MDMA tablets

What is MDMA Therapy: Applications, Procedure, Studies

By incorporating MDMA into psychotherapy sessions, patients may experience a decrease in their anxiety or defensiveness.

The material below is not intended to provide medical advice and we don’t encourage the illegal use of any substances. MDMA is a potentially illegal substance, and we do not encourage the use of this substance where it is against the law. Due to the high demand for the subject, we created this article for educational purposes. The intent of the content is to help you start learning about the subject.

What is MDMA

MDMA, commonly referred to as ecstasy or Molly, is a type of psychoactive substance that functions as a stimulant. It works by releasing certain chemicals in the brain, which leads to an increase in energy levels, heightened senses, and heightened emotions such as self-awareness and empathy.

Experts are exploring the potential benefits of MDMA through various trials. The goal is to find effective ways to conduct MDMA-assisted therapy, particularly for patients suffering from PTSD. 

MDMA (short for 3, 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) triggers the release of neurotransmitters, which are chemical messengers that communicate between brain cells and modify brain activity. These neurotransmitters include hormones associated with positive feelings such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine as well as oxytocin, prolactin, cortisol, and vasopressin. 

The release of these neurotransmitters leads to changes in brain activity and contributes to the drug’s effects on mood, emotions, and other aspects of behavior.

Brief History of MDMA

MDMA, also known as 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, was first synthesized in 1912 by a German pharmaceutical company, but it remained largely unknown until the 1970s and 1980s when it began to be used as a recreational drug. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, therapists started to use MDMA as an adjunct to psychotherapy to help patients open up and feel more relaxed during therapy sessions. In 1985, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classified MDMA as a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning that it was considered to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.

Despite this classification, MDMA continued to be used recreationally and in some therapeutic settings. In recent years, there has been renewed interest in the potential therapeutic benefits of MDMA, and clinical trials are underway to explore its use in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health conditions.

Effects of MDMA on the brain and body

The effects of MDMA on the brain are connected to the direct impact of the substance on the increased activity of three neurotransmitters: dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. 

Regulation of mood, appetite, sleep, and pain is directly affected by the neurotransmitter serotonin. Increased activity of this neurotransmitter causes mood elevation and euphoric experience. 

The effects of MDMA on the brain are not only positive. For example, increased activity of serotonin causes a decrease in the activity of this vital neurotransmitter which results in challenging aftereffects that can last several days after using the drug. 

Studies in humans and animals have shown a correlation between low serotonin levels and poor memory and depression. As a result, the findings of these studies support the idea that regular use of MDMA can lead to confusion, depression, anxiety, paranoia, memory impairment, and difficulties with attention processes, which have been reported in some individuals who use the drug.

Potential side effects of MDMA
Marked rise in body temperature (hyperthermia)
Electrolyte (sodium) imbalance
High blood pressure (hypertension)
Involuntary jaw clenching and teeth grinding
Muscle or joint stiffness
Lack of appetite
Illogical or disorganized thoughts
Restless legs
Hot flashes or chills
Panic attacks
Loss of consciousness
Kidney failure
Swelling of the brain
What does MDMA feel like?
Euphoria: MDMA can create a powerful sense of pleasure and well-being, often described as a “rush” or “high.”
Euphoria: MDMA can create a powerful sense of pleasure and well-being, often described as a “rush” or “high.”
Emotional openness: Many people report feeling more emotionally connected to others and more willing to share their own feelings and experiences.
Increased sociability: MDMA can make people feel more outgoing and extroverted, and they may be more likely to start conversations and engage with others.
Enhanced sensory experiences: MDMA can make colors, music, and other sensory inputs feel more intense and enjoyable.
Increased empathy: Some people report feeling a heightened sense of empathy and understanding for others while under the influence of MDMA.
Increased energy: MDMA can increase energy levels and create a feeling of excitement and enthusiasm.

What is MDMA Therapy

In a clinical context, regulated amounts of pharmaceutical grade MDMA are utilized in MDMA therapy to treat specific psychiatric conditions, such as PTSD. This approach ensures the safe and controlled use of MDMA, unlike ecstasy which often contains an unspecified amount of MDMA mixed with other potentially hazardous substances.

By incorporating MDMA into psychotherapy sessions, patients may experience a decrease in their anxiety or defensiveness. Consequently, this can lead to the establishment of a stronger rapport and sense of trust between the patient and therapist, allowing for more productive sessions and greater openness from the patient.

According to the MAPS Research page, ongoing research is focused on the treatment of several conditions, including PTSD, eating disorders such as AN-R and binge-eating disorder, and anxiety disorders in adults with autism.

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Studies supporting therapeutic use of MDMA

A 2021 study has examined the use of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)-assisted psychotherapy as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). MDMA is a psychedelic compound that can cause a feeling of bonding, elevated mood, and increased energy, and is the intended active ingredient in illicit Ecstasy or Molly products. In MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, patients receive 2 to 3 multi-hour therapy sessions with a team of psychiatrists, with MDMA dosing used to facilitate exploration of underlying trauma without causing emotional distress.

The study found that MDMA-assisted psychotherapy reduced patients’ Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS) scores from baseline more than control psychotherapy, although with high statistical heterogeneity. In addition, MDMA-assisted psychotherapy was found to enhance the achievement of clinically significant reductions in CAPS scores and CAPS score reductions sufficient to no longer meet the definition of PTSD, with no detected statistical heterogeneity. While the therapy was generally safe and well-tolerated, patients commonly reported side effects such as bruxism, anxiety, jitteriness, headache, and nausea.

The study concluded that while MDMA-assisted psychotherapy has been shown to be an effective therapy for patients with PTSD with a reasonable safety profile, there are considerable risks associated with the use of unregulated MDMA or the use of MDMA in the absence of a strongly controlled psychotherapeutic environment. Therefore, it is important to use caution and ensure a strongly controlled environment when using MDMA-assisted psychotherapy as a treatment for PTSD.

Recently, MDMA and psilocybin approved by TGA for medical use in Australia. Within six months, individuals with severe mental health issues will be able to receive prescriptions for the psychedelics MDMA and psilocybin. The Therapeutic Goods Administration approved the change after calls to reclassify the drugs, however, only authorized psychiatrists can prescribe them.

What does the future of MDMA therapy look like?

There is growing optimism that MDMA could soon be approved for therapeutic use in North America, including Canada.

The approval of MDMA for medical use in Australia is a significant milestone, as it indicates that the drug has been found to be safe and effective for therapeutic use. This development has led to increased interest in MDMA therapy across North America, with many healthcare professionals and researchers advocating for its approval.

According to U.S. National Library of Medicine, currently, (February 2023) there are 7 ongoing MDMA trials focusing on the treatment of PTSD (5 in the U.S., one in Europe and one in Canada).

If MDMA is approved for therapeutic use in Canada and United States, it could provide a valuable new treatment option for patients struggling with mental health conditions.

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