MDMA assisted Psychotherapy
In the past few decades there has been increasingly intensive research done on the effectiveness of the chemical compound MDMA when used in conjuncture with psychotherapy for the treatment of PTSD and other anxiety related mental illnesses, and the results are astounding. In a study by MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies), 83% of those tested using MDMA no longer met criteria for PTSD after treatment while only 25% of the placebo group showed such improvement. Furthermore, their condition actually continued to improve over time well after the therapy was over, while the placebo group quickly relapsed (Powerful Results, Promising Futures). Despite these impressive results, there has been great resistance in introducing MDMA officially into the world of psychotherapy. It has been met with skepticism at every turn, due to its stigmatized label as a psychedelic and classification as a Schedule 1 drug. (DEA / Drug Scheduling). Letting test results speak for themselves, MDMA assisted psychotherapy is a powerful tool in curing PTSD and should not be kept from those who would benefit from it because of misconceptions.
MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, more commonly known as ecstasy) is a psychoactive drug that works through release of various neurotransmitters including serotonin, nor-epinephrine and dopamine. It decreases activity in the left amygdale (section of the brain which has been shown to be responsible for associating a perceived threat with fear (Result Filters)) and increases blood flow and activity in the prefrontal cortex (Section of the brain considered to be responsible for examination of thought and cause of action (What Does the Prefrontal Cortex Do?)) as well as increasing levels of oxytocin and arginine, which are considered to play a large role in development of intrapersonal trust (MAPS. Investigators Brochure). The combination of these effects has proven to be very useful in assisting psychotherapy, by effectively increasing one’s self examination and courage while at the same time strengthening the patients trust in and bond to the therapist. It does have several side effect including difficulty concentrating, jaw clenching, and dry mouth.
Its journey into the world of psychotherapy began in 1977, when a chemist named Alexander Shulgen brought a vial of (currently legal) MDMA to his psychologist colleague Leo Zeff, urging him to observe its effects. After testing it Dr. Zeff recognized the therapeutic value of MDMA and put off his nearing retirement to spread awareness of this new drug to fellow therapists around America (Erowid Leo Zeff Vault ). Unfortunately it was banned just a few years later. The DEA's Drug Control Section began collecting information on MDMA after Texas senator Lloyd Bentsen wrote to them requesting the scheduling of it due to concerns about its abuse in rave culture.( Why MDMA Should Not Have Been Made Illegal) A group of scientists filed for a hearing discussing the possible medical applications of MDMA, but after a study was released claiming that repeated use of MDMA causes holes to form in the brains of rats it was quickly named a schedule one drug. Even though this study has now been shown to be false (it was actually methamphetamine being administered to the rats), MDMA remains classified as a schedule1 drug. Now to legitimately introduce it into the psychotherapeutic world, MDMA must be reclassified as a schedule 2 or lower, causing a major issue for those who want to use it for medical purposes.
In recent years MDMA has slowly been reintroduced to the psychotherapeutic world, largely fueled by the MAPS association. MAPS has been systematically studying the effects of MDMA over the past several years, learning more about how to safely use it and creating a method practice in regards to therapy. The process itself is a rather novel method of therapy that combines the currently used methods of psychotherapy and...
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