Will MDMA Change Your Political Views?

I generally detest any activity that makes me feel out of control, so taking drugs (or drinking) has never held any interest for me. And I’ve mostly tuned out every time another news story comes out about micro-dosing, or using psychedelics therapeutically.

But I read a tweet a couple of weeks ago, about someone using MDMA and completely changing their political views, and I keep thinking about it. The tweet was originally an attempt to throw shade toward Libertarians, but it ended up being a fascinating thread with even more fascinating responses. Here’s the original tweet:

One reader tweeted in response that he had experienced something similar:

Another reader asked about MDMA in relation to couples therapy:

Another reader also talked about changing his politics and wiping out his social anxiety:

I’m not totally sure why I keep thinking about this thread, but I have several trains of thought in response:

1) The idea that someone could completely change their political views after taking MDMA is fascinating to me. It reminds me of the articles about conservative brains vs. liberal brains, and how conservative brains are more prone to disgust. And that when conservative-minded people feel totally safe, they tend to switch to more liberal views. Could the massive political divide in our country be healed through a dose of MDMA?

2) Sometimes I forget how different brains can be, and that people experience life in profoundly different ways. Like I just learned there are people who can’t picture things with their mind. And I forget that there are way more people in the world who don’t/can’t feel empathy than I would have guessed. So I’m interested in the research showing MDMA can actually change people’s brains so that they can feel empathy. An example:

Moderate to severe social anxiety is common in people with autism, Danforth said, and so they wanted to explore how MDMA could help with the social anxiety in a population with an increased need for treatment.

In her participants, she found that the ones who got MDMA in their therapy sessions had a fast and long-lasting decrease in their social anxiety symptoms. “We continue to hear from some participants who check in to tell us, years after treatment, that they are still experiencing less social anxiety at college, at work, in romantic relationships, and in everyday life,” she said.

3) I’m just back from Alt Summit, and I had an incredible time getting to connect with so many people. But I was thinking of people who stay away from events like Alt Summit, because they experience so much social anxiety. And I’m thinking of my family members who experience anxiety, and I’m just trying to be generally aware of therapeutic options available to them.

4) I’m very interested that several people mentioned long-lasting, possibly permanent, positive effects after just one dose. (To be clear, not everybody reported this.) I’m someone who takes depression medication daily, and committing to a long-term medication schedule can be intimidating and scare people away from getting help (cost, maintenance, potential side effects, etc.).

So there’s something really appealing about the idea that someone could see positive effects after just one dose. To me, it makes the whole thing seem more approachable and less risky.

5) Lastly, I’m interested in how we talk about illegal substances. Growing up, I was always taught that illegal drugs, including marijuana and MDMA, were far more dangerous than something like alcohol, which is legal. So it’s still odd to learn that alcohol is quite a bit more harmful than many illegal substances, and certainly less helpful.

“I don’t see where people learn a whole lot about themselves or improve their capacity to function when they’re intoxicated with alcohol,” said Charles Grob, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA and co-author on Danforth’s paper. “On the other hand with MDMA within a therapeutic context, it’s a learning experience and it’s a guided learning experience and the individuals learn something about themselves.”

What about you? If you suffer from anxiety, would you ever consider MDMA therapy as a medical treatment? Would you ever advise your (older) children to take it if they were dealing with anxiety or seemed to have trouble feeling empathy for others? Have you ever considered attending a High-End Psychedelic Retreat?

And what about MDMA + politics? If you could take a drug that would change your political views, would you do it? If your parents could take MDMA and change their political views, would you encourage them to do so? (I suppose there’s a part of me that is wishing I could ask people who don’t want refugees to come to America, or who want to close our borders to immigrants, to take MDMA.)

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

P.S. — MDMA molecule printable poster.

24 thoughts on “Will MDMA Change Your Political Views?”

  1. I can not recommend Ayelet Waldman’s book “A Really Good Day” enough on this subject. She does an excellent job talking about our cultural prejudices when it comes to the use of psychedelics, as well as sharing her personal experiences with MDMA as a tool for healthy relationship maintenance and LSD microdosing for her own psychological condition. It is fascinating and very well researched.

  2. I have taken MDMA several times with my husband. It was a lot of fun, it made us feel super connected. It triggered a tooth grinding reaction in me, and I’ve been grinding my teeth since (6 years now). I recommend it to all of my friends going through relationship problems. The microdosing is a really interesting concept and I wish we could slip some MDMA to my father in law! My only concern is: it is really hard to get pure MDMA and you take your chances nowadays with what is actually in it. There are test kits available (through Amazon!), and even those might not be legitimate. If it was ever declassified as an illegal drug it would probably change the world. And as the Mom of a child on the spectrum I would probably let him take it in his late teens under supervision of a therapist or a doctor ( even I’m not that qualified!).

  3. There is an interesting 60 min segment about this subject from last year. There are doctors using it for depression. One women with terminal cancer took part in the study. She was terrified of death and after taking one dosage was at peace with her fate. Very interesting. Check it out.

  4. How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence
    Book by Michael Pollan
    Is the most responsible investigation I have seen on this.

    1. Your Mind Explained has a short episode about this on Netflix. I find it fascinating and can’t wait to see more research about it. It’s a relatively untapped solution in the US.

  5. This reminds me of the studies in recent years that show how psychedelic drugs (including psilocybin mushrooms) can help people with terminal diagnoses cope with anxiety around death. Really interesting stuff. Here are two articles:

    Article one.

    Article two.

    As a cancer survivor this really fascinates me.

    1. These articles were really interesting. Thank you for sharing them!

      I haven’t tried MDMA, but I took Psylocybin once in my early 20s and had a similar life changing experience. I was an anxious kid who needed to constantly be in control, so I had deep reservations about psychedelics. My boyfriend talked me in to it (in hopes of some earth shattering sex– the joke was on him as he tried to initiate at one point and I told him that he was by far the least interesting thing happening in my world at that moment and he’d better step back. Ha!). In the first article, the researcher says that “people’s entire sense of who they are has been altered in a positive manner.” This was very much my experience. I had been terrified of death, to the point that it was really holding me back in life. At one point during my “trip”, I looked in the mirror and watched my face age before my eyes until it–and I–turned to dust. At first, I was terrified, but as I watched, it happened over and over again, until I felt completely at peace and was able to watch in a very detached and loving way. Not only did this scene desensitize me to my own death, but I realized that the dust I became eventually drifted into something much more interesting. This, and so many other scenes I experienced that night, changed me profoundly.
      It’s hard to explain why something that I would have dismissed as “just a drug trip” made me realize that this physical world is such a miniscule part of a much deeper and more complex spiritual (not in a religious way) journey but I absolutely knew it was true after my experience. I never wanted or needed to go there again, but the places I went to that night have left me with a deep peace 27 years later. At the time, I remember saying that if everyone tried psilocybin just once, the world would be a better, more loving place, and I still believe it. I have always been a progressive Democrat, but I can see how someone with different views could be moved to change after such a profound experience.

  6. I took MDMA only one time (vs. lots of experience with alcohol, marijuana, LSD, and mushrooms) and absolutely LOVED it. So much so that it scared me a little (which is why I never did it again). But I remember huge swaths of that single night from 1992 (yes – that was 28 years ago) with fond, happy, clear memories of having the best night ever while visiting NYC. I was with a new friend and her friends (ie, I only knew one person there, and her, not well) and still the night rings of group dancing, singing along with a band I didn’t know, falling in love with bubble gum, and drag queens running their hands through my very thick, very long hair. I returned to the apartment where I was staying around 8am the next day and told those friends all about my night as they headed off to work. Then I went to bed in my clothes. When I woke up I found the thighs of my white leggings were permanently filthy black from my having rubbed my hands on them all night. It’s a very very tactile drug.

    Can MDMA change you permanently? I have no doubt. Would it be for the better? Very likely.

    My takeaway memories are of a massive dose of empathy, ease, and happiness. There were many things about that night that should have made me uncomfortable (I was in a city I didn’t know well, with people I didn’t know, going places I had never been, all night until the early morning hours) and instead it goes down as one of the most fun nights of my life.

  7. I have 2 friends who have developed psychosis that has ruined their lives after doing TOO many psychedelics and concentrations of marijuana and that is a bit scary for people with genetics and brains that can be altered, even with one trip. Microdosing does sound interesting and promising! A good alternative for anxiety and developing more empathy may be meditation and practicing mindfulness. Secular Buddhism is a favorite.

  8. people who lack empathy typically have a personality disorder. this disorder cannot be “cured” by MDMA or other drug.

  9. Former public defender here, in a part of the country with a very serious opioid problem. And yet I will say there is no more dangerous drug than alcohol.

  10. As someone who has never consumed, or has plans to consume, drugs or alcohol, I wish they’d declassify all drugs, and begin to allow more studies on the therapeutic benefits of them. Especially as a response to the opioid crisis, because F you, Sackler family.

    Then, I wish we’d do what Portugal did with those who are addicted to narcotics and provide a safe space for them to take the drug, and also encourage recovery.

  11. Anon for This One

    You HAVE to read How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan. (Or even just dip in with one of his podcasts, articles, etc) It was life-changing for me to read last year, during a really blue time, and there’s such hope in that book for people struggling with depression. I actually did a guided psilocybin experience after reading it. I went to Amsterdam and met with a “trip sitter”…a person who basically keeps you safe and guides you through the process if you need it. I looked into retreats too, but liked the idea of the one-on-one experience and it was actually cheaper. My experience wasn’t a mind blowing, life changing one like others I’ve read about, but it was a good first encounter, and I’d really like to explore more.

  12. A family member was able to stop taking medication for depression, after being on it for decades, through taking ayahuasca. It changed their life so radically that they are now—after apprenticing and studying with a shaman for many, many years—guiding other people on their own trips.

  13. I was going to recommend Pollan’s book too! The main thing I took away from that one, though, is that context matters a lot. The right drug in the right dose for the right person in the right setting.

    I’m also left with a worry: are there really so many people out there who don’t understand that others have feelings and interior lives? That’s a scary thought to me.

  14. This is all so interesting to think about.

    The political angle as it relates to empathy is especially thought-provoking. I (identifying as a liberal in most situations) have often been frustrated by the lack of empathy in some libertarian/conservative thinking and policies. Honestly, though, I’ve lately been struck by the lack of empathy in the liberal conversation as well. Most people hold their political views because of some personal experience or influence, and the lack of awareness about this on all sides is troubling.

    Would a liberal who takes MDM have a sudden moment of understanding of their adversary across the aisle (or, more commonly, in their FB or Twitter feed)? I wish it didn’t take a drug to do this.

    1. I think it could be easily argued that the liberals ARE understanding of their adversary across the aisle. When liberals fight for medicare for all, child care for all, free college for all, those benefits extend to Trump supporters. When liberals fight to stop politicians from rolling back coverage for pre-existing conditions, and fight for a higher minimum wage, they are fighting for a better life for all Americans, especially those who are most vulnerable — and a lot of the most vulnerable people in our country are conservatives.

      1. Yes to all of this – I agree with and support most liberal policies wholeheartedly, for the reasons you’ve mentioned. It’s incredibly frustrating when I hear people decrying poverty and then opposing a social safety net, for example.

        I’m thinking more about the online discourse, I guess – calling one another stupid or assuming people are uneducated, or overeducated, or hippies, or rednecks – without respecting that any person’s perspective may be coming from a genuine place. Not agreeing with or supporting that perspective, necessarily, but understanding that we are all humans, many of whom (but not all, unfortunately) can be part of a respectful conversation.

        Thanks for promoting that conversation here.

  15. Just a comment about the notion that “conservative brains are more prone to disgust.” As can happen with social psychology research, upon further study some serious doubt has been cast upon that finding. Here is a study.

    Which is not to say that stable aspects of one’s personality might not incline one to particular political views. But that also doesn’t mean that personality determines politics. I’d be surprised if political views changed for people who took psychedelics who had also spent a great deal of time thinking and reasoning about politics before taking them. But who knows?

    1. Do you have the actual article, or just the abstract? I can only access the abstract, but would like to read the article.

      And I should note, the original article I linked to mentioned:

      “Findings so dramatic, especially in the social sciences, should be viewed with caution until replicated. The axiom that extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof clearly applies here. That said, Hibbing, Montague, and their colleagues are scarcely alone in linking disgust and ideology.”

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