Researchers in the United Kingdom have begun exploring the use of MDMA as a possible treatment for alcoholics according to the Guardian. These clinical trial represent the first time the drug has been studied in connection with treating alcoholism. Depending on the success of the study, it could be the first step in exploring more potential medical treatments for alcoholism.
The 20 participants in the study are all described as heavy drinkers. Researchers from Imperial College London are in charge of the study.
Similar to Ecstasy, which is also called Molly, MDMA is synthetic and produces a heightened sense of pleasure and well-being. It is a both hallucinogen and a stimulant with effects that generally take around three-quarters of an hour to kick in.
Other effects are a greater sense of energy and distortions in time and other perceptions. These effects usually last less than an hour although some effects may linger for hours afterward.
MDMA as used for these clinical trials has a more consistent dosage than Ecstasy. It is also not mixed with other drugs as Ecstasy may be but is instead pure 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine.
However, MDMA will not be used as a substitute for alcohol in the study. Instead, researchers believe that as a treatment for alcohol abuse, the advantage of MDMA is that it may make volunteers less inhibited during talk therapy. Talking Drugs reports that one of the researchers, Dr. Ben Sessa, says fear can be a barrier for some alcoholics during therapy. Sessa is a senior research fellow at ICL and a consultant child psychologist, but he also works with patients who struggle with alcoholism and other addictions.
Participants will attend eight therapy sessions. At two of the sessions, MDMA will be administered. Talking Drugs reports that these MDMA-aided therapy sessions will begin several weeks into the study.
According to Sessa, PTSD is a common factor in these addictions. In fact, he believes that alcoholism and PTSD are essentially the same condition. Therefore, the MDMA may be useful in calming patients and even giving them a sense of euphoria as they work through difficult therapy sessions. There will be follow-ups with the study participants at the three, six and nine-month mark.
Researchers have investigated MDMA as a treatment for mental health conditions besides alcoholism. The Food and Drug Administration approved its use in trials for treating PTSD in 2016. SF Gate says that studies have also explored its usefulness in treating anxiety and depression.