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MDMA helps with alcoholism and improves mental functioning – scientists

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Aakash Molpariya
Aakash started in Nov 2018 as a writer at Revyuh.com. Since joining, as writer, he is mainly responsible for Software, Science, programming, system administration and the Technology ecosystem, but due to his versatility he is used for everything possible. He writes about topics ranging from AI to hardware to games, stands in front of and behind the camera, creates creative product images and much more. He is a trained IT systems engineer and has studied computer science. By the way, he is enthusiastic about his own small projects in game development, hardware-handicraft, digital art, gaming and music. Email: aakash (at) revyuh (dot) com

During the observation period, the researchers noted an improvement in the mental functioning of the volunteers without any drop in mood.

The world’s first clinical trials of methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) in alcoholism have shown safety and a pronounced long-term effect. The preliminary results of the study are reported in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

MDMA, known in popular culture as Ecstasy, has empathogenic, entactogenous, euphoric, and psychostimulating effects. In the 1960s and 1970s, it was used in experimental psychotherapy.

Experiments have shown the drug’s ability to impart positive coloration to perception and reduce the effects of traumatic memories, but after the substance was added to the lists of controlled substances in most countries in the 1980s, such studies stopped.

Because of the high therapeutic potential, over the past decade, US and British authorities have begun to issue single approvals for trials of MDMA, as well as certain psychedelics and dissociatives, for certain neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The effectiveness of MDMA with the latter turned out to be so high that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) assigned this therapy the “breakthrough” status and allowed the drug to be prescribed to the first 50 patients even before the end of clinical trials.

Alcohol use disorder according to ICD-10 and DSM-5 includes alcohol dependence and regular binge drinking. In many cases, it develops against the background of experienced trauma. With this in mind, in 2017 employees of Imperial College London led by David Nutt (David Nutt), having received the approval of the Ethics Committee, launched the first of its kind working titled The Bristol Imperial MDMA Study in Alcoholism (BIMA). 

Ben Sessa, a member of the research team, noted then that the effectiveness of existing treatments is low, and the likelihood of relapse within three years reaches 90 percent.

As follows from the new publication, 14 BIMA participants after detoxification (therapeutic measures to eliminate ethanol metabolites from the body and prevent acute withdrawal symptoms) underwent an eight-week course of ten psychotherapy sessions. In two of them, 187.5 milligrams of MDMA were used, with particular attention to the tolerability of the drug. The participants were then monitored for nine months, recording possible side effects, mental well-being, and drinking.

It turned out that MDMA psychotherapy for alcoholism is well tolerated without significant side effects. During the observation period, the researchers noted an improvement in the mental functioning of the volunteers. Participants’ average alcohol consumption by the ninth month after detoxification decreased from 1306 to 187 milliliters per week in pure alcohol terms. At the same time, only three (21 percent) had this figure exceeding 140 milliliters per week versus 75 percent with standard therapy.

According to Sessa, there was No come-downs or post-drug affect drops for 7-days post MDMA, and the drop in mood often reported by recreational consumers within days of taking MDMA was not observed in the experiment

The authors of the work emphasize that the published preliminary results of an open (no control group) study serve only as confirmation of the concept. A phase 2b randomized controlled clinical trial of MDMA in alcoholism is currently in preparation. According to estimates of the session, it will require investments of two million pounds (2.79 million dollars at current exchange rates) and will last for three years.

MDMA is not the only “illegal” drug that has proven to be highly effective in neuropsychiatric disorders. The psychedelic psilocybin has shown great potential: its use in resistant depression has become another “breakthrough therapy” according to the FDA. In clinical trials, this drug has proven effective in the treatment of migraines; research is underway on its use for a number of other indications.

The FDA has also approved the dissociative anesthetic esketamine for the treatment of depression; moreover, the drug can not only improve mood but also reduce the tendency to suicide. Positive results were obtained in various tests LSD.

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