MDMA, short for 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, and also known as “ecstasy” or “molly,” is not considered a classic psychedelic but is often described as an empathogen or entactogen. It has garnered attention as both a recreational drug and a therapeutic tool. Originally synthesized in the early 20th century, it was rediscovered by the chemist Alexander Shulgin. MDMA was used by therapists in couples therapy and other healing contexts in the 1970s and into the 1980s until it became illegal as a Schedule 1 drug in 1985. It is still used by underground therapists and healers. Widely available on the black market, MDMA is also used in party settings where it is known for producing states of euphoria and interpersonal connection. Today MDMA is being investigated in clinical trials for MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for the treatment of PTSD. It is available to subjects in these clinical trials and is expected to be approved by the FDA as a prescription medication in this context within the next few years.
Things to Know
- MDMA is not a classical psychedelic; rather, it is considered an empathogen, a class of substances that increase feelings of empathy
- MDMA-assisted therapy is being studied as a potential treatment for PTSD in clinical trials, and is being investigated as a treatment for anxiety, depression, and chronic pain
- MDMA is classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, but may soon be legalized for medical use in the U.S.
- MDMA was used in therapy before it became outlawed in the 1980s when it became popular in the clubbing and rave scenes
MDMA can enhance feelings of empathy, love and emotional openness, promoting a sense of connection with others and deep sensations. In a therapeutic context, this effect can be beneficial in overcoming barriers to communication in order to promote healing. MDMA can also promote increased introspection and self-reflection, putting the individual into a state of heightened awareness that enables them to explore their emotions, past injuries, and relationships from a place of love, compassion, and non judgment.Read about MDMA benefits.
MDMA Risks and Safety Considerations
MDMA is generally safe to ingest, but it has a unique set of risks that differ from classic psychedelics such as LSD or psilocybin mushrooms. MDMA raises core body temperature, which has a number of potential consequences. Street forms of MDMA can also be adulterated with other, more dangerous substances.Read about MDMA risks and safety considerations.
MDMA-assisted therapy combines the administration of MDMA with therapy sessions before, during, and after the MDMA experience. MDMA-assisted therapy first began to be used in the 1970s, especially in couples therapy, until it became illegal in 1985. Facilitators are still practicing MDMA-assisted therapy underground, while in FDA-approved clinical research, practitioners are investigating the MDMA-assisted therapy modality for the treatment of PTSD.Read about MDMA-assisted therapy.
MDMA for Conditions
MDMA is being investigated as a possible treatment for a variety of medical conditions, most notably post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as anxiety, depression, chronic pain, eating disorders, and more. As a potential treatment for these and other ailments, MDMA-assisted therapy is currently being studied in clinical trials and offered by underground therapists.Read about MDMA for conditions.
MDMA Science and Research
MDMA (3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine) is not a classic psychedelic, like psilocybin or LSD. Rather, it is considered an entactogen or empathogen, a class of substances that increase a person’s feeling of empathy and benevolence towards others, as well as feelings of being socially accepted and connected. Ongoing research has examined the way MDMA works in the brain, and how it impacts certain indications. Chemically, MDMA is categorized as a phenethylamine, which is a class of substances with documented psychoactive and stimulant effects that includes amphetamine and methamphetamine. As a result, its mechanism of action is better understood by scientists than the classical psychedelics.Read about MDMA science and research.
MDMA has been classified as a Schedule I drug under the US Controlled Substances Act since 1985, and is illegal in most countries. However, FDA clinical trials investigating its therapeutic benefits for PTSD may result in MDMA being rescheduled as a medicine in the US. In 2023, Australia became the first country to approve MDMA for limited medicinal use for qualifying patients.Read about MDMA legality.
How to Take MDMA
MDMA, also known as ecstasy or molly, is considered an empathogen or an entactogen, meaning that it may produce feelings of empathy or connection. The act of taking MDMA is commonly referred to as rolling. MDMA was originally used in couple’s therapy before it was made illegal in 1985. Even after it became an illegal Schedule 1 substance in the U.S., MDMA became popular in the rave scene before eventually becoming the subject of clinical trials investigating its use as a potential treatment for PTSD.Read about how to take MDMA.
MDMA in Combination with Other Substances
It is not uncommon for people to combine MDMA with another mind altering substance, most typically LSD, psilocybin, or ketamine. When combining MDMA with any other drug, it’s important to take moderate amounts of both to avoid overwhelm or dangerous side effects.Read about MDMA in combination with other substances.
History of MDMA
MDMA was first synthesized in 1910s Germany as a research compound. It eventually gained popularity as a recreational substance in clubbing and rave scenes and more recently as a therapy tool.Read about the history of MDMA.
MDMA and Creativity
Although MDMA is primarily known for its empathogenic and entactogenic effects, it also has the potential to inspire creativity in those who use it. The most obvious example may be the rave scene, with music and visuals created to accommodate and enhance the MDMA experience.Read about MDMA and creativity.