OPEN Foundation

S. Kamboj

Additive Effects of 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) and Compassionate Imagery on Self-Compassion in Recreational Users of Ecstasy

Abstract

3,4-Methylenedioxymethylamphetamine (MDMA;‘ecstasy’) produces prosocial subjective effects that may extend to affiliative feelings towards the self. Behavioural techniques can produce similar self-directed affiliation. For example, compassionate imagery (CI) and ecstasy reduce self-criticism and increase self-compassion to a similar extent, with the effects of CI enhanced in the presence of ecstasy. Here, we examine self-compassion and self-criticism in recreational users who consumed chemically verified MDMA in a within-subjects crossover study. In a naturalistic setting, polydrug-using participants performed a self-focused CI exercise on two occasions separated by ≥6 days: once having consumed self-sourced MDMA and once not. Effects on state self-criticism, self-compassion and emotional empathy were assessed before and after MDMA use (or over an extended baseline period on the occasion that MDMA was not consumed) and reassessed after CI. In participants (n = 20; 8 women) whose ecstasy contained MDMA and no other drug, CI and MDMA appeared to separately increase emotional empathy (to critical facial expressions) and self-compassion. The effects of CI and MDMA on self-compassion also appeared to be additive. Establishing the observed effects in controlled studies will be critical for determining the combined utility of these approaches in fostering adaptive self-attitudes in a therapeutic context.

Kamboj, S. K., Walldén, Y. S., Falconer, C. J., Alotaibi, M. R., Blagbrough, I. S., Husbands, S. M., & Freeman, T. P. (2017). Additive Effects of 3, 4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) and Compassionate Imagery on Self-Compassion in Recreational Users of Ecstasy. Mindfulness, 1-12. 10.1007/s12671-017-0849-0
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Recreational 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine (MDMA) or ‘ecstasy’ and self-focused compassion: Preliminary steps in the development of a therapeutic psychopharmacology of contemplative practices

Abstract

3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine (MDMA) produces diverse pro-social effects. Cognitive training methods rooted in Eastern contemplative practices also produce these effects through the development of a compassionate mindset. Given this similarity, we propose that one potential mechanism of action of MDMA in psychotherapy is through enhancing effects on intrapersonal attitudes (i.e. pro-social attitudes towards the self). We provide a preliminary test of this idea. Recreational MDMA (ecstasy) users were tested on two occasions, having consumed or not consumed ecstasy. Self-critical and self-compassionate responses to self-threatening scenarios were assessed before (T1) and after (T2) ecstasy use (or non-use), and then after compassionate imagery (T3). Moderating roles of dispositional self-criticism and avoidant attachment were examined. Separately, compassionate imagery and ecstasy produced similar sociotropic effects, as well as increases in self-compassion and reductions in self-criticism. Higher attachment-related avoidance was associated with additive effects of compassionate imagery and ecstasy on self-compassion. Findings were in line with MDMA’s neuropharmacological profile, its phenomenological effects and its proposed adjunctive use in psychotherapy. However, although conditions were balanced, the experiment was non-blind and MDMA dose/purity was not determined. Controlled studies with pharmaceutically pure MDMA are still needed to test these effects rigorously.

Kamboj, S. K., Kilford, E. J., Minchin, S., Moss, A., Lawn, W., Das, R. K., … & Freeman, T. P. (2015). Recreational 3, 4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine (MDMA) or ‘ecstasy’and self-focused compassion: preliminary steps in the development of a therapeutic psychopharmacology of contemplative practices. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 0269881115587143.

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Recreational 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine (MDMA) or 'ecstasy' and self-focused compassion: Preliminary steps in the development of a therapeutic psychopharmacology of contemplative practices

Abstract

3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine (MDMA) produces diverse pro-social effects. Cognitive training methods rooted in Eastern contemplative practices also produce these effects through the development of a compassionate mindset. Given this similarity, we propose that one potential mechanism of action of MDMA in psychotherapy is through enhancing effects on intrapersonal attitudes (i.e. pro-social attitudes towards the self). We provide a preliminary test of this idea. Recreational MDMA (ecstasy) users were tested on two occasions, having consumed or not consumed ecstasy. Self-critical and self-compassionate responses to self-threatening scenarios were assessed before (T1) and after (T2) ecstasy use (or non-use), and then after compassionate imagery (T3). Moderating roles of dispositional self-criticism and avoidant attachment were examined. Separately, compassionate imagery and ecstasy produced similar sociotropic effects, as well as increases in self-compassion and reductions in self-criticism. Higher attachment-related avoidance was associated with additive effects of compassionate imagery and ecstasy on self-compassion. Findings were in line with MDMA’s neuropharmacological profile, its phenomenological effects and its proposed adjunctive use in psychotherapy. However, although conditions were balanced, the experiment was non-blind and MDMA dose/purity was not determined. Controlled studies with pharmaceutically pure MDMA are still needed to test these effects rigorously.

Kamboj, S. K., Kilford, E. J., Minchin, S., Moss, A., Lawn, W., Das, R. K., … & Freeman, T. P. (2015). Recreational 3, 4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine (MDMA) or ‘ecstasy’and self-focused compassion: preliminary steps in the development of a therapeutic psychopharmacology of contemplative practices. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 0269881115587143.

Link to full text

Recreational 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine (MDMA) or ‘ecstasy’ and self-focused compassion: Preliminary steps in the development of a therapeutic psychopharmacology of contemplative practices.

Abstract

3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine (MDMA) produces diverse pro-social effects. Cognitive training methods rooted in Eastern contemplative practices also produce these effects through the development of a compassionate mindset. Given this similarity, we propose that one potential mechanism of action of MDMA in psychotherapy is through enhancing effects on intrapersonal attitudes (i.e. pro-social attitudes towards the self). We provide a preliminary test of this idea. Recreational MDMA (ecstasy) users were tested on two occasions, having consumed or not consumed ecstasy. Self-critical and self-compassionate responses to self-threatening scenarios were assessed before (T1) and after (T2) ecstasy use (or non-use), and then after compassionate imagery (T3). Moderating roles of dispositional self-criticism and avoidant attachment were examined. Separately, compassionate imagery and ecstasy produced similar sociotropic effects, as well as increases in self-compassion and reductions in self-criticism. Higher attachment-related avoidance was associated with additive effects of compassionate imagery and ecstasy on self-compassion. Findings were in line with MDMA’s neuropharmacological profile, its phenomenological effects and its proposed adjunctive use in psychotherapy. However, although conditions were balanced, the experiment was non-blind and MDMA dose/purity was not determined. Controlled studies with pharmaceutically pure MDMA are still needed to test these effects rigorously.

Kamboj, S. K., Kilford, E. J., Minchin, S., Moss, A., Lawn, W., Das, R. K., … & Freeman, T. P. (2015). Recreational 3, 4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine (MDMA) or ‘ecstasy’and self-focused compassion: Preliminary steps in the development of a therapeutic psychopharmacology of contemplative practices. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 0269881115587143.
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