KOAA: Using MDMA to Treat PTSD (Video)

Summary: KOAA News interviews MDMA-assisted psychotherapy study participant Susan to discuss how receiving MDMA-assisted psychotherapy in a MAPS-sponsored clinical trial helped her overcome chronic, treatment-resistant posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”It was the first time I ever experienced pure joy,” explains Levin. “This is the first thing that’s absolutely saved my life.”

Originally appearing here.

Many people who suffer from PTSD are in desperate need of effective treatment — especially those who have endured abuse and trauma.

What if there is already a medicine out there that can remedy this trauma, but it’s currently illegal and deemed a party drug?

On the street, it’s known as a dangerous party drug called ecstasy or molly. But a new study suggests that MDMA in its purest form could help those who suffer from crippling anxiety, fear, or depression find peace.

As an illegal recreational drug, ecstasy carries the stigma of a wide-eyed raver with endless boundaries and overdoses. But in its purest form, its effects could be an entirely different story.

“It was the first time I ever experienced pure joy.” patient Susanne Levin said. “This is the first thing that’s absolutely saved my life.”

Suzanne suffered a childhood filled with severe trauma, and as an adult, her siblings took their own lives. “Life was a struggle,” she said. “Everyday was a struggle.”

From traditional to non-traditional forms of therapy and from medications to intensive care, Suzanne tried it all. But it took only two therapy sessions combined with MDMA for Suzanne to notice a remarkable improvement in her well-being.

“I didn’t want to have any part of the dark side of myself,” she said, “then by the end of the session it was like, ‘Oh, sweetie. I’m sorry.'”

So how does it all work?

“It’s almost as if MDMA was designed for treating PTSD,” said Rick Doblin, founder and executive director of MAPS or Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies.

Researchers say the drug lowers fear, allowing trauma to be discussed openly. MDMA stimulates Oxytocin and Prolactin, the hormones associated with positive feelings. The combination of these hormonal releases and changes in the brain creates what many are calling “the window of opportunity.”

“MDMA allows for that — really being able to integrate and feel the trauma without disassociating from it or going into a panic,” Marcela Ot’alora, psychotherapist and principal investigator of the MDMA study, said.

Patients said they agree. “Without that big fear factor, I was able to look at things that I was too afraid to before,” Susanne said. “I couldn’t get deep enough. I was too afraid of the pain.”

Before searching for ecstasy to treat medical ailments, patients should know that there is a huge difference between the street drug and its pure form.

“Ecstasy is an illegal drug that could vary quite a bit in terms of what it contains. MDMA is a pure drug used in clinical research,” Rick said.

Street drugs are often heavily mixed with other dangerous substances. A recent study revealed that only half of the pills on the street contain MDMA.

According to researchers, success of the new study speaks for itself.

“We’ve had veterans tell us that this saved their lives. We’ve had women survivors of sexual assault say that it’s given them a new opportunity to relate to people in ways that that they aren’t tormented by fears and anxieties. We’ve had people say that MDMA keep them from suicide,” Rick said.

But therapy sessions in this study can be grueling. Marcela told Susanne about one session: “You felt that you wanted to die and I told you go ahead. You looked at me, like, ‘I can?'”

Marcela and Rick said their hope is for MDMA to become a medicine by the year 2021.

While under the influence of medical MDMA, patients are heavily monitored. Therapists check their blood pressure, temperature and heart rate every half hour. This is not the type of pill that patients will be able to pop on a regular basis like painkillers, and is also not the type of medication that can be easily picked up by a doctor.

“In a controlled setting we’ve never had any serious adverse events,” Marcela said.

The results from this study are proving remarkable.

“What a shame I couldn’t have had this before,'” Susanne said. “I’m 66 years old. What if I could have had this when I was 20?”

“We’re able to take those who have had PTSD for several years, failed on other forms of therapy — and over 80 percent no longer had PTSD after the therapy,” Rick said.

As for being on the other side of the study, “It’s to be a witness to something very sacred and profound,” Marcela said.

MAPS is currently working with the FDA to start the third and final phase of clinical trials. It will include 200 to 400 people across the world who suffer from crippling PTSD or anxiety. If all goes well, MDMA could be seen in a new light as a therapeutic treatment by 2021.