MDMA Assisted Therapy
MDMA, a.k.a. Molly, Ecstasy, or “E,” is a psychoactive substance that causes the consumer to feel euphoric, energetic, and empathetic. It is crystalline in its purest form and often sold on the streets in capsules. However, its most common form is a pressed tablet. The most common way to consume MDMA is to swallow the capsules or tablets, though some recreational users may snort or smoke the substance for quicker onset.
Importantly, the US Department of Justice currently lists MDMA as a Schedule I substance stating that the substance has no medical value and high risk of abuse. However, research suggests that the chemical might help treat some types of traumas when used in a controlled setting.
Specifically, studies suggest that therapeutically administered MDMA may help battle PSTD in a significant number of patients. Essentially, experts believe MDMA helps PTSD suffers by allowing them to recall and unpack painful memories without triggering a panic attack. Numerous studies are currently underway to further investigate this presumption, with wonderfully positive results so far.
A Closer Look at MDMA-Assisted Therapy
MDMA is most therapeutic when accompanied by trained professionals. After all, unpredictable sensations are more easily managed when someone is there to remind you that you’re safe. As such, effective MDMA therapy involves a team of professionals specially trained to talk a patient through the experience to help facilitate the healing process.
Notably, therapeutic MDMA healing sessions generally take place over the span of about 12 weeks, with many therapists recommending follow-up sessions a few months later to maintain long-term benefits. Sessions generally come in three’s: the first to assess the situation and develop a plan, the second to undergo psychotherapy under the influence of MDMA, and a third to discuss discoveries and determine further action.
Why MDMA-Assisted Therapy is Effective
Experts believe that MDMA instills a sense of comfort by boosting serotonin and oxytocin, which intensifies feelings of safety. Additionally, it dulls activity in the amygdala, which is the part of the brain responsible for fear and anxiety. Consequently, many believe that MDMA may help patients recall traumatic memories without becoming triggered by them. In doing, they can more easily unpack these issues to work through them and move forward.
Notably, research suggests that MDMA therapy is incredibly effective for the majority of study participants. In fact, according to a newly complete Phase 3 study, of the 91 participants in 15 different areas, 88 percent witnessed “clinically significant improvement” in their PTSD symptoms. MAPS, the team that sponsored the study, hopes to see FDA approval of MDMA-assisted therapy by 2023.
Legal Status of MDMA in the USA and Canada
As mentioned, the USDA currently lists MDMA as a Schedule I substance. However, it still allows local jurisdictions the right to determine just what they want to do with that. As such, some places like Oregon have decriminalized the substance, whereas others are currently trying to loosen restrictions and improve research opportunities. In the meantime, most research is privately funded by groups like MAPS.
Importantly, Maps (the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) has been a long-time advocate for psychedelic therapy. In addition to sponsoring research, the MAPS team is trying to convince public and private health insurers to cover MDMA-assisted therapy. Currently, they estimate an average cost between $5,000 and $10,000 otherwise. (Notably, most of this cost is for therapy, not the drug.)
MAPS has also improved access to MDMA studies by convincing the FDA to include the drug in the Expanded Access or the Compassionate Use Program. Basically, the program gives people with life-threatening conditions the option to undergo experimental therapies like MDMA-assisted therapy.
To qualify for participation in the Expanded Access Program, patients must have a life-threatening condition for which there is no sufficient treatment. They must also be unable to join clinical trials and foresee benefits that outweigh potential risks. Visit the FDA website to learn more about the Expanded Access Program.
How to Participate in MDMA Research Studies
Currently, the only legal way to receive MDMA-assisted therapy is through the Expanded Access Program or by participating in research studies. Fortunately, several research studies are recruiting or underway throughout much of the United States.
Notably, most MDMA research studies are currently underway seeking to learn more about its effect on PTSD patients. Other study topics under investigation include MDMA’s effect on sleep, anxiety, autism, spiritual wellbeing, and psychological effects on healthy individuals.
Patients or their doctors can contact the research staff for the studies they would like to participate in to see if they qualify. Visit ClinicalTrials.gov to learn more about active MDMA research studies, including participation information and study results
Psychedelics have long been used in religious and therapeutic settings to help combat mental anguish. However, because psychedelics like MDMA are Schedule I narcotics, research, and therapeutic access are limited.
Fortunately, that’s all changing as the world reconsiders its views on psychedelics. Indeed, psychedelic substances might hold the key to mind expansion in many glorious ways.