In an underreported statement made at the 2017 International Drug Policy Reform Conference, Rick Doblin, executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), discussed rumors of secret Pentagon studies with MDMA, as well as the reasons for hesitancy on the part of some government agencies to fund MAPS’ research.

“We’ve recently found out that there is a secret Army military study into MDMA for PTSD and what we have found out is they are trying to keep it secret from the soldiers,” Doblin said.

He continued, “What they were saying is that if the soldiers who are suffering — many of them from trauma — knew that the Army was actually funding research, the Army is fearful that soldiers would take it into their own hands to self-medicate with MDMA…We found out about this in a sort of slip from some Army researchers contacting us for information. Then, when we asked further questions, they wouldn’t tell us anymore.”

Doblin also discussed why the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) had refused to fund MAPS Phase 3 MDMA research. NIMH, he explained, is interested in mechanism of action (MOA) research, whereas MAPS was focused on Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards of safety and efficacy — not MOA.

MOA research is specifically concerned with how a drug or other substance produces an effect in the body. This kind of research can help determine demographics that may respond better or worse to a drug, determine treatment plans involving multiple drugs that may interact with one another and enable more precise dosing of a drug.

The FDA puts less import on MOA than it does on general safety and efficacy.

In MDMA trials, for example, the FDA is less concerned with exactly how MDMA produces therapeutic effects through biochemical reactions. The trials are more concerned with whether specific doses of MDMA safely and reliably produce therapeutic outcomes, regardless of what bodily reactions may lead to those outcomes.

Not focusing on MOA, Doblin said, made MAPS ineligible for NIMH funding.

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