Having trouble in your relationship? A little MDMA might be just the thing. People who use the psychedelic substance are able to talk about the important people in their lives with greater depth and clarity, according to new research, which could lead to breakthroughs in insightful and productive couples’ counseling.
A study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology reports that MDMA can help people feel more engaged in their close relationships and better able to describe their intimate feelings.
“I think it could be quite useful for couples’ counseling,” study co-author Matthew Kirkpatrick said to The Huffington Post. “I suspect you would see that couples would rate each other as being more emotionally responsive, they would feel closer to one another and they would engage in longer conversations about deeper topics.”
The study looked at 35 people who already have used MDMA and recorded at how they spoke about close relationships when under the influence of the psychedelic, compared to taking a placebo. The researchers analyzed the words used by the subjects and found that they were more insightful, confident and in touch with their emotions when on MDMA.
“With MDMA, you get these really increased feelings of sociability and closeness with others,” Kirkpatrick told HuffPo. “When you’re on MDMA, you tend to focus on positive social-emotional stimuli, and you’re less reactive to negative emotional stimuli, such as fearful or angry faces.”
This isn’t the first time MDMA has been suggested as a good option for couples’ therapy. Oxford ethicist Brian Earp argues in a 2013 interview with The Atlantic that MDMA and other “love drugs” could help boost affection in long-term relationships and help people come to terms with tensions and contradictions.
Its empathy-boosting properties could help couples figure out how to reconcile their differences — or perhaps decide with openness and integrity that their relationship should end. Unfortunately, actually accessing MDMA is difficult because it is considered a drug of abuse with no medical value under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, meaning it is strictly prohibited under federal law. The federal government banned the substance in 1985 amid hysteria that it was being abused in party-pill form, popularly known as “molly” or “ecstasy.”
Banned or not, the psychedelic’s propensity for decreasing fear and increasing well-being shows immense promise in other therapeutic realms as well. MDMA therapy was used successfully to treat posttraumatic stress disorder before it was banned, and currently, the non-profit psychedelic research center MAPS (the Multidisciplinary Association For Psychedelic Studies) is studying MDMA in various therapeutic capacities, including to treat social anxiety in adults with autism, to assuage anxiety related to life-threatening illness and to treat PTSD.
Other recent studies have shown that regular MDMA use is not associated with cognitive impairment, contrary to government propaganda.
MAPS is hoping that its research can help convince the federal government to approve MDMA as legal medication by 2021. So for now, you can’t legally use it to work out the kinks in your relationship, but if you can hang on for a few more years, help could be on the way.