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The favoured drug of ravers and all-night (all-morning?) partiers, MDMA may have a new use in the future that doesn’t necessarily involve dancing.

The main chemical in Ecstasy, MDMA has been shown to boost confidence, heighten bonding and increase understanding of social cues, all qualities that could ease social anxiety and alleviate some of the social symptoms of autism in adults.

Scientists in Los Angeles, California are not trying to “cure” autism, but instead find conclusive information about MDMA’s effect on social anxiety, said Alicia Danforth, co-investigator of a study looking into the drug’s effectiveness.

“That’s really hard for people to wrap their minds around. It’s not another quack treatment for autism,” she added.

The population at large may also have a problem with the majority’s perception of the drug – it makes you euphoric and you “trip out” – so MDMA has to make it over the moral hurdle as well. The drug is in Schedule I under the Canadian Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA), which means possession can result in seven years in jail, while trafficking and production of the drug can lead to life imprisonment.

But the scientists conducting the study aren’t using street drugs (obviously). The MDMA used in the study is safer than Ecstasy and Molly because it’s 100 per cent pure, Danforth said. Street drugs are usually contaminated, with only 20 per cent of Ecstasy pills even containing MDMA, she said.

The pure form has rarely had serious adverse effects in lab studies, and as of now, adult autism doesn’t have many medicine treatment options outside of behavioural or psychological therapy. Even those options don’t necessarily yield results.

The study with controlled subjects is still ongoing, and MDMA won’t be on the shelves tomorrow. It’s still a long way away, but this study is imperative to fully understanding the safety and potential side effects of the drug.

“We’re not looking to affect any of the course or traits of autism,” Danforth told the New York Daily News. “We’re looking to help individuals who are sometimes held back from living life to the fullest.”