Two months ago, during the Interdisciplinary Conference on Psychedelics Research in Amsterdam, I had the great pleasure to attend a lecture by Ben Sessa, a passionate psychiatrist who has been studying the healing potential of psychedelics, in particular that of the unique empathogen 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, also known as MDMA.
As a therapist, Ben profoundly understands the far reaching and destructive effects of perpetuated trauma. Sexual abuse, addiction, violence, war, accidents, and neglect often deeply disturb one’s sense of safety, social trust, and existential orientation of those who had the poor luck of being exposed to these conditions. Following trauma, their psychological immune system is turned upside down, and henceforth are unable to cope constructively with negative events. It is not uncommon that years or decades after such a traumatic event these individuals still carry their wounds within them, and unable to find the proper conditions to heal themselves they become addicted to numbing their pain with narcotics or lashing out with perpetuated abuse to those closest to them.
It doesn’t take much effort to imagine how events which took place far back are still cascading sickening ripples through our homes, our streets, and our cities. As Ben says in his TED Talk, in our current health paradigm, “we maintain the symptoms at a manageable level.” We don’t, however, heal the root cause of our suffering.
The rise in popularity of “illegal” MDMA use clearly shows our strong drive for ecstatic peak experiences, deep human and empathic connections, and losing ourselves in the bliss of fully opening up to and trusting others. If we can step out of the moral police position for a moment, which I believe is just a way to dissociate from ongoing suffering, and not immediately judge that the pleasures of the flesh are something sinful, we discover instead a healthy drive to bond with others, especially in the realm of forgiveness and acceptance.
If you would ask a psychiatrist what effects the perfect drug should have to treat trauma and anxiety, Ben says MDMA would be the answer, as the effects are:
- Increase in positive mood and lowering of depression and anxiety
- Mild stimulation which increases engagement
- But also relaxes the user, bring one to the “optimal arousal zone”
- Increases empathy, emotional security, attachment and bonding
If we discovered a medicine which would be able to do all of this, it would be hailed as a revolution in psychiatric care. But since MDMA is used as a recreational drug, there lingers like a bad odor a stigma to it, making even the most open-minded scientists turn up their noses to it, unable to even consider the carefully extracted data from recent studies.
This is wrong, unethical, compassionless, and, above all, bad science. As Dr. Ben Sessa alludes to, many of our mental illnesses are caused by trauma.
If we found a medicine that can act as an antibiotic for infectious mental disease, don’t we owe it to make this known to those who are suffering amongst our midst?
Watch the MDMA TED Talk here
Please consider supporting non-profit organizations like the OPEN foundation that are funding research into psychedelic medicines.
Important Disclaimer: MDMA, if used appropriately and responsibly, is quite safe, according to our research. However, there are still certain health risks to be aware of, so you should do substantial research before dabbling with this substance. The Erowid MDMA FAQ is a good place to start. Also, unfortunately, due to the illegal status of this substance in most countries, it can be quite difficult to procure 100% pure MDMA. For this reason, it is imperative that you buy a test kit if you’re going to be experimenting with MDMA or other powerful substances; a test kit will allow you to confirm that the substances you’ve procured are indeed what you believe them to be. Be smart, be safe, and enjoy yourselves.