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Science vs / MDMA: Can Ecstasy Cure Your Agony? | Science vs

MDMA: Can Ecstasy Cure Your Agony? | Science vs

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In this episode of the Science Vs podcast, the host explores the potential therapeutic benefits of MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy. The episode delves into the history of MDMA, its effects on the brain, and the ongoing research on its potential use in treating anxiety, alcohol use disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Main Takeaways

MDMA as a Potential Treatment

  • MDMA is being researched as a potential treatment for anxiety and PTSD.
  • Australia is the first country to make prescribing MDMA legal under certain circumstances.
  • Despite its potential medical benefits, MDMA is still illegal in the US and classified as a schedule one drug.
  • Researchers are studying MDMA to find out why it makes people feel good.
  • MDMA affects serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and oxytocin levels in the brain.

History and Medical Potential

  • MDMA was a popular party drug in the late 90s and early 2000s.
  • MDMA was first created over 100 years ago by the pharmaceutical company Merck as a medicine to stop bleeding.
  • In the 1960s and 70s, researchers started experimenting with MDMA to help their patients.
  • Psychiatrist George Greer gave MDMA to his patients in the early 1980s and found that it helped them with therapy.
  • George and his colleagues thought they had found an amazing new medicine, but by 1985, the DEA made MDMA illegal due to concerns about public health risks.
  • MDMA was used for healing purposes before it became popular as a party drug.

Promising Results and Concerns

  • In a recent study, participants with PTSD who received MDMA during therapy sessions showed greater improvement compared to those who received a placebo.
  • Almost half of the participants who received MDMA were considered in remission four months after the experiment began.
  • The results of these trials are promising, and certain psychiatrists in Australia can now prescribe MDMA for PTSD.
  • Some people feel low and depressed in the days after taking MDMA, a phenomenon known as the “MDMA come down.”
  • Studies find that some MDMA users can feel a bit down or depressed in the days after taking the drug, but this may not be true for everyone.
  • Recent clinical trials on MDMA and PTSD did not find that MDMA increased the risk of having suicidal thoughts.

Safety Concerns and Adulteration

  • There are concerns about the dangers of MDMA use, including the risk of death from just one pill.
  • Roughly one in five samples of MDMA from the street are adulterated, according to studies from the UK, Spain, and Australia.
  • It is hard to know the chance that when you buy MDMA on the street or a music festival, it’s going to be pure or not.
  • MDMA is a relatively safe drug and can be a powerful medicine for some people.


The research on MDMA as a potential therapeutic tool for anxiety, alcohol use disorder, and PTSD is promising. While there are safety concerns and the need for further research, the results of recent studies indicate that MDMA could be a valuable addition to therapy for certain individuals. It is important to ensure the purity and safety of MDMA when used recreationally, as adulteration can pose significant risks. Overall, the podcast episode sheds light on the potential benefits and risks of MDMA, highlighting the ongoing scientific exploration in this field.

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