Ecstasy earned its name for a reason. There is the feeling of euphoric ecstasy that can come with consuming the substance, but there is also an association with not only sex, but love. Before the DEA announced an emergency Schedule I classification for MDMA in May of 1985, psychotherapists used the substance in couples counseling to help facilitate communication and emotional intimacy. According to neuropsychopharmacologist David John Nutt, MDMA was called empathy during its decades-old use in couple’s counseling.
While MDMA is perhaps the most famous drug for enhancing sex, people use other psychedelics such as LSD, 2C-B, and psilocybin to increase sexual gratification. However, increased sexual gratification doesn’t always translate to more orgasms. Psychedelics may be more useful for sexual healing than physical sex itself. Keep reading to learn about what sex on psychedelics feels like, how to use the medicine to enhance one’s sex life, and necessary consent and risk management discussions. People who are tripping can’t consent to sex, so if you’re taking psychedelic medicine with a partner, discuss boundaries ahead of time. If you are compelled to touch someone while tripping in the moment, ask first, but always air on the side of caution. To prevent situations in which multiple people are tripping, it can be wise to have a sober trip sitter present to prevent any experience from getting messy or entering grey area.
Can people have sex on psychedelics?
Considering that psychedelics and sex are two of the most stigmatized topics in the U.S., it is unsurprising that clinical research on sex and psychedelics is limited. Research suggests that MDMA increases sexual desire in 90% of participants. However, the same study found that an erection was impaired in 40% of the male participants. Non-male genders agree that taking MDMA wasn’t so much about a physical sexual experience, but greater satisfaction spiritually and emotionally.
“Although I did have some wonderful orgasms on Ecstasy, the experience of Ecstasy was not so much about orgasm or sex, as it was about looking deeply into my Self–heart, soul, and psyche,” writes noted sexologist Annie Sprinkle.
People who try sex on other psychedelics echo Sprinkle’s sentiment. Yes, the physical sensations can be great, but the most notable experience is increased emotional intimacy. “[The] best way I can describe it is it was the most amazing emotional connection I’ve ever felt. I could see and feel fireworks! It’s just an emotional connection that you don’t get on anything else,” writes a Reddit user. So although great orgasms while on psychedelic medicine are certainly documented, people seeking the experience should enter the experience with the understanding that the greatest pleasure may be emotional rather than physical. Of course, set, setting, and dosage play a crucial role in how pleasurable a sexual experience on psychedelics will be.
How can psychedelics improve one’s sex life?
Rather than focus on having sex on psychedelics, one may observe the effects a psychedelic experience has on their sexuality. In Yalila Espinoza’s research on North American women who participated in ayahuasca ceremonies and plants diets within the Shipibo tradition of Peru, she observed that the women experienced “support for reproductive health; increased sensory awareness; healing sexual abuse trauma; transforming relationship with self; and empowered decision making; enhanced intimacy with others.”
Research suggests that the association between mental health and relationships is bidirectional; those in healthy relationships tend to have better mental health, but better mental health also makes for healthier relationships. While research directly pertaining to sex and psychedelics is limiting, studies show that psychedelics can treat depression, PTSD, anxiety, and a plethora of other concerns. If one is suffering from depression, and experiences relief from symptoms following ketamine infusion therapy, they are going to feel happier. Therefore, they are more likely to find more joy in love and sex than before starting psychedelic medicine.
One demographic whose sex life could significantly benefit from psychedelic therapy is sexual assault survivors. According to RAINN, 94% of women who are raped experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during the two weeks following the rape, 30% of women report symptoms of PTSD 9 months after the rape, and 33% of women who are raped contemplate suicide. It is undeniably difficult for someone with PTSD stemming from a sexual assault to be present with a loving partner if traumatic imagery surfaces during intimate moments.
PTSD symptoms include flashbacks, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, while SSRIs are associated with an overall response rate of approximately 60% in people with PTSD, only 20% to 30% of patients achieve complete remission. As not all PTSD patients experience results through treatment with SSRI antidepressants or therapy alone, more are looking to options such as MDMA or ketamine. While evidence suggests that ketamine and psilocybin could treat PTSD, MDMA is currently in Phase 3 trials for PTSD and is expected to gain FDA approval in 2023.
What about consent and safety?
While most psychedelics appear to be relatively safe in comparison to other mainstream substances such as alcohol, any psychoactive drug can alter your ability to give consent. The psychedelic community would be wise to remember that a substance can have immense healing potential and still affect our cognitive function to a degree in which one may not be able to give consent at all.
If you choose to take a psychedelic with a partner and have sex, it is crucial that all parties involved disclose which substances they’ve taken, and how much, ahead of time. Once a psychedelic takes effect and perceptions are altered, it will become more difficult to talk about birth control, STI testing, desires, and other crucial conversations regarding the sexual experience. Continue to communicate throughout the experience, and stop the moment anything feels off.
If an individual or couple is looking to enhance their sex lives through psychedelic therapy, the safest option is to work on communication issues and intimacy with a trained third party.