Citation: InnerExplorer. "A Compound I Had Long Been Interested In: An Experience with MMDA (exp115680)". Erowid.org. Sep 17, 2021. erowid.org/exp/115680
MMDA: A Thorough Review and Bioassay of The Et [title truncated?]
This had been a compound I had long been interested in, having read about Shulgin's experiences with "mind movies" and, more specifically, Claudio Naranjo's description of MMDA as a very useful therapeutic agent. Being primarily interested in psychedelic and psychedelic-like compounds for therapeutic use, I was drawn to this for over a decade before it found its way to me. The sample I came into contact with was 99.9% pure MMDA, tested with HPLC.
In preparation for my first experience with it, I read the PiHKAL entry and Claudio Naranjo's book The Healing Journey to get a proper context with the therapeutic concepts and ideas that Dr. Naranjo had formed in relation to this compound and psychedelics in general. His philosophical leanings in regards to psychedelic healing resonated greatly with my own and with my own therapeutic training. I recognize that in a solo self-experiment there are limitations. I won't have a therapist, guide, or facilitator present to provide feedback throughout the experience, or to encourage attention in one area over another. As in many of my other self-experiments, I will need to rely on my intention, my own awareness, and my therapeutic skill to lean into what may be uncomfortable and be completely open to what may arise. I have spent several months thinking about this experience, and have waited for my life to be in a somewhat settled place before planning the date. Some things in particular I have been thinking about is the integration of the mystical, which currently appears to permeate every moment of my existence. It is present in a way now that is more grounded than it ever has been, and I have been reaching levels of health and inner peace that have not previously existed in my life. My openness to connection and to being in relationship has also been at an all-time high, and I have grown more accepting of my place in the world and the work that I need to continue doing to feel actualized in this lifetime.
In addition, I have philosophically been relating to life as a grounded, persistent or stable-state dream. The entirety of our aware consciousness is most closely related to a dream, in that we cannot actually measure consciousness or awareness from outside of consciousness. We are limited in our understanding by the simple fact that we cannot actually step fully outside of experiencing. Even drug experiences operate within this "dream" and occur within the laws that this dream is governed by. I do get the sense that one can become more and more aware within the dream, so that the fact that one is living in a dream and participating in a dream becomes so clear that there is no longer a separation between the dreamer and the one living the dream. It is my belief and experience thus far that this may be the crux of the mystical. The integration of this is the process of letting go of understanding and making space for what can only be felt and perceived. Or, in the words of Claudio Naranjo, "love of one's particular circumstances." This understanding, while languageable, often falls short of true understanding until it is experienced firsthand. There are abundant texts which attempt to describe the process of gaining lucidity into the supposed illusions of reality and I won't attempt to go into those here. All this simply to share about my set going into this experience and where my path has brought me up until this point.
I have adequate support from friends, family, and a therapist in this process; something I have come to understand as essential for any explorer who wishes to gain a grounded and integrated sense of self as part of exploration of altered states of consciousness alongside personal growth. Just as psychedelic drugs hold great capacity for clarity and growth, so too they have capacity to cause greater confusion and an increase of avoidant patterns (speaking from experience).
My intention for this experience is firstly to learn about the effects of MMDA, to get a greater sense of the mechanism of action and the therapeutic potential that this substance holds and if I may be able to give some new language to it that perhaps has not been elucidated in the recent past. My sense is that this material has been scantly explored, and perhaps the mind of an experienced explorer of these realms might bring language that is more relatable in the fields of psychonautics, pharmacology, and psychotherapy. My next intention, which is no less important than the first, is to be fully open to the experience while respecting the defensive mechanisms that may be present and exploring my capacity to allow myself to experience more intimately and from a different perspective something greater than myself and hopefully arrive at a deeper acceptance of my place in the world and in relationship with others. I would like to forgive myself of my past and I would like to embrace a present and future that is bright, connected, in love with, and in service of others while also finding enjoyment in the time I have here on earth.
I am curious as well regarding Claudio Naranjo's assessment that MMDA produces five particular states of consciousness:
1. Subjectively very gratifying and may be regarded as a kind of peak experience
2. Habitual feelings and conflicts are magnified
3 and 4. Where feelings are not enhanced but physical symptoms or visual imagery are prominent
5. Lethargy or sleep
Claudio goes on to say that "Psychosomatic symptoms or eidetic imagery may be present in any of these states, but are most prominent in the third and fourth (as feeling substitutes), while feelings are the most prominent part of the experience in the first two, and a state of indifference (possibly defensive in nature) sets in in the third and fourth and culminates in the fifth. In the latter, as in normal dreaming, there may be much mental activity, but this becomes difficult to grasp, remember, or express. These states may follow one another in a given experience, so that the reaction to MMDA may be initially one of anxiety and conflict until better balance is achieved or somnolence supervenes; or a session may begin with the pleasurable balanced state and then lead into one of emotional or physical discomfort, and so on."
-The Healing Journey (2nd Edition), pp. 70-71
To me, this sounds similar to the kinds of effects I have observed with MDMA in therapy sessions in which the client/patient has highly guarded aspects of self. The dissociation on MDMA can look a lot like "lethargy" or "somnolence", except that on MDMA most people are not able to stay fully dissociated or asleep (though there are reports of some people experiencing sleep immediately after taking MDMA). Being considerably experienced with MDMA and MDA as well as all other classes of drugs, I am curious about how MMDA will feel and how I might relate to its effects. I hope to be able to translate the experience into a report which will be of use for future researchers and therapists.
In reviewing one of the experiences described in Sasha Shulgin's PiHKAL, (with 225 mg) “I had a strange awareness of my hands in about 20 minutes—not a feeling in them as just that I was attracted to them somehow. Then I began to get fearful, an acute experience of aloneness. I lay face down (a depressed position for me). Next I was talking to the kids at school (an image) or to other teachers. This was very vivid. The scenes at school were more vivid that the real scenes around me here. Those people were much more real. I am actually very sleepy right now during the experiment. Of any experience I have had, this was most like a series of dreams easily remembered. When it was over, I felt as if I had had a long period of sleeping—I had gone to bed and had a series of dream-like states very vivid and colorful and real.”
In this experience it appears that the individual was confronted with some difficult emotions, and the reaction of the psyche was to withdraw, which the substance supported and attempted to continue to provide a window into the subconscious. Even in the dissociation there was content, which is unique compared to other substances, such as ketamine or even MDMA, where the dissociative reactions can be much more meaningless. I am curious if the scene in the school described above might have held some associative meaning. One can see this accounted for in Dr. Naranjo's description of state 2 moving into the states 3 and 4. In my experience, I am hoping that all of my personal work up until this point will be fruitful and allow me to stay fully present throughout the experience.
Regarding dosage, it is difficult to find definitive information to guide appropriate dosing for a full, immersive experience with this compound. In PiHKAL, Shulgin reports dosage ranges from 100-250mg and unclear descriptions of the duration of its effects. Naranjo does not discuss dosage in his book The Healing Journey. However, Shulgin, Sargent, and Naranjo published a paper entitled “Animal Pharmacology and Human Psychopharmacology of 3-Methoxy-4,5-Methylenedioxyphenylisopropylamine (MMDA)”. In this article, they describe giving MMDA to human subjects in a range of 100-350mg, with the majority receiving 120-150mg. They describe the effective dose level to be at 2mg/kg. In regards to duration of action, onset is said to occur within 30-60 minutes and the effects seem to occur over the course of 4-5 hours.
For my first experience with this compound, I will take 200mg, which is approximately 3.2mg/kg. There are a few reasons for this choice of dosing. One is that "the psychological effects [of MMDA] were mild" (Shulgin et al., 1973), and I would like to ensure that I have an experience which is in the moderate-strong range. The dose I have chosen is lower than the upper end of the experiments in PiHKAL, and below the maximum doses administered in the journal article cited above. It appears that more negative side effects emerge in doses higher than 250mg, therefore 200mg would likely elicit a full and strong experience while preventing any sorts of negative side effects. An allergy test dose of 20mg (1/6 of lowest effective dose) was taken 4 days before the experiment to test sensitivity. I will describe any effects from the allergy test and then go on to describe the full dosing session.
20mg MMDA; taken orally in gel cap.
About 30 minutes post ingestion, there was a slight cognitive shift which could have been placebo, but there was a definite increase in music appreciation.
At the one hour mark, music appreciation continues, but there is a significant lethargic feeling coming over me - I suddenly feel VERY tired, as if I had taken melatonin or scopolamine or valerian root. This doesn't feel like it has any traces whatsoever of an amphetamine or stimulant action. One thing that is different from the aforementioned sleep-inducing substances is that I have noticed an emotional and mental openness that I would associate with mescaline, but without the rapid, disintegrating feeling that often accompanies those drugs effects. The desire to lay down and take a nap is quite strong though! I wonder if a higher dose would knock me right out? I am well rested today, so I don't think there is a lack of sleep at play.
Just past one hour, the sleepiness lifts a bit, and I am just left with a relaxed contentedness. There's nothing to be concerned about.
At the 1.5 hour mark and onward, there was a very mild feeling of being drawn away, like daydreaming. However, if I refocused my attention into my body and the present moment, the present took on a more real than real sense of visual detail and awareness of emotion was amplified considerably.
At the 3 hour mark I’m still left with the content feeling, though I am still somewhat tired and have a mild headache slightly present but not fully developed. Drinking some water helps this. The tired feeling seems to be unshakeable, lots of yawning like I’m ready for a nap. I have to say though that I rather ENJOY this feeling. It feels very easy and I wouldn’t be opposed to being able to take this on a lazy weekend day on my own. It feels very rejuvenating in ways that MDA or MDMA are not (with those substances there’s more activation and you know you’ll be spent later). I feel that after this wears off I will probably continue to feel pretty good.
I’m going to give in to a 30 minute nap.
From hour 3 to 3:45 I laid down and napped. At first, I could feel my consciousness fluttering between an enhanced present awareness of my body and the draw to sleep. I was able to follow some bodily sensations, which led me to a barrage of childhood/teenage memories. I felt the sadness of those times and also felt their connection to the present, which is different from back then. I am adult, the violence and oppression has ended. As I felt this, I just felt this pure sense of being able to finally rest. My cat curled up on top of me and I drifted into sleep. There were many dreams, but I can only remember some of them at the beginning. I remember a being speaking to me, saying “I’ve been waiting such a long time for you, and I’m so glad you’re finally here. You’re finally safe. I have always been here, and always will be.” At some point I lost awareness and was woken up by the alarm I had set. I feel like I could pretty easily go back to sleep, but also feel quite good being awake. I feel refreshed, relaxed, and at piece. And with an appetite! The only way this feels like MDMA or MDA is in the way feelings are enhanced. Again, it will be interesting if a higher dose produces more characteristic entactogen effects.
At the 5th hour I noticed some PNS activation in the form of underarm sweating, maybe metabolizing into stimulant metabolites? Heart rate is at 71bpm, my resting heartrate is 59bpm.
At the 6th hour bpm was at 57 and I am tired but not worn out. Healthy appetite.
Overall thoughts: I think that if I hadn’t been paying very close attention, this dose might not have felt like anything at all besides feeling sleepy. That being said, with careful attention, I felt like I was able to start teasing out some of the effects of this molecule and get a sense for its mechanisms. It is truly one of the more unique and baffling substances I’ve ever taken. It works, but…how? I hope to have a deeper understanding, or at least better questions with the next dose.
~First Experimental Dose~
Got all work done in the morning, have a day tomorrow that is free other than a meeting with my therapist. Ate breakfast and then fasted before dosing at 3:20pm. Feeling good about this experiment and curious. I created a playlist that was approximately 4 hours long which had a slight arc to it, but was designed to keep a level of engagement rather than something that was floaty the entire time.
T+0:00 - 200mg MMDA taken orally in gelcap. Laying down to listen to music with eyeshades.
T+0:20 - Feeling a slight warmth in my chest, and some anticipatory stimulation, but no significant alerts other than some energy moving in my chest and a deepening appreciation for music.
T+0:24 - First alert: my chest is really opening up and I can feel energetic movement coming into my throat. Something is definitely building in the stomach/chest area. Relaxing into it.
T+0:34 - Bam, I have entered into a beautiful awareness. I am weightless, everything is easy. The feelings are ever-growing in waves, but without the urgency or stoning of MDMA.
T+1:00 - Incredibly powerful somatic medicine. Waves of nausea that are less intense than mescaline but deep in content. Entering into feeling all the areas of conflict in my life while also feeling held. There’s a sense of perfect imperfection, even though I am incredibly uncomfortable. I am here for this.
T+1:20 - Waves of incredible transcendent bliss coupled with total grounding in the present moment. There is no separation between my experience of having a body and everything in the universe. All of this exists because of love. Also having big waves of discomfort. Holding all unpleasant emotions I avoid. This feels a lot like MDMA but much more lucid and psychedelic.
T+2:30 - The past hour has been a intense process of finding difficulty, staying with it, and going deeper into trust. This is more of a somatic medicine than MDMA. A deep embodied exploration of every emotional level. At times there has been some confusion, I wouldn’t go higher than this dose. It has a very close resemblance to MDMA in terms of how emotions move on it, but there is less of that “positive push” or euphoria.
T+3:40 - the main effects seem to be waning, and now shifting into the more drowsy effects. Still quite a bit of somatic tension (processing emotion), not much visual activity throughout this experience. Slowly more windows into the bliss are opening back up. This is truly a peak experience. I have gained a deep perspective of myself, my relationships, and reality. This will be an experience I will be taking a long time to integrate. I would say that this dose is about the equivalent of 350-500mg Mescaline. From a therapeutic perspective MMDA seems useful since nothing feels fabricated and defenses don’t get knocked over, you have to let it all in or you will find yourself trying to stay out of it and missing the whole gift that’s being given to you (which is great feedback to gain awareness about one’s defenses).
T+4:00 - with eyes closed now, there are vivid “brain movies” which I slip into pretty easily almost without realizing it. There are full situations, people, entirely different syntaxes of speech and made up words but the dream is going on as if aliens were trying to make “human dreams”. These sequences don’t elicit too much emotional response rather than confoundment and total curiosity and laughter. MMDA seems to have more of a “personality” than MDA or MDMA. It feels a bit like the character of entities on DMT.
An example of a brain movie I actually had:
With my eyes closed, suddenly I’ve forgotten that I’m laying down on an acupressure mat in my living room. I find myself just scrolling on Facebook and this guy next to me is trying to read my screen. I turn to him and I’m like wtf man and he goes “hang on a sec, I’m just trying to figure out if I’m a cop on here” and in this dream that statement makes perfect sense. No one is phased. But internally as the movie-watcher I’m like wait hang on that can’t be right! And then I realize it’s a dream and I wake up again.
T+5:30 - Ate some kitchari and moved into the living room. Any signs of stimulation from before are gone, a subtle body high still going, brain movies happen any time I relax and close my eyes for more than 10 seconds. Bam, right into a dream scene. I’m gonna go back in and see if I can watch some more mind TV.
Here’s another brain movie: I’m suddenly watching some kind of British version of Nicki Minaj garbage pop music, a song I’ve never heard before with a fully choreographed dance routine about a woman and her two lovers.
It seems that for me, the brain movies start with mind-generated audio. Then the actual “movie” starts with characters, voice-overs and camera work. Some of the movies are very clean and others are disorganized and the talking is out of sync or the video and audio quality go in and out.
Another brain movie: start out hearing an older American lady talking to an older American man. You can’t quite make out what they’re saying. Then you begin to see a film scene of a hilltop in the countryside before it fades to the source of the voices, which is a group of professional-looking people in their late 50s, early 60s and they’re all talking about the field of psychotherapy and alternative interventions.
T+7:00 - I’m feeling quite tired, so I get ready for bed and expect to drift off to sleep, but the strange brain movies (I will go into this later to talk about what they are like) are still going and it’s not really dreaming or sleep, it’s a very active state except I’m also lethargic and feeling more of my body’s somatic process (think fever dream or hypnagogic hallucinations). I try .5mg etizolam, but it doesn’t do much after about an hour, so I followed up with another 1mg etizolam, which allowed for sleep.
T+14:10 - With the etizolam taking effect, sleep came and was mainly a black hole, until about 5:30am where I woke up to feed my cat, took 1000mg of L-tryptophan for a slight feeling of serotonin depletion, and went back to sleep. The brain movies had come back, though they were much slower.
T+17:00 - Feeling a bit tired this morning but I feel much clearer. My present state feels resilient and not as avoidant of the discomforts of life. I feel in tune with love, and I am aware of the parts of me that need tending. I am opening myself to the process of life, of the great dream we are all a part of that is really ultimately a huge course on love.
This is a really unique psychedelic/entactogen. It has attributes of MDMA, MDA, DMT, and 5-MeO-DMT, and yet is completely it’s own thing. I suspect that this drug acts differently depending on what strength the dose is. Below a certain dose, and it will be easier to fall asleep, but after a certain dose, there is enough mental stimulation that I think sleep would be very difficult.
This is a truly healing psychedelic compound, and I would place this experience within the top 10 that I’ve had in my life. Perhaps it has to do with where I am at in my life, my training in somatic processing, the friends and family who love and support me, and years and years of personal work. I can see how this compound could be truly hellish for some, and it makes sense how Claudio Naranjo described MMDA as having its own unique heaven and hell. I believe the dose I took was at the upper limit. I think a slightly lower dose, such as 120-150mg might be more manageable and not as overwhelming emotionally and physically.
3.2mg/kg is deep territory and really should be done under appropriate supervision and guidance. This is not a great medicine to do alone at a high dose because of how much reference gets lost. Having a regulated nervous system present that also has therapeutic training can make all the difference. Looking back, I do feel like I made a good decision on dosing, as I didn’t experience any overwhelming physical sensations that felt toxic, but I could feel that if I had taken more the side effects would have been extremely unpleasant.
Another notable event was the way parts of self showed up so readily in the session. At one point I was experiencing me birthing myself as my mother, and recreating the moment of birthing myself, of sticking with it, of fighting the anesthetic and choosing to be here and live. At another point, I felt all the rejection in my life from people I had loved and wanted to love me. I saw the connection to my family dynamic, and on the other side of those terrible feelings of rejection and abandonment, there was peace. I began to see all of these negative experiences as lessons. In that this entire life is a series of lessons preparing us for what comes next. I kept thinking back to the phrase “this house is on fire! — loot all that you can!” Which is from an Indian mystic who essentially said that the world is in a total state of decay and we must strive to learn as much as possible before our teachers, our planet, this way of living is extinguished.
A comment on “brain movies”: These unique features of this drug are phenomena that I have actually experienced on other drugs, but not as a primary feature of those drugs. It reminded me a bit of how I felt at times on the comedown from a particularly large dose of MDMA or MDA, where the mind is still doing mental gymnastics while the body is actually quite tired and going into rest mode. Somehow these phenethylamine drugs have a way of weaving into the dream process state while maintaining a degree of lucidity that is not present on other substances. MMDA definitely felt stimulating and much more like MDMA or MDA at the higher 200mg dose. Though there were some points in which it felt slightly sedating, I didn't have any trouble staying awake and feeling deeply throughout the entire experience. And, much like MDA, at the 7th or 8th hour, the mind was still stimulated and sleep was not readily accessible.
The following day I had a wonderful productive session with my therapist, where we were able to complete some of the somatic pieces that had come up during the MMDA session and I was left feeling quite wonderful. I am impressed with the way that such a difficult experience has turned into a beautiful afterglow that has me feeling great, connected to my body, and fully connected to everything in the universe.
I’m extremely grateful to have gotten to taste this beautiful and unique molecule, and to fulfill a dream of over a decade. I have arrived at the Eternal Now.
Thank you to all of my mentors and teachers, both formal and informal.
Thank you to my friends, who see me and support me through my madness and have allowed me to begin to see my light and to teach me that love is not about perfection, but in loving the whole being simply for being.
Thank you to the lineage of alchemists who paved the road for this molecule to come into existence: Sasha Shulgin and whatever chemist may have made the MMDA that I took.
Thank you to the pioneering shamans, monks, sadhus, mystics, psychotherapists, psychiatrists, counselors, social workers, nurses, and doctors who have developed tools to navigate and make use of these altered states.
Thank you to the ineffable Isness, the mystery of this dream, the magic that is Love.
Until next time,
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