A surprising study published last year in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs reported that hypnotism could be used to induce a realistic experience of being high on MDMA (aka ‘ecstasy’) in people who had taken the drug before.
An extended nondrug MDMA-like experience evoked through posthypnotic suggestion
J Psychoactive Drugs. 2006 Sep;38(3):273-83.
This research explored whether hypnotic suggestion could produce a subjective mindbody condition similar to that produced by the psychoactive drug methylenedioxy methamphetamine (MDMA, Ecstasy). Twelve participants received posthypnotic instructions to re-experience an MDMA-like state posthypnotically, similar to one in their prior experience, for one hour. Three separate self report measures and qualitative self reports showed that the posthypnotic condition effectively mimicked an MDMA-like experience, lasting an hour at a stable level. Participant ratings in real time and in retrospect ranged from 36% to 100% similarity to a drug-induced experience. The qualitative reports and rating scales enabled a phenomenological description of the subjective experience. Scores on the Tellegen Absorption Scale correlated significantly with the strength of the posthypnotic condition (Spearman rho .87, p = .0003). The participants successfully carried out various intentional activities during this time (e.g., self reflection, talking with partners about relationships, artwork, walking in nature). Applications for this technique as an adjunct to therapy and health treatments are discussed.
It’s interesting to speculate how this effect occurs. A brain imaging study has shown that in patients with Parkinson’s disease who take regular medication for the condition, a placebo actually causes the brain the mimic the effects of the medication.
Perhaps the participants hypnotised to believe they are re-experiencing the effects of MDMA genuinely re-experience the neurochemical effects of the drug to some degree.
Link to PubMed entry.