A Literature Review: The Efficacy of MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy


  • Olivia Tsai Simon Fraser University


Researchers have proposed that MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethampethamine), an illicit psychedelic drug with widespread recreational use, may be a beneficial therapeutic adjunct in PTSD treatment due to its unique mood altering and prosocial effects. A growing body of clinical evidence points to MDMA-assisted psychotherapy as a promising alternative for individuals who have found current PTSD treatments unsuccessful. Within the past decade, several studies integrating MDMA administration with psychotherapy have seen clinical PTSD symptom reductions. Despite this, the therapeutic application of MDMA remains contentious. A range of in vitro experiments as well as studies in drug users and animal models have associated MDMA with adverse health consequences, including psychiatric distress, cognitive decline, and neurotoxicity. However, it remains a challenge to parse out whether these negative side effects are truly applicable in a clinical setting, where a chemically unadulterated and standardized dose is provided during a limited number of sessions. In this literature review, I will summarize the recent clinical trials on MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, point out the limitations of this research, examine potential adverse health effects, and outline important topics for future exploration.