Researchers at Imperial College London are ready to begin the first ever clinical study using MDMA to treat alcohol addiction. The study will test whether a few controlled doses of the drug, along with psychotherapy, is more effective than conventional treatments.

The trial was given approval a short time ago. The team expects to be ready to give participants their first dose of MDMA within the next couple of months.

Twenty people will participate in the trial. They are patients who were recruited through Bristol’s recreational drug and alcohol service. All will be given MDMA in capsule form during two supervised treatment sessions. Each participant is already a heavy drinker who already drinks the equivalent of five bottles of wine daily. The patients involved in the study have also relapsed repeatedly after trying other forms of treatment.

How the Alcoholism Study Will Work

Once the participants have undergone detox to become free from the influence of alcohol, they will be given two standard therapy sessions. Next, they will participate in a day-long therapy session when they will be given a capsule containing a high dose of MDMA.

Patients will spend some of the time speaking with a therapist. Some of the time will also be spent lying down while wearing an eye mask, quietly meditating.

Researchers point out that this treatment is not “all about the drug.” Instead, the drug is being used to supplement the relationship between the therapist and the patient. It allows the two of them to dig into the root cause of the alcoholism, which may be linked to some type of past trauma.

Psychedelic Drug Use in Treatment Not New

A US-based research team has been working on a three-phase trial of its own with MDMA. It has found that the drug has been highly effective for treating PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder) in military veterans.

In the United Kingdom, several teams of researchers are looking at whether ketamine could be beneficial for treating memories relating to addiction. Ketamine is a powerful anesthetic known to have hallucinogenic properties.