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MDMA For Treating Alcohol And Substance Use Disorders? The Results Are Positive...

You may have heard about MDMA-assisted therapy for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) but have you heard about MDMA-assisted therapy for Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)?

According to this preliminary study by researchers in the UK…

it shows promising results.

Sessa et al., (2021) carried out a study using MDMA with 14 participants. They wanted to find out if the therapeutic benefits of MDMA would be well tolerated and whether drinking behaviour, quality of life and psychosocial functioning would be improved. Participants were offered an eight-week, 10-session, psychotherapy course with sessions 3 and 10 being six to eight hour MDMA assisted sessions. All participants had undergone detoxification prior to starting therapy and were ‘sober’. The study lasted 10 months overall.

Results from the study suggested that MDMA was in fact beneficial. At nine months post-therapy, 11 of the 14 participants were drinking fewer than 14 alcohol units per week - compared with an average pre-therapy/detox consumption of 130 units! Average alcohol consumption across the group at the nine-month follow-up was 18.7 units! General mood was elevated, anxiety decreased, and depression also reduced across the group over the course of 10 months.

As you can see, the results are positive across the board. The researchers put this down to MDMA’s effects of increased empathy and compassion for ‘the self’ resulting in increased self-awareness and a subsequent reduction in harmful behaviour - something that makes total sense in my thinking.

So…

why does it work?

There are many schools of thought but the one that makes the most sense to me, apart from the increased self-compassion and empathy mentioned above, is that MDMA allows you to access and ‘process’ past memories that you wouldn’t normally do without the ‘help’ of MDMA. You can access and process these memories without getting over-emotional and shutting down the process altogether. This then brings awareness and insight which helps you overcome whatever it was that was residing in your subconscious, causing you harm, and contributing to your harmful behaviour (excessive drinking).

There were of course limitations to this study, as there are with all studies. First of all, it was very small - just 14 participants. Secondly, it wasn’t randomised. And thirdly, there wasn’t a control group so we don’t know if the results would have been similar if MDMA wasn’t a factor. But, it’s a good start and possibly a view of things to come in the future.

Where can you discover more about what’s going on in the world of MDMA and other ‘assisted’ therapies? Visit https://www.clerkenwellhealth.com/contact to register for trials, or just Google ‘psychedelic therapy’ and do your own research.

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References

Batz, A. (2014). Rock Maze [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/betmVWGYcLY

Sessa, B., Higbed, L., Steve O’Brien, Durant, C., Sakal, C., Titheradge, D., Tim, M. W., Anna Rose-Morris, Elsa Brew-Girard, Burrows, S., Wiseman, C., Wilson, S., Rickard, J., & David, J. N. (2021). First study of safety and tolerability of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine-assisted psychotherapy in patients with alcohol use disorder. J Psychopharmacol, 35(4), 375-383. https://10.1177/0269881121991792

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