MDMA for Alcohol Use Disorder – Clinical Insights



Dr Ben Sessa presents the preliminary data in an ongoing open-label safety and tolerability proof of concept study exploring the potential role for 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)-assisted psychotherapy in treating patients with alcohol use disorder.

At this stage, seven participants have completed the full 8-week MDMA-assisted psychotherapy course, including two therapy sessions each with MDMA.

This research focuses on the safety and tolerability of the therapeutic course for the first four participants to complete treatment. Longer-term outcomes of drinking behaviour will be presented later when the full project data are published.

Alcohol use disorder represents a serious clinical, social and personal burden on its sufferers and a significant financial strain on society. Current treatments, both psychological and pharmacological are poor, with high rates of relapse after medical detoxification and dedicated treatment programs.

The earliest historical roots of psychedelic drug-assisted psychotherapy in the 1950s were associated with Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)-assisted psychotherapy to treat what was then called, alcoholism. But results were varied and psychedelic therapy with LSD and other ‘classical’ psychedelics fell out of favour in the wake of socio-political pressures and cultural changes.

A current revisiting of psychedelic clinical research is now targeting substance use disorders e and particularly alcohol use disorder – again. 3,4 Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)-assisted psychotherapy has never been formally explored as a treatment for any form of substance use disorder. But in recent years MDMA has risen in prominence as an agent to treat posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). With its unique receptor profile and a relatively well-tolerated subjective experience of drug effects when used clinically, MDMA Therapy is ideally suited to allow a patient to explore and address painful memories without being overwhelmed by negative affect.

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