W.When 37-year-old Joe and his wife first tried MDMA two years ago, he expected “to relax and have some fun.” Instead, they talked about garbage. Why Joe didn’t take out the trash often, why it bothered his wife, and how compromises can be made to move forward.
“We just hashed it,” Joe says.
Under the influence of MDMA, also known as ecstasy, Joe and his wife were able to reach new understandings by speaking their true feelings and listening to each other. Now, several times a year, a New Mexico couple calls in a babysitter and goes out to dinner, spends the night in a fancy hotel room on drugs, and goes through nearly a decade of marital problems, from household chores to marital life. are discussing about From parenting to sex. “Tackling these bigger issues is a no-brainer now,” Joe says.
Joe and his wife are doing a DIY version of an emerging mental health practice. That is couples counseling using MDMA. This may one day be legally available at your local therapist’s office. Proponents of psychedelic use expect the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve MDMA as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) within the next two years. That could open the door to other therapeutic uses for this drug. Couples therapy may also be included.
“There are many neurobiological reasons to think this drug might be useful in couples therapy,” says Albert Garcia-Romeu, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine who studies psychedelics. It stimulates feel-good neurotransmitter activity in the brain while calming the part of the brain that responds to threat, he explains. You can also[MDMA makes people] They’re more emotionally open and empathetic, and less triggered by threats and difficult emotional states,” he says.
Because MDMA can build trust, release tension and fear, and erode oppression, partners can have difficult conversations with compassion and non-judgment. May Last Longer than Value: Research suggests that MDMA allows people to: Revisit difficult or traumatic topics It may explain part of why it works so well for people with PTSD without being emotionally reactive. “When couples have longstanding grudges or disagreements and people are too hurt, too hurt, too guarded to talk about it, they use drugs to temporarily let their guard down. You can … it really helps clearing up.It lets out a lot of emotional baggage,” says Garcia Romeu.
But MDMA isn’t a surefire aphrodisiac, says Auman. Sometimes, MDMA-fueled honesty reveals underlying contradictions, leading to revelations like: Maybe this marriage is not for me.
Although research on MDMA in couples therapy is limited, its practice has a long history.Some therapists legally used MDMA couple counseling 1970s and 1980s. One was a psychiatrist, Dr. George Greer. paper It records the effects of drugs on 29 people who were treated between 1980 and 1983, 21 of whom took the drugs in couples or groups. It makes them more susceptible to compliments and criticism,” Greer writes. Everyone Greer treated reported at least one negative side effect, ranging from jaw tension to fatigue and anxiety.
Other potential risks of MDMA use include high blood pressure, fainting, panic attacks, and sensory disturbances. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (nida); in rare cases, it can cause serious or fatal complications, including seizures and dangerously elevated body temperature.some people too report feeling depressed After using MDMA.research not proven conclusively Whether MDMA is addictive, according to NIDA.
In 1985, the US government designated MDMA as a Schedule I drug. This is a category of substances that have a high potential for abuse and are not approved for medical use. (Many critics, including scientists and scientists politicianargue that the classification needs to be adjusted in light of promising research on the psychiatric benefits of MDMA.) MDMA use did not cease for recreational or therapeutic purposes, but largely was driven underground.
However, in recent years there has been increasing acceptance of the role psychedelics can play in treating complex mental health conditions such as depression and PTSD. I am returning my attention to couples therapy. recent trials We focused on six couples where one partner had PTSD. Couples underwent drug-supported therapy and were asked how their relationship changed afterward. Couples also reported improved support and intimacyand most of the partners without PTSD said they had less conflict in their relationships.
Although the study was small and specific, co-author Ann Wagner, a psychologist in Canadian practice who coaches clients on using psychedelics in their daily lives, said the findings were said it was interesting enough to justify further research. is scheduled to start.
Many couples and therapists aren’t waiting for research.
after reading how to change your mind, David Ford, the 55-year-old Los Angeles-based entrepreneur Michael Pollan’s best-selling book on psychedelics, began looking for an experienced practitioner to offer psychedelic-assisted couples therapy. Ford and his wife eventually flew to New York City, where he agreed to have two clinicians guide them through his MDMA support sessions.
First, the couple separated and met with individual practitioners while under the influence. At that session, Ford remembers talking about his memories of his childhood and how the past made him the adult he is today. Then, with the guidance of a clinician, they came back together to analyze how they navigated emotions, personal histories, marriage, love, and family.
“Imagine being able to talk about all the hard parts of a relationship in a conversation with your partner, but feel free to talk about resentments or expectations or anything that usually derails, at least in my case.” You can have those conversations,” says Ford.
These effects are “transformative” for the couple’s marriage, and Ford says it’s powerful but tested by the complexity of keeping families together. Even not taking MDMA, he says, has given him the tools to meet challenges with love, gratitude, and honest communication.
Despite MDMA’s reputation as a club drug, “there’s this whole subculture of responsible adult use with families and children,” says Shannon Hughes, an associate professor of social work at Colorado State University. . Hughes co-authored with Colorado-based counselor Rob Colbert. 2022 paper For couples who informally use MDMA together, we found that most couples reported a stronger bond and better communication after the session.
But Hughes notes that the people who participated in her study were healthy adults who were working on maintaining relationships in general. She says she has more reservations about being used unsupervised by people trying to resolve serious trauma or mental health issues. I don’t recommend using psychedelics if you have problems such as psychosis, suicidal behavior, or bipolar disorder.),'” she says.
Garcia-Romeu adds that couples may not experience the full benefits of the drug without guidance from a professional, and it’s difficult to know the exact dosage and content of MDMA purchased for recreational use.
Columbia University social psychologist Talea Cornelius Anonymous survey Those who have taken psychedelics in a romantic relationship. Cornelius is most interested in learning about the effects of so-called “classic” hallucinogens such as psilocybin (the psychoactive ingredient in “magic” mushrooms), ayahuasca and LSD. These drugs are not well suited for use between couples, in that they do not necessarily promote a loving mood or communication, which intrigues her, but still keeps people on their toes. It can open you up to new possibilities.
“If you give someone five grams of mushrooms, they won’t talk together,” she says. [may] seeing things, feeling things, [be] they weren’t there before.
Sarah Tilley, a psychedelic therapist who provides psilocybin-based couples counseling in the Netherlands, was inspired to start counseling after going through a divorce. She found couples counseling unsatisfactory and, as a longtime alternative medicine practitioner, thought psilocybin could improve and deepen her experience.
When working with clients, Tilley begins with a sober prep session to talk about family backgrounds, trauma, and relationships. On what she calls “medicine days,” Tilly guides couples through rituals that include listening to music, meditating, and breathing together, while listening to music, usually blindfolded, for hours on end. Watch your travels across and experience the drag. Separately, but together. After the trip, she helps them organize their experiences and how to approach future relationships.
Tilley has yet to publish data on the effectiveness of her approach, but is working with researchers to initiate studies. But she says many couples experience intimacy, compassion, and her desire to let go of past issues: “We’re really redefining intimacy here.” ‘ she says.
Psychedelics can be effective, but experts say it’s a mistake to think that hallucinogens offer a one-way ticket to marital bliss.
Auman says both partners need to be on the same page about what they can and can’t do psychedelics. For example, if a bond of trust is broken, medicine may not be enough to repair it.
Some couples break up as a result of psychedelic breakthroughs. there is,” she says. “People may be able to come to natural conclusions about something sooner, preferably more kindly.”
MDMA-assisted therapy isn’t like being “lobotomized with happy pills,” Ford agrees. He and his wife are still fighting and their relationship isn’t perfect. Fundamentally strong, he says.
“Our relationship had rocks that stumbled over and over again,” says Ford. “Those rocks are still there and we trip sometimes, but we are much better at recovering.”
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