Findings from a Collective Case Study on the MDMA/Ecstasy Experiences of Adults on the Autism Spectrum

Alicia Danforth, PhD(c)

Abstract: What do autistic individuals have to say in their own words about what happened when they took MDMA/Ecstasy? This talk will feature findings from doctoral research on the Ecstasy experiences of adults on the autism spectrum, including but not limited to Asperger's Syndrome. Autistic emotional and empathic experiences are qualitatively different from those of the neurotypical majority in ways that can result in distress and isolation. Can MDMA's well-documented prosocial effects support autistic social adaptability? Interview participants and survey respondents were asked to describe in detail what taking Ecstasy was like for them. They were also asked about any changes they noticed after their experience. The main themes that emerged from these firsthand accounts were triangulated with quantitative survey and assessment data from 16 countries and will be presented as a collective case study.

Alicia Danforth is a research associate at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. Her work as a study coordinator and co-facilitator on Dr. Charles S. Grob's clinical trial with psilocybin for existential anxiety related to advanced cancer inspired her to become a clinical psychologist. She currently is a psychology intern at a non-profit organization that specializes in the treatment and prevention of child abuse and neglect. At the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, Alicia co-developed and co-taught the first graduate-level course on psychedelic theory, research, and clinical considerations for therapists and researchers in training. Since 2004, she has volunteered as a Black Rock Ranger and Care Service peer counselor at Burning Man, BOOM, and other festivals and events. Her area of focus is supporting individuals who are experiencing challenging altered states of consciousness.

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