Quick notes:

– New psychotherapy treatments for alcohol include taking MDMA–under supervision, of course.

– The party drug is actually safe to use in processing old trauma.

– This isn’t the first time MDMA has been used as medicine.

When thinking of kicking a bad case of alcoholism, most people don’t jump at the chance of switching one drug for another. But doctors in Bristol did just that when they conducted a study on how MDMA can help alcoholics recover, and it’s led to some pretty wild results. Not only has the drug helped keep patients off the liquor, only one person completely relapsed during the study.

As reported in Big Think, one participant of the study has said, “It’s not about the drinking, the MDMA healed me inside and the drinking looks after itself.”

So what’s the big idea?

The secret behind MDMA’s success

Users of the drug, which is also known as Molly or ecstasy, have reported that it promotes a feeling of ease and euphoria on a crazy night out, but what it actually does is halt the patient’s fear center by binding to both the serotonin and dopamine receptors in the brain. When it stops the fear, the reasons a person may drink can be really picked at without bleeding out all over their lives and causing them to head to their nearest pub. They’re not scared to go to that dark place, and because the fear is gone, they can finally let some light in.

Doctors use calculated therapy to get to the bottom of the problem as opposed to someone who self-medicates to the bottom of a bottle. Using a combination of eight non-drug therapy sessions and two with 125mg of MDMA introduced, patients have shown great improvement in their ability to stop drinking and keep away from the sauce once and for all.

It could be safer than having a few drinks after another tough, day. Really.

It might be classified as a schedule 1 drug in the US, but recent studies have shown that when used in a monitored way, it can be a lot safer than people think. The psychedelic properties of MDMA, in their controlled amounts used in the study, had no adverse side-effects and were completely non-addictive for the participants.

In the study, getting to the root of the patient’s problem worked far better than masking the symptoms by giving these people a safe space within their own mind. They got to experience a sense of calm euphoria, giving them the ability to talk through their problems purposefully.

Patients didn’t need more of the drug following therapy, and the drinking slowed completely on its own. The size of the study was quite small, but with such promising results, the doctors hope to conduct more substantive ones in the near future.

The late twentieth-century view on psychedelics killed their ability to be used as medicine.

Some doctor’s believed MDMA helped in psychotherapy, and up until the ’80s, MDMA was used as a prescription drug to aid in psychotherapy, although it wasn’t FDA approved and no clinical trials had been done at that point. When incidents of overdoses from taking the drug began being reported, ecstasy was ruled too dangerous for both recreational and medicinal purposes.

After that, any chance of long-term studies on the effects of ecstasy in psychotherapy went out the window. Until now, that is. Working with a schedule 1 drug still had its crosses to bear with government funding being hard to obtain and a lot of red tape to work through. With the promising results of the study giving credibility to MDMA as a way to beat alcohol addiction, there’s a chance that Molly might just win the fight against Jim, Jack, and Jose.

A deeper dive — Related reading from the 101: