A borderline personality disorder is a mental health condition in which someone experiences wide mood swings and is unable to stabilize their emotions. This condition can lead to a great sense of insecurity, affecting the way that people interact with others and disrupting relationships.
The chemical 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) is often marketed under the name Ecstasy or Molly. MDMA causes a sensation of pleasure, increased empathy, increased energy and changes people’s perception of time and other sensations.
Is Borderline Personality Disorder Caused by MDMA Use?
There is no available research that shows any link between using MDMA and the development of borderline personality disorder.
Typically, borderline personality disorder causes are linked to psychological trauma in someone’s past. Borderline personality disorder risk factors include being abandoned or severely neglected as a child, being physically, emotionally or sexually abused as a child or growing up with a disrupted family.
Because borderline personality disorder is caused more from psychological trauma, it is unlikely that using MDMA or other substances will cause this condition. However, while borderline personality disorder is not likely caused by MDMA, there is evidence that using drugs can worsen borderline personality disorder, causing worse symptoms, a decreased likelihood of responding to treatments and having a higher risk of suicide. The research that found this connection refers to illicit drugs in general and does not explicitly study the effects of MDMA.
Effects of MDMA Use on Borderline Personality Disorder Symptoms
The effects of MDMA on borderline personality disorder have not been specifically examined in any major scientific studies. While this connection has not been studied, there is evidence that prolonged MDMA use can lead to symptoms that include depression and paranoia. Because borderline personality disorder causes mood swings and unstable emotions, it would be reasonable to assume that MDMA use could worsen symptoms of depression in those with borderline personality disorder who already have severe emotional distress from a psychological trauma, and that paranoia may worsen the difficulty in maintaining good relationships that those with borderline personality disorder often experience. Medical scientists have not yet done the research needed to see if this is actually true, and the exact effects of MDMA on those with borderline personality disorder are currently unknown.
Is MDMA Used in the Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder?
There are several borderline personality disorder treatment medications that can help to reduce the symptoms that borderline personality disorder can cause and to reduce the risk of self harm that accompanies borderline personality disorder. These medications are designed to stabilize moods and emotions and address chemical imbalances that could be contributed to borderline personality disorder.
MDMA is not used as a medication in treating borderline personality disorder. However, in 2017, MDMA was approved as medication used for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While PTSD is quite different from a borderline personality disorder, it is possible that some of the medicinal effects of MDMA may be useful in treating borderline personality disorder. MDMA has been shown to increase empathy and positive feelings. MDMA has not been tested or used for borderline personality disorder, but it is feasible that future research may show that there could be a medical use for MDMA for those who have a borderline personality disorder. While this could be a possibility, there is no current evidence that MDMA helps with borderline personality disorder and those who have this condition should avoid taking MDMA unless instructed otherwise by their doctor.
Treating MDMA Addiction and Borderline Personality Disorder
Co-occurring disorders (also called dual diagnosis) is a condition where someone has both a mental health illness and a substance use disorder. Someone who has an addiction to MDMA and also has borderline personality disorder will typically be diagnosed with a co-occurring disorder. Co-occurring disorders require specialized treatment in which both conditions are treated at the same time. This could involve having a specialist create a borderline personality disorder treatment plan while simultaneously planning MDMA addiction treatment options. Successful treatment will require specialized treatment of both conditions at the same time, and if only one condition is treated the chances of recovery will be much lower.
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National Alliance on Mental Illness. “Borderline Personality Disorder.” December 2017. Accessed September 7, 2019.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly).” 2019. Accessed September 7, 2019.
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. “Borderline Personality Disorder.” August 22, 2017. Accessed September 7, 2019.
Kienast, Thorsten; et al. “Borderline Personality Disorder and Comorbid Addiction.” Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, April 2014. Accessed September 7, 2019.
Burns, Janet. “FDA Designates MDMA As ‘Breakthrough Therapy’ For Post-Traumatic Stress.” Forbes, August 28, 2017. Accessed September 7, 2019.