Watch: Is MDMA A Psychedelic?

by April M. Short

on February 2, 2015

While no one would argue over whether LSD or  psilocybin (magic mushrooms) are psychedelics, there has been some back and forth over the status of one drug in particular: MDMA. In the following video, adapted from the upcoming documentary MDMA The Movie, psychedelic experts Ann Shulgin (author, psychonaut and wife of the late chemist Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin who famously synthesized MDMA), Rick Doblin (founder of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies or MAPS), and Matthew Baggott, PhD discuss whether MDMA is in fact a psychedelic. Here is a summary of their arguments:

Ann Shulgin: “Psychedelic drugs, most of them, increase your sensitivity to color, they increase your central aspects of your life, depending upon the particular material. MDMA, you don’t get all that kind of thing, you get insight. and you get an experience of self-validation which is tremendously healing. That is not the typical psychedelic experience.”

Rick Doblin: “Psychedelic was a word that was invented in the 1950s by Humphrey Osmond in a dialogue with Aldous Huxley. Psychedelic means to manifest the mind. Dreams are psychedelic, meditation can be psychedelic, non-drug techniques like holotropic breathwork, like hyperventilation, like ecstatic dancing — all sorts of things are psychedelic. Mairjuana is psychedelic. MDMA is psychedelic.”

Matthew Baggott: “If you go back to the ’60s there is always a sense that the chemical cousin of MDMA, MDA, was a little different from other psychedelics. MDA always had a reputation for somehow being more emotional than LSD or psilocybin, but it was still considered just another psychedelic. After MDMAd came on the scene, there was a slow realization that this was doing something fundamentally different from a classical psychedelic. In 1983 Ralph Metzner suggested we call it an empathogen because it increases empathy…”

Watch the video below for a more complete discussion of MDMA as a psychedelic.