MDMA, AKA Molly or Ecstasy, May Benefit Certain Mental Health Patients

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MDMA is an acronym for 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine. It’s a drug that has been around for over 100 years. Its origins trace back to Germany in 1912, where the drug was originally called “methylsafrylaminc.” The company that developed it hoped to use the chemical to synthesize drugs that would control bleeding. However, medical professionals found another use for the drug decades later.

Psychotherapists in the 1970s began to notice how this compound facilitated therapy sessions. Some claimed it promoted better communication, while others noted that patients could make more progress due to a new perspective on their problems. While the FDA never studied or approved the drug for use in humans, it became increasingly popular among mental health professionals who worked with those who had deep-rooted trauma and similar issues resistant to traditional therapy.

Unfortunately, the drug also experienced a boom in recreational popularity in the 1980s and 1990s. This lead to the DEA seeking an emergency ban on MDMA in 1985 and then classifying MDMA as a Schedule I substance. Once that happened, only a handful of therapists were still willing to use this substance to treat patients and facilitate therapy sessions. Instead, the drug moved to the streets, where it became a part of party, rave, and most recently, festival culture.

Over the years, many versions of MDMA have become popular and then gone back out of style. There have also been many analogs of the drug, some of which were sold online during the “bath salts” heyday in the late oughts. The nicknames for the compound include “E.” “X,” “Molly,” and even “XTC.”

However, in recent years, more mental health professionals are interested in exploring the potential uses and benefits of MDMA in a clinical setting. Anecdote of successful MDMA therapy has filtered into mainstream media, drawing more public attention to the potential of this currently banned substance. MAPS, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, is currently working to fund Phase 3 clinical trials of MDMA as a therapy tool for those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Earlier, smaller studies have shown that MDMA may offer real benefits for those with severe PTSD symptoms. There is also the potential for benefit with a host of other mental health conditions. Even personality disorders and low self-esteem could respond to MDMA, as it is known to help build a bond of trust between therapist and patient, while also decreasing the fear response in the patient.

While there are some risks to any chemical compounds made and sold on a unregulated market, MDMA administered by a medical professional in a proper setting could offer real benefits for certain patients. The plan outlined by MAPS could make MDMA a legally prescribed medication by 2021, which could save and improve countless lives.

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