In the current psychedelic-medical climate, MDMA is best known for its experimental therapeutic use in aiding veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. However, during the 1970s and 80s, MDMA was something of an underground phenomenon―an intervention that was used with great success as a psychotherapeutic supplement for couples and group therapy.
This is to say nothing of the widespread recreational use throughout the United States and internationally. The black cloud of illegality that has loomed over the subject following its criminalization in 1985 has obfuscated the myriad other therapeutic and otherwise beneficial uses that MDMA may in fact possess. There are some parallels to cannabis, which is currently in the midst of an academic and scientific renaissance. Marijuana, for instance, has been identified as a near-miracle treatment aiding in everything from cataract sufferers to cancer patients.
Similarly, evidence suggests that MDMA has the potential of treating and reversing even the most pervasive of pathologies in the mental health world. Sadly, discussion of these opportunities has been stifled by the current federal classification as medically inert. A multi-decade long propaganda and misinformation campaign against the therapeutic uses of MDMA has made it more difficult to discuss the alternative ways in which MDMA can help promote healing.
While much progress has been made, a narrow focus of MDMA just for PTSD obscures the larger applications of MDMA, particularly for those whom traditional psychotherapy has been largely ineffective.
Let us visit the early years of research, brilliantly annotated for future generations of researchers in the awesome tome, Ecstasy: The Complete Guide: A Comprehensive Look at the Risks and Benefits of MDMA by esteemed author and psychiatrist Julie Holland. In her seminal work, decades of cutting-edge analytical and experimental work have been compiled, detailing the staggering support for MDMA in psychotherapy:
- In 1986, Dr. Greer and Robert Tolbert published a study examining a summary of the subjective effects of MDMA in 29 subjects; all reported positive changes in their attitudes or feelings during the session and increased feelings of closeness and intimacy with anyone present. Twenty-two subjects cited some cognitive benefit, such as an expanded mental perspective, insight into personal patterns or problems, or improved self-examination. Common undesirable effects during and after the sessions were jaw tension, teeth-clenching, insomnia, fatigue, and decreased appetite.
- In examining the differences between the mechanisms of action for MDMA, compared to traditional hallucinogens in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, Dave Nichols in 1986 found early scientific investigations that reported MDMA produces an “easily controlled altered state of consciousness with emotional and sensual overtones,” and suggested MDMA might be useful as an adjunct to insight-oriented psychotherapy.
- In Through the Gateway of the Heart by Sophia Adamson, one therapist has estimated that in five hours of one ADAM (MDMA) session clients could activate and process psychic material that would normally require five months of weekly sessions.
MDMA is perfectly suited to treat a wide range of psychological issues. While it is not a necessary component for healthy psychological adaptation, it has shown to be remarkably effective in treating the ugliest of human dysfunctions. Historically difficult and misunderstood conditions can be illuminated by novel solutions. Given our vast understanding of medicine and health, it is unconscionable to withhold this treatment from individuals in suffering, particularly when the roots of these pathologies are so well understood, and the treatments can be made widely (and immediately) available.