MDMA Could Help Contribute to Better Couples Therapy

July 1st 2015

Thor Benson

We now know MDMA may be useful for treating PTSD, helping those who suffer from anxiety caused by a terminal illness, and for treating social anxiety, but it turns out it might also be good for couples therapy.

A study published in April looked at 35 volunteers who either took MDMA or a placebo during two separate conversations. The researchers took note on how that person talked about a loved one when they were completely sober and how they talked about the person when they were under the influence of MDMA. "Our volunteers revealed more while on MDMA," Matthew Baggott, a PhD neuroscientist and a lead researcher in the study, told ATTN:. "They seemed to talk in more depth about their relationships, and they spoke more about social and intimate topics, such as sexuality."

MDMA was originally used in clinical settings, and it's clear more and more researchers are starting to study its possible uses in those settings again. " On a neurochemical level MDMA causes the brain to release the chemicals serotonin and oxytocin," Baggott said. "Serotonin seems to buffer people against oversensitivity to positive and negative events. Oxytocin helps people to achieve social closeness," he said. The volunteers were more confident when they spoke to the researchers and more in touch with their emotions, so they were able to have a more meaningful therapy session. The researchers did not study couples together, but one can image it would produce similar results.

Baggott is excited by the findings and hopes to look further into how MDMA can be used to help fix psychological issues. "Our findings suggest MDMA really is worth studying as an aid to psychotherapy," he said. "It has unusual emotional effects that we don't see with available psychiatric drugs."

All of this said, MDMA is not for everyone. There are many studies that have been done that show MDMA can bring on severe anxiety for some people, often when they have a preexisting mental disorder, which would not be helpful for therapy. However, the likelihood of experiencing anxiety can be greatly reduced by creating a proper setting for the experience and not giving the person too high of a dose. "In controlled studies, we find that MDMA often mildly increases anxiety," Baggott said. "Yet, it still makes these mildly anxious people feel more loving and emotionally closer to others. So in a safe setting, anxiety is not usually an issue."

Baggott seems to believe the way the federal government has handled the drug is not effective or helpful. " The scheduling system in the U.S. and, actually in the whole world, is a mess," Baggott said. He said the U.N. General Assembly Special Session on drugs will examine how to reevaluate its stance on these kinds of drugs next year, but it's unlikely to affect how the U.S. handles these substances. Baggott said he believes the U.S. may eventually approve of MDMA as a medicine, but it's going to take time.

The Real History of Drugs Episode 2: MDMA

Here's the interesting history of MDMA (Molly) and why it's illegal... (ATTN: is excited to launch Episode 2 of our new series about the history of illegal drugs).

Posted by ATTN: on Sunday, June 28, 2015