Rapper Lil Pump famously spit in his song Molly, “I pop a molly, I pop a bean, I chug a pint and I just go to sleep.” Translation: he takes some ecstasy, drinks a beer and falls asleep. He may have been onto something when those lyrics dropped in 2017, as a recent study shows MDMA — most commonly known as ecstasy or molly — improves sleep quality.
MDMA has recently surfaced in the medical world as a possible aid to psychotherapy. Now, MDMA has another hopeful effect: sleep.
Sleep disorders are painfully common and refer to conditions that impact the quality, timing and duration of one’s sleeping patterns. Most often when your body cannot relax enough to the point of sleep, it is indicating something more — medical problems and mental health issues, among other things. Yet sleep is essential for the body to function, and, with over 100 different sleeping disorders identified today, health implications and interferences with everyday life begin to tear lives apart from the inside out.
“Sleep quality and PTSD symptoms improved significantly at the 12-month follow-up, indicating an enduring, clinically meaningful benefit of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy.”the study states
“Patients who report significant sleep disturbance also report higher levels of substance use, more severe health-related complaints, depression, and suicidality,” the researchers write.
Currently, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT or CBT-I) for insomnia is the only recommended psychotherapy intervention with previous research showing, “up to 40% of participants drop out of CBT treatment, and, fewer than half experience clinical improvement in insomnia at the six-month follow-up,” according to the study.
MDMA aims to amplify the benefits of psychotherapy, such as CBT. MDMA is known as a ‘party drug,’ as the effects generate euphoria, increased well-being and sociability.
These feel-good feelings happen because MDMA disconnects the amygdala — the part of the brain where the emotion of fear lives. Without a fear response, peace is felt, and with peace, psychotherapy can become more effective as one is more comfortable and willing to talk and dive into their cognitive problems.
The most promising results of MDMA improving sleep disturbance have been recorded amongst individuals suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress — or as we all know it, PTSD. Individuals in a consistent state of trauma found MDMA allowed them to talk about their worries without actually being overwhelmed in fear.
“It was probably the greatest therapeutic treatment I’ve ever had in my life,” retired Army Sgt. Jon Lubecky told The Economist during an interview on his MDMA therapy experience. “It’s like doing therapy while being hugged by everyone who loves you in a bathtub full of puppies licking your face.”
“Patients who report significant sleep disturbance also report higher levels of substance use, more severe health-related complaints, depression, and suicidality.”the researchers write
According to the study, the change in PTSD symptom severity positively correlated to the change in sleep quality.
“Participants in the active-dose MDMA group reported significantly improved scores on measures of both sleep and PTSD symptoms compared to control participants,” the study notes. “In addition, sleep quality and PTSD symptoms improved significantly at the 12-month follow-up, indicating an enduring, clinically meaningful benefit of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy on both domains.”
How sleep disturbances occur is unique to every individual, and the extent to which MDMA may differently impact sleep symptoms is yet to be fully determined. But the decrease of daytime dysfunction and improvements in sleep quality and latency pushes MDMA into the spotlight as potentially the next drug to open doors in the medical world.