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MDMA Keeps Moving Forward for Therapy

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Another great article to come across on this subject! (I know I’ve been on a tear lately, but I’ve been looking for these and sending them to a friend.)

When last we left our sage, I shared an article that was about how certain substances, like psychedelics and Ecstasy/Euphoria, actually build brain cells rather than burning them out (like the addictive drugs do). Now… this!

Psychedelic Renaissance: Could MDMA Help with Depression, PTSD, and Anxiety?

Salient points:

MDMA’s therapeutic properties emerge from a combination of factors. Its most acute effect is to significantly dampen the activity of the amygdala, the part of our brain that regulates fear response. While it relieves anxiety and stress, MDMA also sharply increases the brain’s supply of serotonin and oxytocin, the neurotransmitters primarily responsible for mood regulation and social bonding.

A recent study in Nature suggested that MDMA can temporarily return the brain to an early development state of “exuberant brain plasticity” that fosters renewed social reward learning. The American psychiatrist Julie Holland says: “You basically couldn’t design a molecule that is better for therapy than MDMA.”

The first paragraph is an “everyone knows this thing”. But the second? — Explains a LOT. There really IS an almost childlike enthusiasm that returns during the X session. One feels curious about what the other has to say, and really open to fairy-tale magic of stories and pretty things and music. There IS an oddly youthful component to it that before reading that paragraph I had not been able to define.

Nigel Strauss, a Melbourne psychiatrist and trauma specialist, says the way psychedelic therapy works is a challenge to prevailing medical assumptions. “Psychedelic drugs are a whole change of perspective,” he says. “These are ‘meaning’ drugs, and the whole concept of meaning eludes people and they think it’s hocus-pocus. These are concepts that don’t fit easily into medical science at the moment … particularly in this country.”

No fuckin’ kidding!

But having meaning re-established is crucial to being PRODUCTIVE human beings.The brain demands more than automaton existence. Does that help?

For more than a decade, the Beckley Foundation has developed groundbreaking psychedelic research in partnership with Imperial College London. They produced the first brain scans of the LSD and psilocybin experience which suggest that, rather than amplifying neural activity as expected, psychedelics appear to selectively inhibit the “default mode network”, which regulates executive brain function like a disciplinarian teacher. When psychedelics take it out of the picture for a period, a whole bunch of new connections and neural activity fires up like exuberant children, allowing a wider range of phenomena to reach conscious awareness.

Essentially, the “automaton drudgery” shit get shunted to the side for a time, and– as we know, the fearful amygdala– leaving room for curiosity, exploration, and a nice brain vacation in more ways than one!

The novel neural connections facilitated in the psychedelic state can lead to lasting changes. Using data from their previous depression trial measured significant increases in the personality domain of “openness”’ three months after the single high dose of psilocybin.

…openness goes hand-in-hand with reductions in symptoms such as rigid negative thinking. “[It] has shown association with overall happiness and quality of life, so in that regard I think it can be an important piece of the puzzle in terms of psychedelics’ therapeutic potentials,” he says.

Ian Roullier, a participant in the Beckley study of treatment-resistant depression, described how he experienced it: “Depression is a very narrow, restricted state and taking psilocybin really helps you to zoom out a lot more … I felt a lightness within myself and more of a freedom.” Like MDMA for PTSD, psilocybin has just been given “breakthrough therapy” status for treatment-resistant depression and large-scale trials are being rushed through across Europe.

Lasting changes. That’s important.

I think one thing many of us who suffer from massive issues have is an impatience with the years’ long therapies and lifelong treatment by drugs that suppress sadness, but also joy– and sexual drive/pleasure. We want a cure, dammit– and we want it NOW. Unfortunately, cures aren’t profitable! So they’re no longer being pursued with much enthusiasm by the profit-driven drug industry!

But… obviously, after so many people watched loved ones die of suicide, or nearly went there themselves, a growing population is fed up with waiting. If there is something that actually works, let alone QUICKLY, with results that LAST, we’re gonna push for it.

The author of the article admits to being a fan– due to the positive effects of getting help illegally himself, which actually worked, as opposed to anything he had tried.

For me, about an hour and a half after I lay down in New York, I took off the eye mask and sat up to a world transformed. For as long as I could remember there had been a wall of glass between the world and me, trapping me in a numb limbo that a litany of talk therapy and medications couldn’t touch.

Like magic, the wall was gone. Everything I looked at had a new clarity and immediacy as I drank it in. It was as though an iron knot of tension in my forehead, which contracted my whole body in its clenching grip, had suddenly dissolved. I felt calm, confident and connected. I didn’t feel like I was tripping – I felt like myself for the first time in years. It was the purest relief I’d ever known.

Almost three years later I’m back living in Fremantle but it’s all changed. I had spent past Western Australian summers in bed, staring at the wall with the blinds down. This year I’m up at five most mornings making the most of the rising sun: gym, swim, long walk on the beach, and in the studio by eight this morning to finish off my edits before uni. I’d always wanted to write but the words wouldn’t come, and while I still have to work bloody hard to keep the show on the road, it’s all flowing now.”

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