Embracing Neurodiversity in Psychedelic Science: A Mixed-Methods Inquiry into the MDMA Experiences of Autistic Adults

J Psychoactive Drugs. Apr-Jun 2019;51(2):146-154. doi: 10.1080/02791072.2019.1587116. Epub 2019 Mar 25.


This exploratory inquiry analyzed subjective experiences autistic adults reported after they took the drug 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), also known as ecstasy, in nonclinical settings. Using a secure, globally available website, this study collected data from participants in 13 countries who were experienced with MDMA (n = 100). A subset of survey respondents (n = 24) were then invited to participate in qualitative interviews. The researcher applied thematic content analysis of interview transcripts to create a comprehensive account of emergent themes. MDMA has well-documented acute effects that promote pro-social attitudes such as caring and trust in neurotypical, or typically developing, populations. Findings from this study suggested that MDMA-assisted therapy may be an effective catalyst in autistic adults for intra- and interpersonal change. In addition, participants reported accounts of lasting transformation and healing from conditions such as trauma and social anxiety that are common in autistic populations. No participants reported long-term adverse outcomes as a result of using MDMA/ecstasy. Qualitative findings support a case for future clinical trials of MDMA-assisted therapy with autistic adults who present with social adaptability challenges.

Keywords: Asperger’s; MDMA; autism; social anxiety.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Autistic Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Autistic Disorder / psychology
  • Female
  • Hallucinogens / administration & dosage*
  • Hallucinogens / adverse effects
  • Hallucinogens / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine / administration & dosage*
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine / adverse effects
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine / pharmacology
  • Phobia, Social / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult


  • Hallucinogens
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine