Scientists Are Planning To Use MDMA To Treat People With Alcohol Addiction

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In a remarkable new study, scientists will use the illegal drug known as MDMA in a clinical trial aimed at treating alcoholism.

The study will be undertaken by scientists at Imperial College London, who were recently given ethical approval to test small doses of the drug – also know as Ecstasy – on a small group of patients in Bristol.

As part of the treatment, they will monitor whether or not the drug, along with psychotherapy, manages to help patients in effectively overcoming their addiction compared to normal treatment practices.

The trial itself will feature addicts who typically consume up to five bottles of wine a day and have failed previous treatments for their addiction. They will go through a detox period, followed by two therapy sessions whilst being under the influence of 99.9 percent pure MDMA.

Ben Sessa, a clinical psychiatrist on the trial and senior researcher at Imperial College London, said: “We know that MDMA works really well in helping people who have suffered trauma and it helps to build empathy.

Many of my patients who are alcoholics have suffered some sort of trauma in their past and this plays a role in their addiction.”

MDMA is well known for being an empathogen, meaning that it evokes feelings of love, empathy and social connection, which researchers hope will benefit those suffering from alcoholism in getting over their addiction.

The drug has already been used as a treatment for people suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). On specific patients, experts have been able to prove that in the space of one year, two or three MDMA assisted therapy sessions have helped 67 percent of participants get over their condition completely.

Sessa has spent much research time investigating the positives of MDMA as a treatment for certain addictions, and did a Ted Talk on the subject last year.

On his website, he also states:

“MDMA is a medical drug that started its life in the clinical setting. It has a unique receptor profile that makes this drug, when combined in a supervised clinical setting with experienced psychotherapists, the perfect tool to enhance trauma-focused psychotherapy.

MDMA provides exactly the right blend of subjective psychological effects to safely and gently hold the PTSD sufferer; providing a secure platform of containment in which they can reflect upon and eventually resolve their long-standing emotional issues.”

In an interview with Psychedelic Press, he added:

“Because of the history of drug misuse in culture ― and the continued problems with drugs in our society today ― it is also controversial subject. But it need not be; the psychedelic drugs (unlike cocaine, alcohol and many prescribed drugs) are extremely safe ― despite their negative public perception.”

Some experts, however, have warned about the risks of using MDMA, which is a Class A drug, as a form of treatment.

Michael Mithoefer, a psychiatrist and a principle investigator in the MDMA trials, said in a Nature report, “I’ve seen people in my practice who took MDMA at a party and weren’t prepared for the memories that came up, and it was really harmful for them.”

It remains to be seen whether MDMA, in its purest form, will be more widely used as a form of treatment. What is clear though, is that scientists are increasingly turning to ‘illegal’ drugs as potential medicines as they begin to understand the positive effects they can actually have.

Where do you stand on using the drug as a form of treatment? Let us know in the comments below!

Images via iStock

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