MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy for PTSD and Its Efficacy for Long-Term Relief

MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy for PTSD and Its Efficacy for Long-Term Relief
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MDMA-assisted psychotherapy is on the verge of being approved to clinically treat psychiatric, psychological, and mental health conditions.

  • MDMA is a synthetic drug that is currently a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance, which means it has no accepted medical use in the United States and a high potential for abuse.
  • The MAPS' Phase 3 clinical trial of MDMA-assisted therapy has shown statistically significant improvement in PTSD symptoms after 3 sessions and no serious adverse events were observed among the participants.
  • The FDA has designated pure MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD a potential Breakthrough Therapy.

The MAPS' MDMA clinical study has demonstrated a new profound hope for patients with mental health conditions, such as, PTSD, substance use disorders, anxiety, depression, and eating disorders, and pure MDMA is on the cusp of federal approval for safe and therapeutic use.

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In honor of Mens' Mental Health Month, the purpose of this article is to promote awareness, education, and support for men dealing with various mental health issues, such as depression, addiction. anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders, and suicide.

This article provides an opportunity to reduce toxic masculinity, destigmatize seeking help, and develop a culture that value's men’s mental health, ultimately contributing to overall wellness and improved quality of life for men everywhere.

Before the article starts, I must note that the safety and efficacy of MDMA-assisted therapy is currently under investigation. No MDMA-assisted therapy has been approved by the FDA or other regulatory authorities. MDMA is illegal and recreational forms are often contaminated with fentanyl, which is highly deadly.

Key Mental Health Statistics

  • 6 million males per year are affected by depression.
  • 350 million people suffer from PTSD worldwide.
  • PTSD affects more women than men.
  • 70% of adults experience at least one traumatic event in their lifetime.
  • 20% of people who experience a traumatic event will develop PTSD.
  • 49% of rape victims will develop PTSD.
  • 14.3% of people who suddenly and unexpectedly experience the death of a close loved one develop PTSD.
  • PTSD and depression frequently co-occur, as people with PTSD are 3-5 times more likely to have a depressive disorder.
  • PTSD and substance abuse often occur together. Research estimates that 46.4% of people with PTSD also meet the criteria for a substance use disorder.
  • PTSD also co-occurs with anxiety and an individual with PTSD-related anxiety may also constantly feel on edge and be easily startled. Additionally, anxiety caused by PTSD can make it difficult to concentrate or increase agitation.
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MDMA Explained

3,4-Methyl​enedioxy​methamphetamine, also known, as "MDMA," "ecstasy," "molly," and "X" is a synthetic, mood-impacting compound classified as a potent empathogen-entactogen with stimulant properties.

MDMA is capable of inducing unique psychopharmacological effects:

  • Decreased feelings of fear and defensiveness.
  • Increased feelings of wellbeing.
  • Increased sociability and extroversion.
  • Increased interpersonal trust.
  • An alert state of consciousness.

Although considered a psychedelic drug, MDMA does not tend to produce auditory and visual hallucinations like classic psychedelics, such as DMT, LSD, and psilocybin.

MDMA works on two different neurotransmitters- dopamine and serotonin. The "methamphetamine" part of MDMA gives it its dopaminergic, stimulant component, which increases levels of dopamine and blocks the reuptake of it in the neuron, leading to an even larger increase in dopamine. Increased levels of dopamine greatly increases motivation, desire, mood, and reward.

MDMA also increases serotonin, but gives it a much larger boost compared to dopamine. MDMA stimulates the production of serotonin and inhibits the reuptake in the neuron creating a huge serotonin rush. The major point is that MDMA activates serotonergic neural pathways related to feeling more socially connected giving it its empathogenic properties.  

The immense rise in serotonin tremendously increases positivity, emotional warmth, empathy, trust, sociability, and the ability to express self-love and self-compassion along with love and compassion for others.

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How MDMA Reduces Signs + Symptoms of PTSD

Individuals with PTSD suffer for years. Even with current talk therapy and medication treatment, such as, SSRIs like sertraline and paroxetine, only half of these individuals experience some temporary relief of signs and symptoms of PTSD. The problem is that individuals with PTSD are not achieving significant long-lasting relief or full remission of symptoms.  

Individuals who have suffered a traumatic event or trauma have increased input along the neural circuitry between the amygdala and insula pathway. Their threat detection system in the amygdala is heightened, which sends stronger input to the insula, which is responsible for interoception causing individuals to be in a constant state of their trauma.

MDMA works along this neural pathway of the amygdala and insula. It reduces activity of the amygdala and response to threats while increasing feelings of friendliness, happiness, and trust for oneself.

MDMA provides short-term effects of pro-sociability, positivity, empathy towards oneself and others, and reduces levels of threat perception.

MDMA also provides long-term effects by rewiring and reinforcing neural circuitry of social connection, kindness, self-love, and empathy through neuroplasticity, which has shown to give individuals with PTSD long-term relief and full remission of their symptoms. This is groundbreaking research.

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How MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy Works

MDMA-assisted therapy is performed in a clinical laboratory setting with pure MDMA under the supervision of a therapist or clinician.

In the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies' (MAPS) MDMA research study individuals who met the criteria for PTSD spent 12 hours with two therapists during three 4-hour sessions.

During the three sessions the individuals would ingest MDMA before and during talk therapy at multiple therapeutic, safe dosages while talking about and processing their trauma with their therapists.

These individuals would lay down blindfolded remembering and picturing the trauma while under the influence of MDMA. Then, sit up, remove the blindfold and continue talking about their trauma with their therapists.

The goal of treatment is to receive long lasting relief that allows these individuals to no longer meet the criteria of PTSD along with the patients reporting feeling better and no more signs and symptoms of PTSD.

The foundation of successful treatment is the strong rapport between the patient and therapists. The patient must feel supported, trusting, and safe to explore their trauma.  

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Results of MDMA-Assisted Therapy

Due to MDMA's pro-social, trusting, empathetic, and compassionate effects, individuals with PTSD who participated in MDMA-assisted talk therapy were more motivated to open up to talk about and process their traumas and had more empathy for themselves during the sessions. MDMA gave patients an intense desire to confide in their therapists and trust themselves to dive internally to explore and talk about their trauma.

Phase 3 of the MAPS' MDMA study demonstrated an 88% success rate to clinically effective response to MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, compared to a 60% success rate of therapy alone. Even more earth shattering, 67% out of the 88% of successful patients using MDMA-assisted therapy no longer met the criteria for PTSD, went into remission, and resolved their substance use disorders from the PTSD.

Patients also reported no more signs and symptoms of PTSD and they felt less emotional load, threats, anxiety, and negative thought loops. More importantly, patients reported having more empathy for oneself and their past experiences and for other individuals. Essentially, they were able to rewire their neural circuitry and relationship to their trauma and seek long lasting relief and remission.  

Final Thoughts

MDMA is a synthetic, mood-impacting compound classified as a potent empathogen-entactogen with stimulant properties. MDMA is currently a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance, but is in clinical trials for the treatment of PTSD and on the cusp of federal legality for safe, therapeutic use.

This is very innovative for the treatment and management of mental health conditions, such as, PTSD, substance use disorders, anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. MDMA legality for therapeutic use is looking promising some time end of 2023 or beginning of 2024.

It is important to remember that MDMA is still considered illegal for therapeutic and recreational uses. MDMA can be neurotoxic when taken at high doses for parties and raves. Recreational forms of MDMA are often contaminated with fentanyl and other drugs.

It is crucial to be aware of this and to avoid any street forms of MDMA. If you are not going to avoid recreational use of MDMA, obtain a MDMA or "molly" testing kit to identify contaminated cuts and analogs.  

Thank you for reading this article.


This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.