I Feel Love: MDMA and the Quest for Connection in a Fractured World (Hardcover)

I Feel Love: MDMA and the Quest for Connection in a Fractured World By Rachel Nuwer Cover Image
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"Riveting."--Bessel van der Kolk, MD, author of The Body Keeps the Score

The unlikely story of how the psychedelic drug MDMA emerged from the shadows to the forefront of a medical revolution--and the potential it may hold to help us thrive.

Few drugs in history have generated as much controversy as MDMA--or held as much promise. Once vilified as a Schedule I substance that would supposedly eat holes in users' brains, MDMA (also known as Molly or Ecstasy) is now being hailed as a therapeutic agent that could transform the field of mental health and outpace psilocybin and ketamine as the first psychedelic approved for widespread clinical use. In I Feel Love, science journalist Rachel Nuwer separates fact from fantasy, hope from hype, in the drug's contested history and still-evolving future. Evidence from scientific trials suggests MDMA, properly administered, can be startlingly effective at relieving the effects of trauma. Results from other studies point to its usefulness for individual and couples therapy; for treating depression, alcohol addiction, and eating disorders; and for cultivating personal growth. Yet scientists are still racing to discover how MDMA achieves these outcomes, a mystery that is taking them into the inner recesses of the brain and the deep history of evolution. With its power to dismantle psychological defenses and induce feelings of empathy, self-compassion, and love, MDMA may answer profound questions about how we became human, and how to heal our broken social bonds.

From cutting-edge labs to pulsing club floors to the intimacy of the therapist's couch, Nuwer guides readers through a cultural and scientific upheaval that is rewriting our understanding of our brains, our selves, and the space between.

About the Author


Rachel Nuwer is an award-winning science journalist who regularly contributes to the New York Times, National Geographic, Scientific American, and many other publications. Her reporting for the New York Times broke the news globally about the MDMA Phase III clinical trial and was highlighted by Michael Pollan, Ezra Klein, and Tim Ferriss, among other thought leaders. In 2022, Nuwer was among the inaugural recipients of the Ferriss–UC Berkeley Psychedelic Journalism Fellowship. She holds master's degrees in applied ecology and in science journalism. Her first book, Poached: Inside the Dark World of Wildlife Trafficking, took her to a dozen countries to investigate the multibillion-dollar illegal wildlife trade. She lives in Brooklyn.

Praise For…


"Covers the often-ignored history of MDMA with breathtaking depth . . . Nuwer’s sober assessment of MDMA’s promise and limitations, written in incisive but generous prose, steers away from the quackery and sentimentality that pervade the field of psychedelic research. Relentless and erudite in her journalistic commitments, unafraid of self-disclosure and unwilling to feign complete detachment, Nuwer searches for healing, and makes painfully obvious the terrifying uselessness and destructive consequences of the past half-century’s drug policies." —The Washington Post

"Excellently researched … The compelling narrative, woven from emotional testimonials and clinical studies, makes a convincing argument for MDMA's potential as a therapeutic supplement, especially for those working through trauma." —Scientific American

"Nuwer argues that the effort to recontextualize MDMA as a treatment for trauma is both ‘the latest installment in a long history of hype that’s surrounded this unique molecule’ and a return to the drug’s roots . . . One of Nuwer’s important contributions is dissecting two seriously flawed studies of MDMA that have been corrected in the scientific literature but have nonetheless shaped public opinion." —The New Yorker

"Exhaustively chronicles MDMA's journey from a therapeutic tool to an underground party pill and back to therapy … Nuwer does an excellent job of breaking down the scientific studies of ecstasy and how exactly it works on the brain." Reason

"I FEEL LOVE details the complex and fascinating saga of how MDMA, a once obscure chemical, went on to become a beloved party drug, a controversial therapy tool, and a powerful symbol of the human desire for connection … As regulatory approval nears – the need for an improved understanding and public awareness of the drug’s potential effects on the brain has never been more urgent." - Science

“A sobering and eye-opening look at the psychedelic drug MDMA and how people's quest for healing persists through the generations … An illuminating, myth-free exploration of mental health from a unique perspective.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Heavily researched ... [I Feel Love] examines [MDMA's] history, which goes back to 1912, and its applications ranging from therapeutic to recreational. Viewing MDMA through multiple lenses (culture, politics, science, and society), Nuwer debunks common myths and cites numerous MDMA studies, particularly recent research indicating that MDMA can relieve the effects of trauma, depression, eating disorders, and more.” —Library Journal (starred review)

"A thorough overview of MDMA and its place in contemporary psychedelic drug use and research … Nuwer provides vivid snapshots of those for whom the drug was miraculous—helping some, for instance, to rediscover previously suppressed memories or more fully experience emotions—and those for whom it was deadly … [I Feel Love] will enrich the cultural, legal, and medical conversation around drugs." - Publishers Weekly

"Especially timely ... a lively history … this book will change the way you think about the ‘psychedelic renaissance’ and your brain." - Amazon Book Review, Nonfiction Best of the Month

"A sharp retelling of MDMA’s history . . . offers a foundation of knowledge that’s perhaps needed to push MDMA to the forefront of mental health through a nonalarmist, honest perspective." —Undark magazine

“Vast in scope, I Feel Love provides a wonderful account of the promises of MDMA to heal our psychic wounds and gain truly enlightened perspectives on ourselves and our relationships, while Rachel Nuwer's reporting also gives thorough consideration to the potential pitfalls of psychedelic agents. A riveting journey into the science behind the brave new world of consciousness-expanding medications.” —Bessel van der Kolk, MD, #1 New York Times-bestselling author of THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE

“A meticulously researched and lucidly written examination of the potential of MDMA to be used as a tool in therapy to help process trauma and loss, and, ultimately, find joy. I entered the book a skeptic and emerged a believer. It's an important addition in the current movement to explore the use of previously demonized drugs to help people improve their lives.” —David Sheff, New York Times-bestselling author of BEAUTIFUL BOY

“Engagingly presents rigorous research, enriched by fascinating anecdotes and character sketches, to document the vagaries and victories, the scientific and human challenges, in the history of the human-made molecule MDMA as it has made its way from accidental discovery to party drug to a promising adjunct in the treatment of many of our most daunting mental health challenges.” —Gabor Mate, MD, New York Times bestselling author of THE MYTH OF NORMAL and IN THE REALM OF HUNGRY GHOSTS

“This deeply researched book is deliciously detailed and an absolute pleasure to read. Myths are debunked, 'other sides' of the story are finally fully told, and the case is convincingly made for MDMA as a uniquely therapeutic medicine. Brava to Nuwer!” —Julie Holland, MD, author of GOOD CHEMISTRY

“Much like the molecule it describes, I Feel Love is illuminating, transporting, and even, perhaps, a tonic for our times.” —Florence Williams, author of THE NATURE FIX and HEARTBREAK

“A vital addition to the body of knowledge on a powerful and misunderstood chemical.” —Hamilton Morris, creator of Hamilton's Pharmacopeia

“Too improbable for fiction, I Feel Love is the engrossing story of the dreamers, schemers, and in-betweeners who have made MDMA their life's passion. Rachel Nuwer reports deeply and writes with care and empathy. Her captivating book is well worth the trip, not only because of the characters you'll meet along the way - the dramatis personae include a renegade chemist, a remorseful ex-fascist, a huggy octopus, and a billionaire heiress seeking inner peace - but because the journey will expand your conception of what humans can be.” —Dan Fagin, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of TOM'S RIVER

Product Details
ISBN: 9781635579574
ISBN-10: 1635579570
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Publication Date: June 6th, 2023
Pages: 384
Language: English