Psychedelic Medicine


MDMA History and Legality with Natalie Ginsberg


Natalie Ginsberg is the director of policy and advocacy at the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychadelic Studies (MAPS). She works hard to disentangle science from political partisanship on Capitol Hill, the United Nations, and beyond. Today, she is joining us to discuss the history and current legality of MDMA.

Unlike many other psychedelics, MDMA was actually legal in the United States for quite some time. It was originally developed in 1912 in an attempt by pharmaceuticals to create a blood-clotting agent. Later on, MDMA was redeveloped with attention paid to its potential therapeutic effects. Consequently, throughout the 1970s, MDMA was widely in therapy, particularly to address phobias and in couples therapy.

This all changed in the early 1980s when MDMA found its way into the club scene. With the War on Drugs in full swing, the federal government, despite lobbying efforts by therapists, religious leaders, and activists, classified it as a Schedule 1 drug.

There are now efforts underway by MAPS and other organizations to get MDMA back on a pathway for legalization. By citing government studies, collecting anecdotes, and running phase 1 and phase 2 studies, MAPS has shown that there is great potential for a rescheduling of this drug.

In This Episode

• How MDMA was first used in a therapeutic setting
• The history of how MDMA became criminalized
• Current efforts to reclassify MDMA as a medicine
• Evidence that MDMA can be used to successfully treat PTSD
• What may happen to the legal status of MDMA if it is rescheduled
• Ways in which psychedelics are used in conflict resolution settings


“Throughout the 70s, MDMA was actually used across the US and the world in therapy.” [3:20]

“Something that we were able to do was use the abundance of MDMA research that governments had sponsored to try to demonstrate harm but had actually demonstrated safety.” [12:20]

“Everyone who we interviewed had a very clear intention with the process of taking it for self-healing. They weren’t going to save the world to do conflict resolution.” [25:43]


* The Psychedelic Medicine Podcast has allowed the Psychedelic Medicine Association to post episodes as an educational resource, and in return the PMA is hosting the podcast show notes.