In Pursuit of Joy: MDMA and the Therapeutic Value of Ecstatic States
As a longtime psychedelic user, I didn’t think MDMA could possibly have much to offer. It proved me wrong in the most astonishing way possible.
Note: Names of individuals and some inconsequential details have been changed in order to protect the privacy of those involved.
They were the tiniest capsules I had ever seen, an impromptu gift from my very generous friend Michael. The pale crystals in each pill amounted to roughly 2 mg/kg of my weight, which was a bit higher than what Roll Safe recommended as a starting dose. But being significantly experienced with real psychedelics, I assumed that ecstasy was more likely to underwhelm than anything else. I swallowed a pill at 1 PM and waited restlessly for around an hour. It was the last time I would go into a new experience with such indifference.
“Do I feel something?” I typed on my iPad half an hour later, hoping to record the session as it unfolded. “I want to smile. Everything looks beautiful and music is different. Feels kind of like coming up on acid so far, but maybe more stimulating. A little nausea and lightheadedness.”
As I typed, my pupils expanded and the screen started to blur in a white haze. Something was definitely happening! Before I had any time to reflect on it, the effects abruptly ramped up with no warning. While traditional psychedelics mimic the structure of serotonin and cling to 5HT2A receptors, MDMA binds to dendrites and axon terminals instead. This results in a massive flood of serotonin into the synapses, followed by significant amounts of dopamine and oxytocin.
I can pinpoint the exact moment that my serotonin started to flow out, because it was one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever felt on a mind altering substance. With the exception of taking such a drug, the only other circumstance preceding the release so many neurotransmitters at once would be a life or death scenario, and it was the closest thing I’ve felt to an actual brush with death. The walls and ceiling started to crawl with static, my vision tunneled, and I was seized with a profound sense of impending doom. I briefly forgot that I was under the influence of something…