Over the years, she tried talking therapy, somatic therapy, and eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR), in which a therapist moves his or her fingers left and right in front of a patient’s face as they recount their trauma (the eye movements seem to dampen the memories). Nothing worked.
Then, two and a half years ago, Alice enrolled in a clinical trial for a treatment combining psychotherapy with MDMA, near her home town of Erie, Colorado. She took 125mg of the drug, the same dose a clubber might take recreationally, three times over the course of 12 weeks. Her “trips” were accompanied by eight-hour therapy sessions. “I sat on a comfy couch and my therapist gave me a pill in a little handmade ceramic cup,” she says. “It had a ritualistic feel to it. I was terrified the first time.” Having taken the capsule, Alice was given an eye mask and headphones, and lay back listening to drum music until the drug, which she’d never taken before, kicked in.
“The MDMA just pulls things out of you,” she says now. “It supports you. You can start looking at all your experiences and how they are affecting you. There were times when I just sat up and started talking. Or I’d cry. Or there were moments of re-enactment. Physically, I felt like my whole body was vibrating for a while.”
During the session, her psychiatrist guided the conversation according to goals she had set with Alice beforehand. “I had the first few minutes of peace I’ve had in years,” Alice says, though the sessions weren’t all plain sailing. “Some parts were wonderful and others were kind of hellacious. I was super-sad and couldn’t stop crying. It was not just an automatic love drug. But I was always able to come back to feeling good.”