MDMA rolls onto the psychotherapy scene as FDA greenlights Phase III clinical trial

Remember the commercial? This is your brain on drugs. One could hardly forget the stark image, the idea that using drugs literally fries your brain. And it’s true that the brain changes in response to drug use. How it changes depends on the substance, dose, frequency, and duration, as well as on the factors surrounding and supporting its use or abuse. But not all neurological changes have to be damaging. There’s a growing body of newly legitimized research on MDMA, which is often used as a recreational euphoric among club-goers and at music festivals. In light of what we know, the FDA has just made a controversial decision to greenlight a Phase III clinical trial, using MDMA to treat PTSD.

The fact that it’s Phase III is important because Phase III is the clinical trial designed to fine-tune the safety and effectiveness of a drug before it goes on the market. These trials have to be well-designed in order to draw any valid conclusions, and this particular study is under even more scrutiny because of MDMA’s presence on the Schedule 1 list of drugs with no acknowledged clinical value. Because MDMA has been “in the wild” for so long, there already exists a corpus of early research on its effects. Now scientists are applying for “breakthrough” status for its use in psychotherapy, on the premise that since it’s been around for a while, we know a good bit about its relative safety. What’s important, the logic goes, is quickly assessing its effectivity for “off-label” use to treat PTSD — which is sort of funny because normally it’s the off-label use that’s less legit.

It’s worth asking why a recreational euphoric is of any interest to clinical science at all. The answer is in the neurotransmitters. MDMA, also called “Ecstasy,” represents a profoundly different state of brain chemistry from the norm; upon dosing with MDMA, a flood of neurotransmitters including norepinephrine, oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin are released by the user’s neurons. The idea is, essentially, that psychiatrists can use small doses of MDMA to grab patients by their recalcitrant neurotransmitters, from where it can be a useful adjunct to talk therapy — allowing patients to re-evaluate past traumatic experiences in a safe environment, casting the trauma in a different light, and breaking the neuronal stalemate. It could take a consciousness-altering experience to penetrate a PTSD patient’s deeply entrenched response to trauma. Alexander Shulgin, upon encountering MDMA, sought not just to understand its euphoric effects but also to explore its use as an antidepressant-like aid to talk therapy. According to his seminal work, Phenethylamines I Have Known and Loved, the first thing he did was run to his psych-department and mental healthcare colleagues with the drug, to get it under their scrutiny, from where it became much more popular both in therapy and in the club.

But MDMA also has a reputation for danger. Recreational users frequently report to emergency rooms for major body-chemistry imbalances, including grave sodium depletion, called hyponatremia — which seems like it should just get a “eat chips and drink some Gatorade, n00b” until you realize that your neurons (your brain is mostly made of neurons, by the way) literally cease functioning when their environmental sodium concentration is wrong. A lot of these issues stem from drug users not purchasing and using an MDMA test kit from a reputable source. Once a person’s neuronal function is compromised they may not be able to pick up on what’s wrong. There’s also an enduring but poorly substantiated expectation that MDMA in high doses can be excitotoxic, especially when the user is under high external stress — such as a loud, overheated club, when the user is exhausted, out of blood sugar and electrolytes, and possibly under the influence of other drugs. Rolling on molly, even once, can result in a brutal multi-day hangover related to the way it depletes serotonin levels in the brain.

This would suggest, even to the layman, that molly is at least transiently bad for your brain. But there’s a tide of conflicting user reports that high doses and frequent use are more responsible for any persistent damage than acute exposure. Furthermore, some long-term users report that taking precautions (“rolling smart”) and getting aftercare — e.g. supplements like 5-HTP, SSRIs, other neurotrophic drugs, and even cannabis — can mitigate this effect. This suggests that science may be overlooking situational but tightly associated risks of MDMA, in favor of monitoring those we consider inherent to the drug itself.

The UK’s Dr. Andrew Parrott, a much-quoted researcher on MDMA abuse, writes (PDF) that most MDMA users are polydrug users – 90% use alcohol or cannabis, usually concurrently with MDMA. Alcohol abuse is an important confounder. Furthermore, Dr. Parrott remarks, some of the damaging effects of MDMA on heavy users “are consistent with the ‘energetic stress’ model for recreational MDMA users, where the adverse metabolic effects of MDMA are exacerbated by concomitant non-drug stimulation,” although he cites only his own work to support his assertions.

The outlawed status of MDMA means that nobody has yet put MDMA-using patients or volunteers in an fMRI, nor made a broad, longitudinal survey of long-term users’ brain development with CAT scans. With the ever-increasing sophistication of our medical imaging and brain mapping methods, it won’t be long before we can tell just what clusters of cells are being affected by drug use, and how that changes the flow of information through the brain. Big data can lend itself to comparisons between large groups of those who do and don’t use drugs like MDMA, to apply the power of statistics to the sample. A better understanding of what different drugs do to the brain will lead to a better understanding of what to do about drug abuse.

In the end, people are going to seek out the recreational drugs of abuse they want to use, and withholding legal ability to do research on those drugs will not stem the supply. “The massive epidemic of casualties we were promised back in 1988 simply has not happened,” remarked Dr. Ben Sessa, a pioneering UK researcher on MDMA, rebutting Dr. Parrott’s works in a letter to the British Prime Minister. “Prof Parrott demonizes the medicine MDMA because he sees –- quite rightly –- that the illegal drug Ecstasy has its risks. But recreational Ecstasy is not the same thing as clinical MDMA.”


How Long Does MDMA Stay in Your Body?

MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methamphetamine), widely known as ecstasy (also shortened as “E” or “XTC”), is a drug that enhances the user’s mood, causes an increase in energy, heightens tactile feelings, and may cause distortions in the perception of time. It is associated with a state of euphoria and intense, often positive emotions, and it can increase sexual experiences as well. Because of this, ecstasy is associated with parties and raves, often being labeled as a “party drug”.

The origin of the drug MDMA has its roots in the club and rave scene, where it was used almost exclusively, but it has since spread to other cultures and cultural groups, including people of all ages.

If you have taken MDMA and you’re concerned about how long it remains in your system, then read on.

How Long Does MDMA Stay in Your System?

It depends on whether MDMA was taken once (single dose) or multiple times to give a proper estimate. Multiple dosages frequently maintain the initial high that comes from a single dose.

In such cases, the MDMA will linger in the system for a prolonged amount of time, and as such, it is not recommended to take another dose as the “comedown” will be more severe.


A single dose of MDMA will show up in tests as follows:

  • Urine: traces of the drug will be present from 1 to 3 days
  • Blood: traces of the drug will be present for 12 hours
  • Saliva: traces of the drug will be present from 1 to 3 days
  • Hair: will be found in laboratory tests from 90 days later

Multiple Doses (Two or More)

Multiples doses of MDMA will increase the length of time that MDMA stays in your system:

  • Urine: traces of the drug will be present from 2 to 5 days
  • Blood: traces of the drug will be present for 24 hours or more
  • Saliva: traces of the drug will be present from 1 to 5 days
  • Hair: will be found in laboratory tests from 90 days later

Other Cases

The initial high generated by MDMA lasts for several hours. The more you take the drug, the longer your system will take to flush it out. Back-to-back dosing can lead to a build-up in your system.

Using MDMA with other drugs such as cocaine, viagra, methamphetamine, and marijuana can further prolong the time that the drug remains in your system.

Side Effects

The primary side effects of molly include increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, and muscle tension.

Other side effects that have been reported on ecstasy, especially when coming down, are nausea, chills, sweating, and blurred vision. Some symptoms may reoccur days later for no apparent reason.

MDMA Drug Test

If you have to take a drug test, know that traces of MDMA will be found in your system, especially if it’s right after you have taken the drug.

Drink plenty of water, exercise to sweat it out, and let your body rest for a couple of days before you take the test.

Even though MDMA can show up in a hair test after 90 days, you should know that testing the hair for drugs is rarely practiced.

MDMA & DMT Helped My Depression

Recently, I went to a festival in which many of the people there were tripping on various substances. I was not tripping until the very last day, but only for a small portion of time (on DMT– I’ll explain that a bit later). I also had several experiences throughout the weekend without the drugs but with some lucid dreaming and binaural beats. These simulated trips remind me of my entheogenic journeys and have helped me see through visual imagery instead of hallucinating.

The nights were filled with Valerian tranquility. I had to relax, which was the safest way to do so. My psychiatrist recommended this as an alternative to benzodiazepines, which have proven successful. I’ve not received any adverse effects from the use of Valerian Root and believe it is an excellent way of avoiding the use of illegal cannabis.

My MDMA Experience

Now on to this subject line: how I emancipated myself from mental confinement through the use of MDMA. I had planned to take MDMA after testing it with a mdma test kit and had to do it there. There were alien signposts around the DJ stage for decoration, but I think there was something more to it than that. So I was”raving” and felt the strong need to express myself through interpretive dance! I felt like I was in Mesopotamia because everything felt so ancient and made of wisdom. During my Lsd “flashback,” I noticed some changes in my memories – how I was more insightful on MDMA than in sober life – about my previous experiences.

The MDMA was a good amount, enough to rid me of the ugly atrocity of the depression I was facing. It was a chemical imbalance, that much I could tell. Also, I was running out of serotonin because I knew to take MDMA and *only* MDMA. I noticed empathogenic effects as I cared more about others’ emotions and my own. It was all very satisfying, but not quite as much as the sleep, I got at home afterward (this was a camping event).

MDMA & DMT Healed my Depression

The DMT I smoked was very light to my mindset and was only around for a few minutes. I felt like everything was a myth, and that the end-all-be-all was starting to show that if things are not in “the REAL reality,” then they soon will “disappear” into the air because thoughts of mine and others’ that were created with an ill intent disappear and go untouched. There is too much goodness to make any other conclusion of sorrow be so. MDMA+DMT cured my suicidal depression like nothing else could or would. Ok, and the exorcism part: it is just to say that I one time saw aliens surround me in an L-trip, and getting far away from them felt like my God-Given redemption of fair faith and understanding of what went down that day nearly three years ago today.

Finally, some Binaural Beats I listened to there, mostly the BrainWave ones, with Anxiety Relief and Focus & Concentration beautifully done, and most lasted about half an hour. It eased me so I wouldn’t feel such a harsh comedown from the pure-form MDMA powder.