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TLDR: The Potential of Candy Flipping

The first study combining MDMA and LSD in humans is under way

Dorna Pourang

Candy flipping has made its way from the club to the lab. The University Hospital Basel Liechti Lab in Switzerland is conducting the first clinical trial testing the combined effects of LSD and MDMA, a duo that was dubbed “candy flipping” by recreational users in the 1980s. If Basel sounds familiar to the psychonauts reading this: yes, Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann discovered LSD there in 1943. Seventy-eight years later, the city that birthed hallucinogenic science is home to one of the leading centers for psychedelic research.

While the study may appear to be riding the wave of the recent psychedelic renaissance, it has, in fact, been decades in the making. The professor leading the study, Dr. Matthias Liechti, is a renowned researcher who has steadily investigated the therapeutic and mechanistic effects of psychedelics for over 20 years. 

Studies show that both MDMA and LSD individually demonstrate therapeutic potential, so why combine them? Despite a long history of recreational use, the research to support anecdotal reports of positive candy flipping experiences is scarce. Previous studies suggest that the use of LSD as an adjunct to psychotherapy is associated with positive health outcomes in patients with substance-use disorder, anxiety, and depression. The positive effects of derealization and depersonalization phenomena in healthy subjects increased feelings of well-being, happiness, closeness to others, and trust. However, acute unpleasant side effects such as negative thoughts, rumination, anxiety, panic, and paranoia have also been reported. 

When it comes to the therapeutic effect of psychedelics, studies have shown that a more positive psychedelic experience is predictive of greater long-term benefits, which is where MDMA may come in. MDMA’s heart-opening effects result in increased empathy and a reduced fear response, which is associated with a better response to psychedelics. The study in Basel will gather evidence to evaluate the co-administration of MDMA and LSD, and whether the combination can curtail “bad trips.” While this study will examine the effects of LSD and MDMA in healthy participants, the results may suggest the potential for the combined modality to treat patients with mental illnesses. If the study proves the benefit of combining the two, it could lead to an exciting new treatment paradigm.

This phase I study will enroll 24 healthy participants who, once qualified, will be randomized into one of four treatment groups, designed so that neither the participants nor the experimenters know which treatments the participants are receiving to minimize bias. 

Since this is a phase I study, it will not include a therapy component. Participants will undergo testing of physical and subjective effects via frequent vital sign measurements, blood draws, and the administration of several validated measures, such as the “Five Dimensions of Altered States of Consciousness Rating Scale.” 

The suggested effects of LSD and MDMA described above come from administration in a controlled setting under clinical supervision. TLDR: Be safe. This is an early-phase study to explore the effects of these substances in a regulated environment, and the evidence summarized above doesn’t suggest it is safe to try this at home. 

Learn more about the clinical trial here. 




Dorna Pourang is a psychedelic researcher and a Clinical Trial Leader at MAPS PBC. MUD\WTR donates a percentage of its earnings to MAPS. Any statements are the personal opinion of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinion of MAPS or MAPS PBC.

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