Researchers Lead First Pilot Study on MDMA Treatment For New Mothers

A study on MDMA treatment for new mothers, which launched in the spring, is being led by Dr. Larry Leeman, the medical director of the University of New Mexico’s Milagro Program.

Leeman “treats expectant mothers experiencing opioid use disorder,” and “was dismayed to see that many of his patients eventually resumed opioid use due untreated post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),” according to a press release from the university on the study.

“Now, Leeman and his colleagues are launching a first-of-its-kind pilot study to see whether a regimen of trauma-focused therapy coupled with doses of MDMA – popularly known to rave participants as ecstasy or molly – can help new mothers permanently overcome their drug dependency,” the press release said.

In an interview this week with local news station KOB, Leeman explained that New Mexico is “one of the epicenters of the opioid epidemic.”

A study from the New Mexico Department of Health in 2019 found that nearly two-thirds of those living in the state know someone who is or has been addicted to opioids. According to the agency, New Mexico was the “first state to approve naloxone for use by laypeople and has statewide standing orders for law enforcement to carry and pharmacists to dispense naloxone without a prescription.”

“We know that our communities often have collective intergenerational trauma here and most of the research that’s happening in psychedelic assisted therapy has happened in John Hopkins, it happens in Yale, it happens in different places. This is the first study and its happening here in New Mexico,” Leeman told the station.

The study, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration, “will enroll 15 people with diagnoses of moderate to severe PTSD six to 12 months after they have given birth,” the university said. 

Participants in the study “will receive 12 weeks of intensive therapy and three medication sessions.”

“The project, funded through private donations, will assess whether MDMA-assisted therapy can help the mothers overcome their addictions and improve bonding with their infants,” the university explained earlier this year. “Leeman’s team is collaborating with the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, which is supplying the MDMA used in the pilot. He noted that when the MDMA is purchased on the street it is often dangerously adulterated with other drugs, such as methamphetamine.”

In his interview this week with KOB, Leeman explained that MDMA is a “psychedelic type of drug that is different from classical psychedelics, such as psilocybin in that it really focuses on opening people up to be able to process their trauma.”

“Our hope for using MDMA assisted therapy is to treat that trauma, decrease the likelihood of using opioids again and kind of help set up the mother and the baby and the family for a life that really what everybody who’s using opioids wants, which is not to be using and to be able to be there and be fully present for their babies,” Leeman told the station.

The press release announcing the study earlier this year noted that “MDMA has complex effects, including some that are similar to classic psychedelics, such as psilocybin, which tamps down the brain’s default mode network and may interrupt trauma-driven rumination,” and that “MDMA temporarily increases production of oxytocin, a hormone that promotes a sense of connectedness.”

“Addiction has been described as the opposite of ‘connection,’” Leeman said at the time. “Another proposed mechanism of psychedelic-assisted therapies for addiction is that they increase participants’ connections with self, including emotions, values and life meaning, connection to others – family and community – and connection to the world and universe, which includes connection with nature and the feeling that everything is interconnected.”

“What the MDMA-assisted therapy does is take away their fear for a short period of time,” Leeman added. “During that time, they have the ability to process the trauma that has led to their PTSD and which have never been able to process. It’s a bit of a redo in helping people heal in ways that may improve their ability to bond with their baby.”

Academic research into psychedelic therapies continues to blossom, with local and state governments across the country also increasingly signaling an openness to what was once taboo. 

A recent study led by researchers from NYU Langone Center for Psychedelic Medicine in New York found that MDMA could be an effective treatment for various mental health conditions, and that it could also yield benefits when used in concert with other psychedelics. 

Relative to psilocybin/LSD alone, co-use of psilocybin/LSD with a self-reported low (but not medium–high) dose of MDMA was associated with significantly less intense total challenging experiences, grief, and fear, as well as increased self-compassion, love, and gratitude,” the researchers wrote.

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What is Candyflipping? And Can it Help Reduce Bad Trips? 

New studies indicate that a practice called “candyflipping” can help reduce bad trips, which are negative experienced caused by psychedelic use. A bad trip can hinder therapeutic and spiritual benefits, and can even be terrifying enough that a person never want to use hallucinogenic drugs again – so finding ways to minimize the risk of them happening is of utmost importance. So let’s take a closer look at how candyflipping works.  

Candyflipping explained 

Despite how casual it may sound, candyflipping is not just a slang term. The formal definition is “the combined administration of MDMA and LSD among recreational users, reportedly inducing synergistic acute positive mood effects,” and it’s a practice that is now being officially studied by the Liechti Lab at the University of Basel in Switzerland, one of the top psychedelic research centers in the world. The rights to all research conducted at the Liechti Lab is owned by MindMed.  

Although candyflipping has been discussed in the psychonaut world, this is the first controlled study to look closer at the combination of MDMA with LSD in a clinical setting. The study was published a few months ago in the journal Nature. According to the study authors, the hypothesis was that “the co-administration of MDMA and LSD results in higher acute ‘good drug effects,’ well-being, openness, and trust and lower ‘bad drug effects’ and anxiety compared with LSD administration alone.” 

During the double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 100mg of MDMA was paired with 100µg of LSD and given to twenty-four healthy participants (12 men and 12 women between the ages of 25 and 54 years). Despite how much promise researchers were expecting, they were surprised to find that the co administration of MDMA with LSD produced no significant differences compared to taking LSD alone.  

So, why the discrepancy? How come users have been reporting benefits when combining MDMA with other psychedelics for years, but the study found no notable differences? Well, the answer comes down to dosage. The study only investigated 100µg of LSD, which is a relatively low dose. Many people start with 200µg or more to really get the intense kind of trip that produces hallucinations. Low doses of LSD will produce milder trips than higher doses, so it’s possible that if the study used more LSD, the positive effects of the MDMA would have been more evident.   

Researchers noted: “We only tested single dose levels of both LSD and MDMA and co-administration at the same time. LSD at a dose of 100 µg mainly induces high acute positive effects and nominally less anxiety compared with a higher dose of 200 µg. Thus, we cannot exclude the possibility that MDMA may reduce negative mood effects, including anxiety, of higher LSD doses than the dose that was used in the present study.” 

Can MDMA make your trip happier?

Looks like we can expect to see a follow up study in the future. And it’s worth reiterating that not only does MindMed own the rights to all this research, but they have already obtained a patent to create products that combine LSD and MDMA. I have also seen gummies and capsules that combine psilocybin with MDMA, sold on the black market of course, but they’re great products and it would be interesting to see the two paired in a future research project as well.  

A bit more about MDMA 

MDMA (3,4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine) is known informally as molly or ecstasy, although the former is used to denote pure MDMA, whereas ecstasy is usually cut with other drugs. MDMA appears in crystalline form or powder, which is the purest form of this drug, and ecstasy is the pressed powder tablet version. But to press the powder into a pill, it needs to be mixed with other ingredients, which can also lower production costs and are often harmful to the consumer.  

Like other hallucinogens, MDMA works primarily via interaction with serotonin receptors, although the effects are quite different from other psychedelics like mushrooms and acid. Hallucinations are not typical with MDMA. In my experience, it gave me energy, made me feel really happy and connected, adventurous, it always made my social anxiety melt away, and there’s a sensory aspect to it also, where touching certain things and being touched feels amplified.  

It was created back in 1912 by researchers at Merck Pharmaceutical, but it received little attention, and it wasn’t until the 1970s when the effects of this drug became better understood. American chemist Alexander Shulgin took an interest in MDMA and developed a new way to synthesize it. After testing it with a few fellow psychotherapists, it started being used therapeutically, coupled with different types of therapy treatments. 

Despite being quite effective, MDMA was banned in 1985, and any further treatments or research came to a halt. It wasn’t until the last few years that interest in psychedelics ramped back up, especially for the treatment of PTSD, and numerous areas around the world are working on loosening restrictions on the drug. Last year, Colorado became the first state to legalize MDMA, and it’s been decriminalized in Oregon since 2021. Earlier this year, Australia legalized MDMA along with a handful of other psychedelics for medical use.  

What is a bad trip? 

Bad trip experiences are common among users of psychedelics. In a 2021 survey of 50 Norwegian psychedelic users, nearly every single one of them reported having had “frightening experiences” at least once when using hallucinogens. Aside from the often-discussed psychological side effects, physical symptoms of a bad trip can include irregular heartbeat, nausea, chills, sweating, and anxiety. 

Although scary, many people find ways to make these experiences positive and transformative. It’s not uncommon for bad trips to be viewed as a type of metaphor for an issue the person needs to address in real life. Like how seeing certain things when you look at your own reflection could be an indication that you need to work on your self-esteem.

Many things can cause bad trips, from obvious things like seeing something that is actually scary and overthinking it, to inconspicuous things like catching a glimpse of yourself in the mirror. It’s important to not only engage in practices that will facilitate a good trip, but to practice the type of self-control needed to remind yourself, if you happen to end up feeling negatively about something, that you’re just high and you need to refocus your thoughts and energy.  

Other ways to ensure a positive trip  

Most pyschonauts agree that “set and setting” are key to having a happy and therapeutic psychedelic trip. The general consensus is that it is best to avoid unfamiliar situations, especially if you’re a novice user, and you should do everything possible to construct a relaxing and safe tripping environment BEFORE you start your adventure. That includes the environment itself, AND the people that are sharing it with you.

At best, being around bad company or people that make you uncomfortable can be awkward and unpleasant. At worst, hanging out with the wrong people while tripping can become a literal nightmare complete with terrifying hallucinations. I don’t know about you, but for me, vibes are everything. If I get bad vibes from someone when I’m sober, I’ll feel that negativity tenfold if I’m on psychedelic drugs. To make sure you have a peaceful experience, you absolutely must surround yourself with people you trust and feel completely safe around. 

Psychedelic drugs are also best used on their own, or with other similar drugs at the very least, like cannabis and mushrooms. Mixing with harder drugs and alcohol can be dangerous as they can magnify disorientation and physical symptoms associated with bad trips (nausea, chills, etc.), and some believe that combining these types of substances with entheogens can lead to violent thoughts and hallucinations. 

Also, it’s important to be in a positive headspace before starting your psychedelic journey. If you’re in a bad mood beforehand – feeling anxious, nervous, stressed, scared, or going through some sort of existential crisis – you might want to hold off on the psychedelics. If you’re inexperienced and grappling with dark thoughts, hallucinogens can amplify these and put you in a dangerously negative state of mind. 

When planning your trip, it’s important to keep in mind that certain hallucinogens – mushrooms and LSD, for instance – can produce highs that last for up to 8 hours. Make 100 percent sure that you have enough time to complete your psychedelic journey and come down from it properly without any impending activity or responsibility. If you feel like you’re rushing and have too near of a cutoff time before getting back to reality, you could end up with a veil of dread and anxiety over your experience. 

Final thoughts 

Even though the study didn’t produce the results that researchers were hoping for, people who have experience with these drugs agree that candyflipping can help reduce the risk of experiencing a bad trip, especially in those who are prone to anxiety. The study authors also concluded that at different doses, their experiment may have gone more as expected.

Do you have any experience mixing MDMA with LSD? What about MDMA and other hallucinogens? If so, drop us a line in the comment section and let us know about it. We love to hear the perspectives of our readers!

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European Lobby Says Experienced Trippers Should Advise On Psychedelic Use

Much like the United States, Europe is currently figuring out how to incorporate psychedelic therapy into its healthcare landscape most effectively. A lobby group representing developers and professionals within the industry advocates for including seasoned practitioners as integral members of a “multidisciplinary advisory body.” They would serve as a guiding authority, offering essential insights to regulators and healthcare practitioners regarding optimal practices as the field expands and changes. This effort comes from the European Psychedelic Access Research and European Alliance (PAREA), as reported by Politico, as per a briefing document slated for submission to the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

It basically says that those with actual experience with psychedelics should have influence. In both legal cannabis and psychedelics space, there is often a feeling that those with an actual relationship with the substance, rather than simply a desire to profit from it, makes for better business. 

Europe still needs to legalize any psychedelic treatments. However, as Australia and parts of the United States are already offering psychedelic therapy, many lawmakers in Europe want to be prepared to hit the ground running. Having such an advisory board (with people who have experience with these substances) will make psychedelic treatment easier to implement. 

In July, Australia became the first country in the world to authorize psilocybin and MDMA use through a doctor’s prescription to treat mental health conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. Both were legalized for therapeutic use. 

In 2019, Denver, Colorado, became the first U.S. city to decriminalize psilocybin. Cities such as Oakland, Santa Cruz, and Washington D.C. have followed suit. In 2020, Oregon both decriminalized it and legalized supervised therapeutic use, with Colorado passing a similar law in 2022. 

Psilocybin remains illegal under federal law.

Ketamine, which is technically a (legal) dissociative anesthetic with hallucinogenic properties, is FDA-approved for treatment-resistant depression in the U.S. under as “esketamine,” the S enantiomer of ketamine, as that’s how Johnson & Johnson could patent and sell it under the brand name Spravato. Often, doctors prescribe an off-label actual ketamine nasal spray that one can have made in a compound pharmacy. 

A study by the American Medical Association, published late last month, found growing evidence that psilocybin, the mind-altering ingredient in magic mushrooms, is a potentially effective treatment for those suffering from depression. Psilocybin is also being tested to treat people with anorexia

MDMA is currently being studied with successful results for its capacity to treat PTSD, among other mental health conditions.

Such substances would be under review of the proposed multidisciplinary advisory body. Before an upcoming EMA workshop on psychedelic treatments, PAREA urged the regulator to provide centralized leadership for the practical and clinical aspects of these therapies, including their delivery methods.

Unlike conventional pills, such as SSRI antidepressants, psychedelics require a comprehensive regimen of pre- and post-care, as well as support during the experience itself. PAREA wants to ensure that this care is uniformly standardized, drawing upon consensus from a diverse group of stakeholders. 

In psychedelic spaces, this pre- and post-care is known as integration, or the belief that one needs more than the drug itself. Integration typically involves therapy before the trip and afterwards, helping one take what they learned and “integrate” it into everyday life. One may also need more than one session or return for boosters, as with ketamine IV therapy and other psychedelic therapies. Even within recreational psychedelic spaces, many people use a “trip sitter,” or at least one trusted person to abstain and look after them. 

An EU advisory body “would benefit from the collective knowledge of various stakeholders, including the EMA, [the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction], national competent authorities, professional organizations, health care professionals and managers, psychedelic organizations, patients’ organizations, drug developers, and the wider community,” the briefing states.

PAREA told POLITICO these professional organizations could include the Open Foundation and the Beckley Academy in the Netherlands and the Mind Foundation in Germany. These groups train therapists in psychedelics using the latest research from institutions like Imperial College London and Johns Hopkins University. Some programs include experiential learning (getting high) on substances like psilocybin or ketamine. The Beckley group teaches people to “navigate non-ordinary states to better serve your clients,” and also runs psilocybin retreats. 

“The importance of ensuring that the therapeutic model adopted is evidence-based and in the best interest of the patients cannot be overstated,” the lobby group’s briefing states.

PAREA also advocates for the EMA to ensure consistent delivery strategies throughout Europe. “Centralized coordination would offer an efficient mechanism to propel the field forward, rather than individual EU countries initiating their own work groups,” it states.

Meanwhile, setting the stage for future generations, psychedelic knowledge and industry are now being taken seriously in academia. Last month, the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for the Science of Psychedelics launched a free online course titled “Psychedelics and the Mind.” The new class is another expansion (and win) for the Center, launched three years ago. The course will be available for free. 

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I Feel Love: The Magical History & Potential Future of MDMA

A refreshing new book called I Feel Love – written by Rachel Nuwer – explores the incredible history of MDMA. According to Nuwer, this party-drug has a bright future, and one that may follow the likes of cannabis and its eventual mass legalization. Whilst MDMA now has the reputation of being the somewhat dangerous love-drug (followed by a terrible comedown), there is far more to it than that – according to this new explorative book.

If you look at the history of ecstasy, you can see that its therapeutic benefits were being explored long ago. In this article we’re going to be debunking a lot of myths surrounding MDMA, delving into its intriguing history, and discussing its future. Let’s go. 

What is MDMA? 

In the world of fake news and hyper-reality, it’s hard to sometimes remember what a drug actually is at its most basic level. MDMA, which stands for 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, is a psychoactive compound classified as an entactogen and empathogen. It belongs to the amphetamine family of drugs and has stimulant and hallucinogenic effects – although it would definitely be considered part of the “upper” family. MDMA is commonly known by various street names, such as “ecstasy” or “Molly.” In its pure form, MDMA typically appears as a crystalline powder or in pill form. It is consumed orally and can be swallowed or crushed and snorted.  


The effects of MDMA typically last for a few hours, and users often report enhanced mood, increased empathy and sociability, heightened sensory perception, and a sense of emotional openness. There’s a reason why this substance is known as the “love drug”. People often have feelings of love for people around them, driven by this increased dopamine. MDMA primarily acts by increasing the release of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine in the brain, leading to feelings of euphoria, heightened sensory perception, and increased energy.

It also affects other neurotransmitter systems, which contribute to its unique psychoactive effects. When an individual is “coming up” – and the effects are at their most potent – it is possible to slightly hallucinate. The New Scientist reports on an experiment that was done with rats and MDMA. Whilst I don’t especially support animal trials of this kind, the results were rather interesting. It reads:

“Clubbers who take the “love drug” ecstasy really might be “loved up”. Studies in rats suggest the drug causes a brain surge of oxytocin – the hormone that helps bond couples, as well as mothers to their babies… Iain McGregor… and his colleagues studied the effects of ecstasy in rats, which, like people, become more sociable on the drug. “It’s very characteristic behaviour. They lie next to each other and chill out.”

Interestingly, scientists have also discovered an increase in oxytocin in males after orgasm. This is perhaps why men often feel a sense of love whilst on MDMA, but not of sexual desire. In a sense, it’s a more pure adoration that is felt by those taking the substance. 

The History of MDMA

The history of MDMA is an intriguing one, and is often misinterpreted. When you describe ecstacy to someone, it almost sounds too good to be true. A drug that can make you love everyone and everything. But, in recent years, there have been many reports that show MDMA in a negative light, which has certainly damaged its public reputation. Horror stories of people overdosing, de-hydrating, over-hydrating – these are very common nowadays. Whilst these accounts are true, the focus on the negative proves that we may have another victim of the “war on drugs” on our hands. But let’s take a look back at how this substance came into the public eye. 

The Beginning

MDMA was first synthesised in 1912 by the German pharmaceutical company Merck, led by the chemist Anton Köllisch. At that time, it was not initially recognised for its psychoactive properties. Instead, it was primarily used in research related to blood clotting. The substance was then basically forgotten about until the 1950s, when it was picked up again as a potential energy booster for fighter pilots. MDA (a close relative of MDMA) was then tested by CIA agents during the 50s as a potential truth serum against Soviet agents – LSD was also given the same tests.

In the same decade, a 42 year old tennis player checked into a hospital in Manhattan to aid his depression. Little did he know, this hospital was being controlled by the US army and was being used to test mind-altering drugs. What followed was heartbreaking. He was given far too much MDA and fell into a coma and died. Whilst a cover up was attempted, the truth came out eventually and his family sued the government in 1987. This resulted in the banning of the drug in 1971 (the Controlled Substances Act), until chemists slightly altered it and created MDMA a few years later.

The Late 20th Century

As the 20th century came to an end, MDMA was being used by the scenes to test various therapies for people suffering from trauma and dissociation. However, at the same time, clubs were beginning to see more of this substance as a party drug. In the 80s, the Starck Club in Dallas was one of the first hotspots. The Guardian writes: 

“You could buy [ecstasy] from the bartenders or the coat check girl, and it made the Starck Club a really special place where everyone was just loved up on ecstasy on the dancefloor, hugging it out. It was a place that welcomed anyone, regardless of race, orientation, gender or the way you looked.”

Despite the love and unity that MDMA brought, governments began to crack down on this substance. Similar to cannabis and LSD, it was becoming the iconic drug of the counterculture. Instead of focusing on the intriguing properties of the substance, news outlets were looking into the dangers. Media outlets were only interested in overdose stories. Yet again, a drug was being demonised by the establishment due to its eye-opening effects.

This isn’t to say that MDMA cannot be a dangerous substance, it can be. But usually it’s what people mix the drug with that makes it riskier to consume. Dehydration is also certainly a problem – when individuals take MDMA, dance a lot, and forget to drink water. In addition, mixing the substance with other drugs can also cause fatalities in large quantities. There was also a test done in 2002 that found that MDMA causes brain damage in monkeys and baboons. However, it was later revealed that the drug they used for the experiment was actually crystal meth, not Mandy.

This is now known as “the great retraction”. In essence, of course MDMA has its faults and dangers. It must be used with caution, like many other substances. However, if the education was there, these incidents would happen far less. It is this conservative and hardline approach to drug education that means that many individuals use these substances with little knowledge and almost in an act of rebellion. Normalizing and even celebrating these experiences would bring about more safety. The first-time taking Mandy is a beautiful one, especially if it’s done with caution and with people you love. 

The Future of MDMA

It seems then, according to Nuwer, that there was a period of time in the 70s and 80s where MDMA may have been taken more seriously as a therapeutic substance. However, due to the reputation of it being a party drug, this lost momentum and this research was stunted. Instead, MDMA was vilified and it became yet another underground substance. However, in recent years, this research has been opened back up. MDMA-assisted therapy in treating depression and PTSD have had positive results. WebMD writes:

“One study found that 67% of people reported that they no longer met the criteria for PTSD a year after they finished MDMA-assisted therapy.”

The effects of the substance – including empathy, self-awareness and an ability to open up about emotions – is a prime environment to heal PTSD and depression. It can really open people up, with the guidance of a therapist. It is believed that clinical trials are now on the way, and legal therapeutic use may be available as early as next year. Nuwer believes that MDMA could follow a similar destiny as cannabis. Initially demonized, and then attitudes changed, as people began to see the medical benefits. Then, cannabis became medically legal in many major nations and states, before becoming recreationally accessible too.

Whilst accessible and legal MDMA may seem like a very distant future, perhaps she has a point. What do you think?

Hello readers. We’re happy to have you with us at; a news source here to bring you the best in independent reporting for the growing cannabis and hallucinogen fields. Join us frequently to stay on top of everything, and subscribe to our Cannadelics Weekly Newsletter, for updates straight to your email. Check out some awesome promos for cannabis buds, smoking devices and equipment like vapes, edibles, cannabinoid compounds, amanita mushroom products, and a whole bunch more. Let’s all get stoned together!

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The Medicalized Psychedelic Narrative Is Out of Control

The medicalization narrative in corporate psychedelia is out of control. Virtually overnight, hundreds of FDA-worshiping rent-seekers have founded non-profits, PBC’s, media platforms, professional societies and for-profit corporations to trumpet the benefit of psychedelics as rigidly controlled tools within the medical industrial complex. 

Whether it’s PTSD, depression, anorexia, or IBS, there’s a new magic pill in town to treat your symptoms without actually addressing any of the macro societal issues that cause the conditions in the first place. Those championing this forthcoming era of mainstream medicalized psychedelics often do so in a humorless and hubristic sense that emphasizes the importance of being in a clinically controlled environment far removed from any recreational, indigenous, or church setting. 

 There are even a number of companies actively devoting themselves to the noble task of removing the trip from psychedelic substances, so as to further cement their status as the newest portfolio asset in the pharmaceutical industrial complex.  

Pill-popping culture has engulfed the psychedelic renaissance, trampling upon indigenous sovereignty, individual autonomy and good old fashioned fun in the process.

Perhaps there’s a bright future in tripping on FDA approved, patented novel molecules in a clinic with strangers who will bill your employer-provided insurance handsomely, but I’ll still be eating homegrown mushrooms in a hot spring and smoking spliffs with my friends long after that time comes. 

Remember when tripping on mushrooms in the forest and taking MDMA on a dance floor at an underground rave was fun? 

When LSD was something you did in your friends basement on the weekends and at music festivals, and you couldn’t stop laughing about the most ephemeral and mundane aspects of life as everything around you pulsed with idiosyncratic meaning and the trees started breathing and communicating with you? 

Not on the corporate psychedelia watch. Psychedelics are tools of the medical establishment now, cogs in a closed loop economy dictated by pharmaceutical conglomerates and their armies of gatekeepers. Tripping is now serious business, and recreational use is dangerous and shameful. 

Trying to cope with untenable social and environmental conditions imposed by ecological collapse, soaring costs of living and a rapidly unraveling social fabric?

Oh, that little  quandary has been conveniently fit into an ambiguous and clinically-validated little box called ‘depression’ that puts the onus on you as an individual to find ways of coping with radical societal inequities, rapidly disappearing biodiversity, and the general collective crisis of meaning beleaguering humanity. 

Try hippy flipping in a clinic with a couple of therapists who took a 40 hour online course about psychedelics last year if you need a quick salve for your constant anxiety amidst our legit existential crisis. 

Or maybe hire a coach to help you spiritually bypass it all. Anything except address the root causes of the myriad symptoms collectively signaling a mental health crisis. 

As the newly appointed research fellows and establishment credentialed psychedelic scientists will tell you, “Trust the data. Let’s get psychedelics over the line.”

What fucking line? The line between cognitive liberty and rigidly hierarchically controlled pill popping? It’s a curious fact that most data agrees with those funding the research and setting the cultural norms. 

And of course millennia of indigenous use does not constitute data, because white men didn’t get to control for the placebo in these contexts.   

One of the preferred slogans of the psychedelic establishment is to confidently proclaim that “the hippies failed” and that we need medical data to decide who gets to access psychedelics, where, and for what reasons. 

Psilocybin mushrooms aren’t for elevating your creative potential and exploring your own consciousness – they’re for treating depression and anxiety, for restoring your mental health under the guidance of a state validated healthcare professional without changing anything else about the societal status quo. 

On that note, when did the flagship molecules of the psychedelic renaissance become a horse tranquilizer and an amphetamine? 

I deeply angered a leading corporate psychedelia advocate with that joke earlier this year even though I explained in advance that it was indeed a joke; apparently there’s no room for humor and laughter in our new psychedelic medicine paradigm. 

Remember when Shroom Stocks were a thing? And then everyone who has never grown or eaten mushrooms invested in them and quickly lost a lot of money? 

Maybe the handful of biotech companies actively working to remove the psychedelic experience from DMT and psilocybin have it right. If they can sell that ruse, they deserve the money they’re after. However, given the performance of these companies over the last few years, this crusade is more of a race to the bottom than a rising tide for the psychedelic renaissance. 

Or we could just keep pushing Microdosing, because it’s the perfect bait and switch. “Look! Psychedelics are socially acceptable now because they fit nicely within the prevailing societal ethos of habitual consumption! It’s almost like an SSRI, but a little more edgy!” 

I respect that a medicalized approach to psychedelic-assisted therapy should be an option available to people, and that many will benefit from such a hierarchical and centralized system. 

But when pharmaceutical executives are contacting me from their vacation house in Aspen asking me to jump on board with their push to politicize psychedelics, we no longer have any kind of renaissance on our hands. 

The sudden onslaught of overnight authorities positioning themselves as champions of mental health and chomping at the bit to advocate for psychedelics as a clinical treatment for X, Y, and Z without consideration of underlying socioeconomic and environmental determinants conspiring to create the mental health crisis in the first place is laughably myopic and disingenuous. 

Maybe we should entrust the keys to consciousness to the rent-seeking, pill-popping culture-devoted gatekeepers who often have little to no experience with altered states themselves. But maybe there’s still room for weirdness, levity and laughter in the coming age of mainstream psychedelics. 

If you need me, I’ll be frolicking in the forest with friends tripping on some homegrown cubensis.

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First Meeting Held by Experts From the Hawaiian Psychedelic Task Force

The Hawaii Office of Wellness and Resilience recently announced that the Breakthrough Therapies Task Force held its first meeting on Aug. 29.

The task force consists of 11 individuals whose role is to research and explore the therapeutic potential of MDMA and psilocybin. “It comprises local physicians, psychiatrists, mental health professionals and government partners,” a press release from Hawaii Gov. Josh Green stated. “This first meeting represents a significant milestone in advancing the recognition and understanding of the potential benefits of therapeutic psychedelic access in Hawaii. Members include Hawaii-based mental health professionals, government agency representatives, legislators, physicians, therapists and more.”

The press release explained that “modern science is now catching up” to the benefits of specific psychedelic substances, despite the fact that many indigenous cultures have used those substances for thousands of years. Inspired by states such as Oregon, which passed a therapeutic psilocybin access program in 2020, and Colorado, which passed a similar program in 2022, Hawaii is dedicating an effort to also examine its benefits. “Research has shown that both psilocybin and MDMA have significant and unprecedented efficacy in the clinical treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), addiction, end-of-life anxiety in terminal patients, eating disorders, treatment-resistant depression and more,” the press release continued.

One of the task force members, Sean Munnelly, M.D., is a child and adolescent psychiatrist and addiction specialist with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, who prepared a statement about the importance of the task force. “We are now on the precipice of an exciting movement in health care and consciousness,” said Munnelly. “The FDA designation of MDMA and psilocybin as breakthrough therapies ushers in a potentially paradigm-shifting moment. For this to be done safely, it is crucial to create a multidisciplinary task force of experts. These individuals will be responsible for creating guidelines for safe and responsible practices here in Hawaii.”

The task force is required to submit a report on its findings by the end of 2023, which will include an analysis of both Oregon and Colorado’s currently existing psychedelic therapy programs. The report will also address other crucial questions about psilocybin supply, licensing in relation to both guides as well as integration coaches, administrative requirements, and discuss patient “safety, access, and affordability.”

Four members of the task force are involved in an organization called the Clarity Project, which strives to raise awareness regarding the therapeutic benefits of plant medicine. Through the Clarity Project, a public in-person event called “Breaking Through Trauma: The Case for Psilocybin & MDMA” is set to be held on Sept. 8 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

“In line with Hawaii’s commitment to wellness, resilience and mental health care, the Breakthrough Therapies Task Force underscores the state’s dedication to exploring effective and innovative approaches to mental health treatment,” the press release concluded. “By embracing the potential of breakthrough therapies and creating a regulated psychedelic therapy program, Hawaii aims to provide its residents with comprehensive, compassionate and effective therapeutic care options.”

While the potential of psilocybin is still being researched, the case for cannabis in Hawaii is growing strong. The state began licensing medical cannabis dispensaries back in July 2015, 15 years after former Gov. Ben Cayetano signed the bill to legalize medical cannabis. Since the first dispensary began operating in 2017, a total of 22 dispensaries have opened up across the state (two on Kauai, five on Maui, nine on Oahu, and six on the big island of Hawaii). In 2018, the state implemented a new policy that allows those who hold medical cannabis cards in other states or U.S. territories to obtain a special permit to buy cannabis in Hawaii. 

As of July 2019, the state has decriminalized small amounts of cannabis, but legalizing adult-use cannabis is still a work in progress. The Hawaii Senate passed a legalization bill in March 2021 but did not proceed further.

Earlier this year in January, Hawaii Rep. Jeanné Kapela joined with members of Marijuana Policy Project, the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii, and ACLU Hawaii to announce new efforts to end cannabis prohibition in the state. “We all know, and Hawaii’s people know, that it is high time to legalize recreational cannabis use for adults in Hawaii. This year we stand on the precipice of history,” Kapela explained. “Following the recommendations of a task force devoted to addressing cannabis policy, we now have a roadmap for legalizing recreational cannabis in our islands,” she said in reference to a December 2022 report published by the Hawaii Department of Health.

In January, a legalization bill called SB669 SD2 was introduced and by March it was overwhelmingly passed in a Hawaii Senate vote. However, it failed to proceed in the House before an important legislative deadline.

If a cannabis legalization bill is able to fully pass in congress, there’s a good chance that adult-use cannabis is in Hawaii’s future. Gov. Green has previously said that he would consider signing legalization into law under certain conditions. “First of all, if marijuana is legalized, it should be very carefully monitored, and only done like cigarettes, or I’ve been very careful to regulate tobacco over the years,” Green said in November 2022. “We should take the $30 to $40 million of taxes we would get from that and invest in the development and recreation of our mental healthcare system for the good of all.”

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Study Analyzes Evidence of Benefits from Using MDMA with Psilocybin, LSD

A recent study published in the journal Scientific Reports found evidence that MDMA can be a beneficial treatment for specific mental health-related conditions.

The study consisted of eight researchers from the NYU Langone Center for Psychedelic Medicine in New York, as well as the Imperial College London’s Centre for Psychedelic Research, and its aptly titled “Co-use of MDMA with psilocybin/LSD may buffer against challenging experiences and enhance positive experiences.”

On social media, the Centre for Psychedelic Research announced the publication of the study with a brief summary. “What happens when you combine MDMA with LSD/psilocybin? Our new work with @RickZeifman @RCarhartHarris @KettnerHannes etc is out! ,” the social media account wrote. “The combination reduces negative experiences (such as fear) whilst increasing positive ones (such as gratitude & love)!”

Researchers used a sample pool of 698 individuals, where 342 of which received LSD, 356 received psilocybin, and only 27 co-used psilocybin/LSD and MDMA. They measured participants’ “challenging experiences” through a Challenging Experiences Questionnaire, while positive experiences were recorded through a Mystical Experience Questionnaire, as well as “single-item measures of self-compassion, compassion, love, and gratitude.”

In the study abstract, researchers explained more about the effects that co-using both substances had on participants. “Relative to psilocybin/LSD alone, co-use of psilocybin/LSD with a self-reported low (but not medium–high) dose of MDMA was associated with significantly less intense total challenging experiences, grief, and fear, as well as increased self-compassion, love, and gratitude,” researchers wrote.

Participants who co-used substances significantly associated MDMA with feelings of conscientiousness and openness. “Co-use of 3,4-Methylenedioxy methamphetamine (MDMA) with psilocybin/LSD anecdotally reduces challenging experiences and enhances positive experiences associated with psilocybin/LSD,” researchers explained.

The various dosage that participants received appeared to yield different results. Participants who received low doses of MDMA used with psilocybin/LSD experienced “significantly lower levels of grief and fear.” However, levels of grief and fear increased with medium and higher doses of MDMA.

Also, those who co-used MDMA with psilocybin/LSD did not experience a significant difference between feelings of compassion or “mystical-type experiences,” but researchers did observe an interesting effect experienced by low-dose MDMA participants. “However, it is noteworthy that (compared with LSD/psilocybin alone) co-use of low dose MDMA was associated with relatively higher mean scores for compassion and relatively lower mean scores for total mystical-type experience,” they continued.

The study identified the therapeutic potential of treating “psychiatric disorders and mental health concerns” with these substances but explained that it’s difficult to properly study the various effects a substance can have on a single individual. “A primary concern associated with classic psychedelics relates to their alteration of consciousness, which can range from highly positive ‘peak’ experiences to psychologically challenging experiences (often referred to as “bad trips”), such as grief, paranoia, and fear,” the study stated.

Previous studies, both those in controlled and uncontrolled environments, have encountered numerous challenges. A 2021 study entitled “Effects of psilocybin-assisted therapy on major depressive disorder: A randomized clinical trial” provided participants with major depressive disorder two doses of psilocybin alongside psychotherapy, 65% said the psychedelic experience was “one of the five most challenging experiences in their life,” and 92% said they felt like crying. Additionally, 79% said they felt sadness, 56% said they felt anxiousness, 77% experienced emotional or physical suffering, 31% felt strong or extreme fear, and 22% said the entire experience “was characterized by anxiety or unpleasant psychological struggle.”

Researchers also pointed out that while some “challenging experiences” lead to beneficial or therapeutic experiences, using these substances can also potentially yield more distressing experiences that could require medical attention. “For instance, among individuals with lifetime use of a classic psychedelic, 8.9% of individuals reported experiencing functional impairment for longer than one day, and 2.6% of individuals reported seeking medical or psychological assistance, following a challenging psychedelic experience,” researchers explained. “There are also reports of the emergence of psychiatric diagnoses, suicidality, and harm to self and others during and after challenging psychedelic experiences.”

As a result, the possibility of these more challenging experiences are the source of reluctance from both health care providers and curious consumers.

These facts only continue to bolster the argument that more research is necessary, with other studies having found evidence that also show benefits of co-using substances. “Co-use of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) with psilocybin (referred to as ‘hippy flipping’) and LSD (referred to as ‘candy flipping’) is one method that is reportedly used to reduce challenging experiences and enhance positive experiences,” researchers pointed out in reference to two different studies in 2001 and 2012. 

Additionally, other studies conducted over the past 10-20 years have also found similar benefits. “MDMA, a potent serotonergic entactogen/empathogen, induces the release of serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, vasopressin, and oxytocin; dampens amygdala blood flow [2015]; decreases feelings of fear and sadness [2018, 2006]; and may increase positive feelings [2015], including love [2010], compassion [2018], and self-compassion [2015, 2018],” researchers wrote.

This most recent analysis of co-using MDMA included work from numerous researchers, including Professor Robin Carhart-Harris, who recently also worked on a different study (one that has not yet been peer reviewed) that illuminated the antidepressant effects of psilocybin.

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Survey: One-Third of Those Under 50 Open to Psychedelic Mental Health Treatments

A poll from YouGov “found that a significant percentage of respondents across different age groups, including 18-24 year olds (36%) and 25-49 year olds (30%), expressed interest in trialing psilocybin and other currently illegal substances like ketamine, MDMA, and DMT for treating mental health conditions,” Psychedelic Spotlight reported.

The outlet noted that the YouGov poll was commissioned by a London-based clinical trials startup called Lindus Health, which has a proclaimed mission to “use software to help innovative companies run faster, more reliable, and patient-friendly clinical trials.”

“Aside from psilocybin,  those aged between 18-24 were most interested in trialing ketamine (27%) and for 25-49 year olds the next highest was MDMA (26%),” Psychedelic Spotlight reported. “Interestingly, Psilocybin came out on top for all age groups – including 54-60 year olds (17%) and those aged above 65+ (10%).”

The survey’s findings are yet more evidence of the growing acceptance of psychedelic treatment options.

A poll in June from the University of California, Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics revealed that a solid majority of Americans support the idea of providing access to psychedelic therapies.

“More than six out of 10 (61%) American registered voters support legalizing regulated therapeutic access to psychedelics, including 35% who report ‘strong’ support,” the pollsters wrote in their analysis. “In addition, more than three-quarters of voters (78%) support making it easier for researchers to study psychedelic substances. Almost half (49%) support removing criminal penalties for personal use and possession.”

Imran Khan, the executive director of the UC Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics (BCSP), said that the survey’s findings represented the “the first clear picture we have of what the American public think and feel about psychedelics.”

“The Berkeley Psychedelics Survey shows that the majority of American voters are interested in, and supportive of, the field. They want fewer barriers to research for scientists, and they want regulated, therapeutic access for the public,” Khan said. “Amidst all the stigma and the hype about these powerful substances, it’s vital that researchers, policy-makers, and practitioners can understand and respond to the public’s hopes and fears. We’re excited to reveal the full results of the Berkeley Psychedelics Survey in the coming weeks.”

Berkeley, California has proven to be an epicenter for psychedelic reform.

Earlier this summer, city officials there approved a measure to decriminalize both psilocybin mushrooms and ayahuasca.

The widening acceptance of psychedelics has also led to a flowering of research, particularly into their potential as an effective treatment for mental health.

A recent study explored how psychedelics activate the Default Mode Network (DMN) of the brain, defined as “a system of connected brain areas that show increased activity when a person is not focused on what is happening around them.”

“The DMN is especially active, research shows, when one engages in introspective activities such as daydreaming, contemplating the past or the future, or thinking about the perspective of another person. Unfettered daydreaming can often lead to creativity. The default mode network is also active when a person is awake. However, in a resting state, when a person is not engaged in any demanding, externally oriented mental task, the mind shifts into ‘default,’” the publication Psychology Today said in its report on the study.

A study in May found that microdosing “could increase state authenticity through influencing people’s mood … and satisfaction with daily activities.”

“We propose that feeling and behaving authentically could have a central role in explaining the positive effects of microdosing on health and wellbeing that are reported by current research,” the authors of that study wrote in their analysis. “In conclusion, we have found evidence that the microdosing practice was related to higher ratings of state authenticity and that a behavioural mechanism is most likely at work. Our study opens the door to a new line of research as we propose that feeling and behaving authentically could have a central role in explaining the positive effects of microdosing on health and wellbeing that are reported by current research.”

Psychedelics are already widely accepted among the world’s upper-crust, with much of Silicon Valley’s elite regularly microdosing.

A story published earlier this summer by the Wall Street Journal said that Elon Musk takes ketamine, while Google co-founder Sergey Brin is known to take psychedelic mushrooms.

“Routine drug use has moved from an after-hours activity squarely into corporate culture, leaving boards and business leaders to wrestle with their responsibilities for a workforce that frequently uses. At the vanguard are tech executives and employees who see psychedelics and similar substances, among them psilocybin, ketamine and LSD, as gateways to business breakthroughs,” the Journal said

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COMPASS Pathways Secures $285 Million Towards Psychedelics for Mental Health

COMPASS Pathways, a biotechnology company dedicated to innovation in mental health, gained $285 million in private funding to research psychedelics, Behavioral Health Business reports. This amount should be enough to back their work through late 2025. By then, Biden willing, there is hope such treatment methods will have FDA approval. 

“We view this investment as a validation of the potential of psychedelic medicine and the importance of a rigorous and evidence-based approach,” Kabir Nath, CEO of COMPASS Pathways, said in the press release. Pathways named 11 investment firms led by TCGX and Aisling Capital, including Vivo Capital, RA Capital, Paradigm BioCapital Advisors LP, Logos Capital and Laurion Capital Management, and others. 

At the American Psychiatric Association (APA) 2022 Annual Meeting, COMPASS Pathways unveiled the “largest randomized, controlled, double-blind study of psilocybin therapy ever completed,” according to a May 2022 press release. The data shows “significant” improvements in treatment-resistant depression (TRD) symptoms using its synthetic psilocybin formulations (COMP360). 

Later that year, the London-based biotech company announced the phase 3 trial of treating treatment-resistant depression, which is the first-ever phase 3 study of psilocybin therapy. COMPASS Pathways is also working on phase 2 trials for the use of COMP360 in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anorexia nervosa.

Back in October of 2018, COMP360 for treatment-resistant patients secured the FDA’s Breakthrough Therapy designation, which is reserved for medical treatments demonstrating substantial evidence that they are better than the status quo. 

While antidepressants like SSRIs can take up to six weeks to kick in, psychedelics, such as psilocybin, can give relief to patients rapidly and, as this study aims to prove, more effectively. When someone is diagnosed with treatment-resistant depression, it’s assumed that they’ve already tried such avenues to no avail.

A 2020 study suggests that traditional antidepressants improve symptoms in about an extra 20 out of 100 people. Conversely, another study published in 2020 indicates that psilocybin is not only an effective and quick-acting treatment for depression disorder, but more than half of the study’s participants stayed in remission for up to four weeks following treatment. 

However, research also shows that serotonergic antidepressants like SSRIs and SNRIs can decrease psilocybin’s effects, so one should taper off these methods before diving into a psilocybin regimen. 

Currently, ketamine is the only psychedelic (technically, ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic with some hallucinogenic effects) that’s FDA-approved for mental health, although patients primarily use it off-label. 

COMPASS Pathways is not the only place looking into psilocybin therapy. Recently, doctors from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston began a trial for treating cancer-related anxiety and depression in patients by “examining the effects of psilocybin for patients with controlled advanced cancer on maintenance therapy experiencing challenges with mental health.” 

“Psychedelics, specifically psilocybin, have shown promise in treating various psychological symptoms including anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and end-of-life distress,” the doctors wrote. “Although a study focusing on gynecologic cancers has not yet been completed, the studies with mixed cancer diagnosis are encouraging.”

Although psychedelics “modulate brain activity and have been associated with therapeutic effects such as increased neuroplasticity and modulation of reward pathways, not dissimilar to the mechanisms underlying the therapeutic mechanism of conventional antidepressants,” the researchers added that their work with psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy “suggests lasting benefits from just one to two sessions, compared with the chronic use that is needed with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.”

There may be even more advantages to psilocybin therapy than efficacy. A recent study published by the Cambridge University Press suggests that psilocybin-assisted therapy could be a “cost-effective” option compared to other forms of therapy. 

While some reports, one from President Joe Biden’s youngest brother, say the president is “very open-minded” about therapeutic psychedelics, other lawmakers, such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic Representative from New York, have vocalized concern that Biden may derail bipartisan efforts to address psychedelics due to his past conservative comments about cannabis. 

However, there is optimism that both psilocybin and MDMA will gain FDA approval by the end of the year, so despite Biden’s sometimes regressive stances, the changing attitudes towards psychedelics, combined with science from places such as COMPASS Pathways and others, should reign supreme and lead us towards safe and effective mental health treatments. 

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How MDMA Transformed a White Supremacist

MDMA-assisted therapy is becoming increasingly more researched around the world and it shouldn’t be too long now before one nation decides to make it accessible to the public. It is evident that this substance’s reputation is shifting from dangerous party to drug to genuine therapeutic drug. MDMA allows people to see the world differently and themselves.

Well, this story about a man named Brendan; and how this substance turned him away from his extremist views will certainly prove the powers that the drug has. Let’s find out more. 

What is MDMA?

Before we dive into this quite remarkable story, let’s first understand what MDMA actually is.

MDMA stands for 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine. It is a synthetic drug that alters mood and perception. MDMA is commonly known as ecstasy, but it’s also referred to as “molly” when sold in its pure crystalline form. It is known for its stimulant and empathogenic effects, often leading to increased feelings of emotional closeness and empathy towards others. Many people like to call this substance the ‘love drug’, due to how it makes people feel closer to others. For decades, MDMA was seen as a solely dangerous party drug. However, views are beginning to shift. Nature writes:

MDMA chemical formula

“US could soon approve MDMA therapy — opening an era of psychedelic medicine. Perceptions have shifted dramatically in the past few years on the therapeutic value of illicit drugs such as ecstasy. But questions still linger about what FDA approval might look like.”

What was once a pointless recreational substance, may now be the perfect cure for PTSD, anxiety, depression and many other mental ailments. As research continues, more and more evidence pointing towards its benefits are being released. But what about using MDMA to change an extremists views? 

Brendan: the White Supremacist

Brendan – left nameless as he wants to distance himself from his white extremist past – was once a Trump supporter, racist and sexist. He grew up in Chicago, from a middle-class family, and studied at the University of Illinois. However, whilst he was there, he was supposedly sucked into extremism by a fraternity. He was surrounded by Republican white men and began reading antisemitic books and began researching sexist and racist content online. Brendan – when interviewed by MDMA specialist Rachel Nuwer for the BBC – said this about Donald Trump:

“His speech talking about Mexicans being rapists, the fixation on the border wall and deporting everyone, the Muslim ban – I didn’t really get white nationalism until Trump started running for president”

In order to surround himself with people that shared the same views, Brendan joined extremist group: Identity Evropa. He soon rose up the ranks and became the coordinator for the Midwest groups. Identity Envropa, started in 2016, was a white supremacist group that believed in segregation of the USA. It was most famous for its participation in the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally.

However, it no longer goes by this name. The negative publicity around the group meant that, in 2019, it reformed to: American Identitarian Movement. This group was then also disbanded in 2020. Why couldn’t the group stay together? Well, Brendan and more than 100 other members of the I.E. were publicly shamed by an anti-fascist group, as they revealed all of their identities. This caused him to be fired from his job, and destroyed a lot of his friends and family relationships.

The Trial

Depressed, poor and alone – Brendan did not have much going for him in 2020. However, he then saw a Facebook ad about clinical trials. He applied and he was accepted – his main aim was to get a little bit of extra cash. Little did he know, he was about to take a pill containing 110mg of MDMA.

This trial by Harriet De Wilt, professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at the University of Chicago, was testing whether MDMA increased the pleasantness of social touch in healthy volunteers. One day, during this trial, de Wit was given some shocking news. She was told that a participant – named Brendan – had left a rather strange note at the bottom of his fill out form after the experiment. This is what he had written:

“This experience has helped me sort out a debilitating personal issue. Google my name. I now know what I need to do – Brendan”

After the scientists had researched who Brendan was, they were of course terrified at what might have been about to happen. This man was an extremist and could perhaps do something awful. However, their fears were wrong. Instead, it went in the entirely other direction. He had found inner connection, he had found love. Love, according to Brendan, was the only thing that mattered. 

The Mind Alteration

So what had happened to this once racist and sexist individual? Well, supposedly, he had had a rather profound epiphany. As he was being lightly touched during the experiment, it began to make him feel a lot happier. But, not only that, Brendan suddenly had a desire to change. He felt he had spent too much time surrounding himself with ideas of hate, and instead wanted connection. After the experiment, he got in contact with the anti-fascist group in Chicago that had revealed so many member’s identities, and asked him for help to be better. The anti-fascist activist – for undercover purposes – will be described as S here: 

“S was sceptical when Brendan claimed that MDMA had made him want to prioritize connecting with other people above all else. But he was heartened when Brendan started taking steps that seemed to indicate his sincere commitment to change. Brendan hired a diversity, equity, and inclusion consultant to advise him, enrolled in therapy, began meditating, and started working his way through a list of educational books”

The work Brendan has done since his MDMA-induced revelation is certainly promising. That’s not to say he has eradicated all racist and sexist thoughts, or completely changed, but it’s definitely a start. According to Brendan, he is learning how to deal with these toxic thoughts, rather than giving into them. 


The story of Brendan and his change from white supremacist to promoter of lover is rather extraordinary. In a way, it would make quite the Hollywood film. But, what can we actually learn from this example? One thing to note is that many extremists admit to taking MDMA, and this does not change their views. Instead, it actually gives them the self-love to continue their path. For instance, some members of the Taliban use this substance.

What this means is that MDMA itself does not have the power to make people ‘good’ – if there even is such a thing. Looking at Brendan’s life when he came to take MDMA, he was lost and alone. His white supremacist past had not done him any favors, and he had lost his friends, family and job. Perhaps, deep down, at this point in his life he desperately wanted connection. These clinic MDMA trials gave him the opportunity to find that at the perfect time. 

“This is stuff you can’t really put into words, but it was so profound… I conceived of my relationships with other people not as distinct boundaries with distinct entities, but more as we-are-all-one. I realised I’d been fixated on stuff that doesn’t really matter, and is just so messed up, and that I’d been totally missing the point. I hadn’t been soaking up the joy that life has to offer.”

It’s hard to say whether MDMA was the cause of this mind-shift, or whether it gave Brendan the allowance to see what was already there. If it is true that our natural states of being are to promote love, kindness and empathy – then perhaps MDMA lightly pushed him towards his true self. Just as he was so swayed by extremist views at university, perhaps he was just as easily pushed away from them. 


This story is a beautiful one, but should not be blown out of proportion. No one should come away from reading this thinking that MDMA can somehow cure the world of extremist views. Sadly, the world is just not that simple. However, this story does prove that MDMA-assisted therapy gives room for even the most hating and closed up individuals to find love and connection. There are millions of people out there who choose hate over love perhaps because it is what they see in the world. What if MDMA can help them to see a brighter, more beautiful view? 

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