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MDA The Love Drug
by Andrew Weil
Excerpted from The Marriage Of The Sun And Moon
MDA is known as the love drug in the American subculture because of its reputation for producing loving feelings in groups of people. The initials stand for 3,4-Methylene-dioxy-amphetamine and the drug is a straightforward derivative of amphetamine, first synthesized in Germany in 1910. Its effects on human beings are much more interesting than simple stimulation. When I first encountered MDA in 1970, I took it a number of times and since then have observed its effects on a great many people.

The usual dose of MDA is 90 to 150 milligrams, taken orally in a capsule. Its effects become apparent in twenty to sixty minutes and persist for ten to twelve hours. People perceive the onset of these effects differently. Some experience initial nausea. Some feel a warm glow spreading through their bodies. Most people become aware of a sense of physical and mental well-being that intensifies gradually and steadily. MDA commonly induces a state of profound relaxation and patience in which anxiety and defensiveness are left far behind. "It is impossible to imagine anything being a threat in that state," one user tells me.

Unlike most stimulants, MDA does not increase motor activity. In fact, it suppresses it in a remarkable way, so that people can remain comfortable and content in one position for long periods. This effect is most dramatic in people who are heavily dependent on coffee and cigarettes, who are always in motion of one sort or another. Under the influence of MDA they, too, can be calm and motionless. Pharmacologists call this the "antikinetic" action of the drug, but that is a negative way of describing something very positive. I prefer to call it a centering action.

The combined effects of relaxation and centering greatly facilitate certain kinds of physical activities, such as yoga, martial arts, and any disciplines requiring balance and maintenance of posture. For example, i can maintain a headstand longer when I take MDA than normally. Although it is extremely pleasant just to lie still and enjoy a respite from nervous activitiy in this state, i have tried rock climbing and swimming after taking MDA and again find that my body works in a more coordinated, smoother fashion and that I can do more than usual. One novel experience, conferred temporarily by the drug, is the ability to interact with kinds of external stimulation that would ordinarily be painful and not get hurt. It may become poossible to walk barefoot over sharp stones, for instance, and experience no discomfort or injury, apparently because the muscles are so free from imposed tension that they can respond with precise counterpressure to the point of a stone. In this way, the skin feels no net force.

Such experiences confirm in a powerful way the sense of well-being. It fels as if nothing is threatening, and, in fact, things in the external world behave differently. This theme carries through to interpersonal relations. When people feel well, centered, unthreatened, and aware of their own strength and loveliness, they are able to drop many of the usual barriers that develop in groups. It is common in group MDA experiences for people to explore mutual touching and the pleasures of physical closeness. Participants may feel very loving toward one another, but the feelings are not explicitly sexual because MDA tends to decrease the desire for orgasm. For many people the experience of enjoying physical contact and feeling love with others in the absence of a specific hunger for sex is unique and welcome. (Some people do use MDA to heighten sexual experience.)

Other hungers and desires may also disappear int he MDA state. Habitual users of tobacco feel no need to smoke. Chain smokers of marijuana do not need their weed. Nail biters leave their fingers alone. Compulsive talkers become quiet. Compulsive eaters do not think about food. Moreover, this desireless condition feels supremely natural and valuable. Becaue MDA affects the senses minimally, everything appears as it does usually. There are no hallucinations, illusions, or distortions, simply a great aura of peace and calm. It is not possible to pretend, as it often is with hallucinatory drugs, that the experience is coming from without. Clearly, all of the important effects, including the ability to be free of anxiety and desire, are part of the human repertory, often unexpressed, to be sure, but there nonetheless.

The trouble with obtaining this state through the use of a drug is that it does not last. After five or six or eight hours, the old habits begin to creep back. before long the experience of loving peace and desirelessness is in the past. The value of the drug is that it can show people that certain ways of being are possible and available; it gives no information about maintaining them.

I do not mean to paint a picture of MDA as a trouble-free panacea. Like all psychoactive drugs, its effects vary greatly with expectation and setting. People who take it in combination wit alcohol and downers at wild parties with strangers are not likely to realize its pootential. MDA also releases much energy stored in the nervous system, so that those who take it often feel tired and sluggish the next day. It should not be used unless one is in good physical shape with adequate energy reserves. For unknown reasons, it seems to be harder on womena nd may activate latent infections or problems in the female genitourinary tract. Women should take lower doses than men until they are sure the drug agrees with them and should avoid the drug altogether if their pelvic organs are ailing. Many people of both sexes report that the drug causes tension of the muscles of the jaw and face. In some individuals this effect becomes very annoying, progressing to involuntary grinding of the teeth. All of the adverse physical effects of the drug are dose-related. Whenever I have interviewed people who have had bad experiences with MDA, I have determined that they have taken excessive doeses, been in poor settings, or taken other drugs masquerading as MDA.

In the right hands, MDA is quitte safe. Out of hundreds of experiences with it htat I have observed, I have seen only three anxiety reactions. The medical potential of the drug is great and quite unexplored. I have noted repeatedly that people under the influence of MDA, when feeling high, centered, and free of desire, are in a state complete anergy - that is, they manifest no allergic reactions, even to allergens to which they have a lifelong sensitivity. Asthma disappears, hay fever disappears, cat allergies go away, and there are even no responses to mosquito bites. This effect is temporary and appears to be the analogue in the body of the mental experience of complete relaxation and lack of anxiety. It might be reproducible without the drug if we could learn to spend more time in that state. I can envision a training program in allergy control in which patients would go through ten seesions with decreasing doses of MDA in settings designed to maximize the centering effect and demonstrate the possibility of coexisting with allergens. By the tenth session the dose would be zero and pateitnts would be doing it all on their own.

Unfortunately, the federal government, having declared MDA to be a drug with high abuse potential and no redeeming therapeutic value, has placed it in a category (Schedule I) that makes it unavailable to physicians and available to researchers only with difficulty. I know of no ongoing research with MDA in this country and consider this lack to be another result of unenlightened policies on substances that could be helpful to us.