapy?

As part of her doctoral dissertation at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, co-investigator Alicia Danforth, Ph.D., gathered 100 surveys, 90 anecdotal reports, and conducted interviews with 24 individuals on the autism spectrum who have taken Ecstasy, a street drug purported to contain MDMA, in non-medical settings. A majority of these individuals reported the experience to be helpful in their learning to cope more effectively in social situations.

From a list of commonly reported MDMA effects:

  • 72% of survey respondents (N=100) reported experiencing “more comfort in social settings,” with 12% indicating that the change lasted over two years.
  • 78% of respondents reported “feeling at ease in my own body,” with 15% experiencing this effect for over two years.
  • 77% reported “easier than usual to talk to others,” with 18% reporting that the effect lasted up to a year or longer.

These anecdotal reports suggest that MDMA may be a suitable pharmacologic agent for the treatment of social anxiety in autistic adults and warrants further investigation in a randomized controlled clinical trial.

For more information, read Findings from a Collective Case Study of the MDMA/Ecstasy Experiences of Adults on the Autism Spectrum by study co-investigator Alicia Danforth, Ph.D.

Featured Video

Case reports suggest that MDMA-assisted therapy may help reduce social anxiety in autistic adults.

Watch the video.

Why Donate?

Government agencies and major foundations have not yet supported research into the therapeutic uses of MDMA, so we rely on family foundations and individuals to help us complete this study.

Make a gift today.

MAPS is a U.S.-based 501(c)(3) non-profit research and educational organization. Contributions are tax-deductible as provided by law.

Did you know?

Researchers are also finding that  MDMA-assisted psychotherapy can help military veterans, civil servants, sexual assault survivors, and others overcome chronic, treatment-resistant posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Learn more at

Featured Article

MDMA-Assisted Therapy:
A New Treatment Model for Social Anxiety in Autistic Adults

by Alicia L. Danforth, Christopher M. Struble, Berra Yazar-Klosinski, Charles S. Grob

We need your support to complete this study

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit research and educational organization.

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