Less than three years after the retraction of a controversial Science paper1 on methyl-enedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), the chemical used to make the illegal drug Ecstasy, two researchers in the United States have moved closer to studying the potential benefits of the compound.

They may be going against the grain, however. In recent years, experts have suggested that scientists are encouraged to produce results that support the US government's war on drugs. For example, when researchers retracted the 2002 Science paper showing that Ecstasy had a destructive effect on the dopaminergic neurons of primate brains, predisposing Ecstasy users to Parkinson disease, experts began to wonder how the paper passed peer review. It turned out that reagents had been mislabeled, resulting in the animals in the experiment receiving methamphetamine, not MDMA. That the paper was published in the first place suggests that the research community feels pressure to demonstrate that drugs are...

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