MDMA can build trust, release tension and fear, and erode inhibitions, allowing partners to have hard conversations with compassion and without judgment, says Catherine Auman, a California psychotherapist. She was quoted in an article in Time magazine, one of the most prominent mainstream media representations of MDMA I’ve seen in a while.
Research on MDMA in couples therapy is limited, but some therapists legally used MDMA in couples counseling in the 1970s and 1980s. The US government made MDMA a Schedule I drug in 1985, which put it in the category of substances with a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. However, there has been growing acceptance of the role psychedelics can play in treating complex mental health conditions, including depression and PTSD, and researchers have also turned their attention back to MDMA-assisted couples therapy. A recent trial focused on six couples in which one partner had PTSD, and couples reported improvements in support and intimacy, as well as less conflict in their relationships.
MDMA use is not without risk, including high blood pressure, faintness, panic attacks, and impaired perception, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and it can contribute to serious or fatal complications in rare cases. Some people also report depressed moods following the use of MDMA. It has, however, been argued that its classification should be adjusted, given the promising research around its psychiatric benefits.