Review Article Proposes MDMA-Assisted Therapy May Be Effective in Treatment of Social Anxiety Disorder

Frontiers in Psychiatry has published a review article summarizing research on disruptions in neurological, perceptual, receptive, and expressive systems regulating social behavior in SAD and proposing how MDMA-assisted therapy may alter these systems across four domains. The authors are Jason Luoma, Ph.D., and M. Kati Lear.

Through his summarization of existing research, Investigator Jason Luoma Ph.D., aims to stimulate future studies  to evaluate the potential use of MDMA-assisted therapy as a treatment for Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). SAD is the fourth most commonly diagnosed psychiatric disorder. Dr. Luoma examines the disruptions in neurological, perceptual, receptive and expressive systems that regulate social behavior in individuals with SAD. He proposes that MDMA-assisted therapy may improve social skills to elicit positive interpersonal responses and create greater sense of belonging and acceptance in those individuals. The encouraging results from a small randomized, placebo-controlled trial of MDMA-assisted therapy for social anxiety in autistic adults speaks to the promise of this segment of study and the need for more research.

This paper examines how MDMA-assisted therapy may treat participant’s multiple regulatory systems in four ways. The first way is by reviewing research highlighting the roles of social anhedonia and reduced social reward sensitivities in maintaining SAD. The second way is how MDMA-assisted therapy may enhance experiences of affiliation and safety, and the role of heightened social evaluative threat perception in the development of SAD. The third way is the influence of shame as an intrapersonal process for maintaining SAD and how  MDMA-assisted therapy secessions may be a mechanism of shame reduction. The fourth way is the role of dysfunctional interpersonal behaviors in SAD that interfere in the development of close relations.