Everything old is new again! Now that we’re finally understanding that some drugs — like marijuana — can be helpful when it comes to treating physical and psychological disorders, more and more studies are popping up suggesting that other drugs such as MDMA and Ketamine might also be helpful… in a medical setting. Don’t put your party hat on just yet (this isn’t happening until 2021 at the earliest), but new research shows that MDMA can be helpful in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (previously, it’s been used in couple’s therapy) and the team that’s been conducting the research will soon meet with the FDA to discuss exactly how to proceed when using Molly as an assist in psychotherapy.
According to Inverse, MDMA (which can boost feelings of intimacy and joy and make glowsticks seem like a reasonable clothing accessory) is one of several psychedelics that could provide relief to those suffering from mental illness. And, of course, what the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies is talking about when they’re discussing the use of MDMA in conjunction with therapy is very different than what you can get on the street. Because not only is the stuff your friends sell you possibly dangerous, research also shows that it’s “only pure MDMA” that’s been shown to be helpful in treatment.
There’s a reason that MDMA might work as an adjunct to therapy better than other psychedelics — unlike substances such as LSD or mushrooms, it doesn’t send you floating into outer space. Instead, according to MAPS’ director of communication, Brad Burge, it actually keeps a person grounded and able to do deep inner work that can be beneficially augmented by a trained psychotherapist guiding you through the process:
A traditional or classic psychedelic like LSD or psilocybin, they’re very popular, they get a lot of press, and are very strongly attached to the ‘50s because that’s when they emerged for popular use by Americans. Those kinds of drugs tend to form powerful visual-audio hallucinations. They also tend to cause a feeling of what a lot of people call cosmic interconnectedness, a sense of loss of self, or a deeper connection with their immediate environment. With MDMA, it’s a totally different class of drug. It’s more related to mescaline than LSD or psilocybin. When people take MDMA, they don’t tend to have visual effects or strong hallucinations. They don’t have out-of-body experiences or go into other states or dimensions, which often happens with LSD. With MDMA, people tend to stay more grounded. They become more aware of the feelings that they’re having inside their body, which is very useful for psychotherapy and dealing with psychological trauma.
And here’s why MDMA is especially useful for treating PTSD, a disorder that affects a great deal of people and has been documented more and more frequently in veterans:
MDMA has a direct effect on the amygdala that other psychedelics don’t seem to have. MDMA affects the part of the brain that’s mostly responsible for fear, the flight or fight response. With people who have PTSD, their amygdala is hyperactive. MDMA directly reduces that; we see it in MRI brain imaging. So when people are recalling their trauma in the context of a therapy session, they don’t freak out at that same level of chemical activation. I like to call it a “chemical security blanket,” because people remain self-aware even while they’re talking about their difficult state.
Here’s what’s really interesting: While marijuana can be used to treat the symptoms of PTSD (depending on the strain), MDMA may allow people to get to the root of their trauma in a way that would allow them to transform it and move on, making it more possible for them to feel better and take less medication. Considering how difficult it is to find the right combination of medications, using MDMA in therapy may be a huge boon to patients.
You can read the entire interview here. It may not make you want to get out there and dance (because this is psychotherapy we’re talking about), but it’s clear that using MDMA in a controlled environment may produce less side effects and allow people to express their feelings in a way they haven’t been able to before.