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Fernando Vergara / AP

The Food and Drug Administration designated the drug MDMA, known as Ecstasy, a "breakthrough therapy" for PTSD treatment earlier this month. The designation will expedite the agency's review of the drug, depending on the outcome of a clinical trial to test its effect versus that of standard psychotherapy. Ecstasy is in the DEA's category of Schedule 1 drugs, meaning that it is among substances with the highest potential for abuse, like heroin.

Why it matters: 11-20% of veterans who served in Afghanistan or Iraq suffer from PTSD, per the Department of Veterans' Affairs, and it is this group in particular that researchers hope ecstasy can help.

  • "We're in this odd situation where one of the most promising therapies also happens to be a Schedule 1 substance," former Brig. Gen. Loree Sutton said to the Washington Post.
  • "This is not a big scientific step ... It's been obvious for 40 years that these drugs are medicine. But it's a huge step in acceptance," David Nutt, a scientist at Imperial College London, told Science.
  • One concern is that approving Ecstasy for PTSD will embolden groups seeking to legalize the drug for recreational use, the Post reports.

Go deeper

Updated 24 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Politics: Fauci says he accepted Biden's offer to be chief medical adviser "on the spot" — The recovery needs rocket fuel.
  2. Health: CDC: It's time for "universal face mask use" — Death rates rising across the country — Study: Increased testing can reduce transmission.
  3. Economy: U.S. economy adds 245,000 jobs in November as recovery slows — America's hidden depression: K-shaped recovery threatens Biden administration.
  4. Cities: Bay Area counties to enact stay-at-home order ahead of state mandate
  5. Vaccine: What vaccine trials still need to do.
  6. World: UN warns "2021 is literally going to be catastrophic"
  7. 🎧 Podcast: Former FDA chief Rob Califf on the vaccine approval process.
1 hour ago - Health

Bay Area counties to enact stay-at-home order ahead of state mandate

Golden Gate Park. Photo: Justin Sullivan via Getty

Counties around the San Francisco Bay Area will adopt California’s new regional stay-at-home order amid surges in cases and ICU hospitalizations, health officials said Friday.

The big picture: California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a three-week stay-at-home order on Thursday that would go into effect in regions with less than 15% ICU capacity. Despite the Bay Area’s current 25.3% ICU capacity, health officials from Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Santa Clara, San Francisco and the city of Berkeley are moving ahead with a shelter-in-place mandate in the hopes of reducing risk.

2 hours ago - Podcasts

Former FDA chief Rob Califf on the vaccine approval process

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is reviewing two emergency use authorization requests for COVID-19 vaccines, with an outside advisory committee scheduled to meet next Thursday to review data from Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech.

Axios Re:Cap digs in with former FDA commissioner Rob Calif about the EUA process, the science and who should make the final call.