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Curing Alcoholism: We’re Finally Putting MDMA to the Test

It seems ironic that one of the first drugs I used on the way to full-blown addiction is now being used in a study to cure alcoholism.

Last week, UK researchers from Imperial College of London broke the news that they were about to begin the world’s first clinical trial using MDMA (the active ingredient in party drug ecstasy) to test the theory that it could be used—in conjunction with therapy—to cure alcoholism.

I was a little mind-blown when I read this… because I used MDMA to party.

Details of the Study

Ben Sessa, the clinical psychiatrist behind the trial, told The Guardian, “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.”

He said that modern psychiatry practice is failing and 90% of chronic drinkers—which they class as five bottles of wine a day—relapse at a rate of 90% within three years.

This approach is drastically different from traditional treatment modalities like the 12 Steps. Once the patient goes through alcohol detox, they have two therapy sessions, then receive the MDMA treatment over the course of one day.

Participants will take two capsules of 99% pure MDMA, then undergo a combination of therapy and time lying down with an eye mask in a state of quiet meditation.

Digging Deeper

Sessa believes this new approach will help get to the root of the participant’s substance abuse issue. He said, “It’s using drugs to enhance the relationship between the therapist and the patient, and it allows us to dig down and get to the heart of the problems that drive long-term mental illness.”

I’m in support of building connection in a therapeutic relationship, so long as it is safe. In my experience, empathy is hard to build; it has taken me years to build relationships with therapists over the course of my five years in recovery. After all, we’re sharing deep traumas that led us to harm ourselves. We need to be able to trust and let that information flow freely. Once we do this, we can begin to heal and truly start on the road to recovery.

These new studies don’t stop with MDMA; drug therapy treatments are on the rise. The Guardian article also revealed that several researchers are using ketamine for the treatment of chemical dependency, and researchers in the U.S. have already found MDMA to be successful in the treatment of PTSD.

Are we beginning to see a new era of addiction treatment and recovery? I truly hope so—and I hope it leads to sustained sobriety for the thousands struggling with substance abuse disorders.

How to Get Help for Alcohol or Drug Misuse

You may be wondering where to get help for a problem with alcohol or drugs. American Addiction Centers (AAC) has a range of treatment facilities across the country that offer rehabilitation for substance abuse. You can contact AAC free at for advice on treatment. Lines are open 24/7, 7 days a week. You can also check your health insurance coverage using the form below or contact a free drug or alcohol hotline number.

Levels of Care in Alcohol and Drug Addiction Treatment

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