ABC 4 News: Clinical Trials Use Ecstasy Ingredient to Treat PTSD in Veterans

Summary: ABC 4 News interviews Army SGT (R) Jon Lubecky about his experience in a MAPS-sponsored clinical trial of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD. “This therapy is the sole reason that my son has a father instead of a folded flag,” says Lubecky.

Originally appearing here.

MT. PLEASANT, S.C. – It’s an illegal drug, but one Lowcountry veteran says therapy using the active ingredient in ecstasy helped treat his PTSD.

“I remember a flash and then a wave of heat,” said Jonathan Lubecky of an explosion he experienced while serving in Iraq. Lubecky is an Army and Marine Corps veteran and says he served in Iraq from 2015 to 2016. “It did cause brain damage, PTSD,” he added of the explosion.

He says he attempted suicide five times once he returned home, but was eventually recommended to sign up for MDMA-Assisted Therapy for PTSD, which uses the active ingredient in the street drug, ecstasy.

“It’s like doing therapy while being hugged by everyone in the world who loves you with a bathtub full of puppies licking your face,” Lubecky said. “It’s the most therapeutic experience I’ve ever been through.”

He said he went through three eight-hour therapy sessions while taking MDMA. A 12-week course of psychotherapy is also part of the treatment for most of the 200 to 300 people who’ve been involved in the study, which is happening in 14 sites across the U.S. and the world, including a private practice in Mt. Pleasant.

“They’re very traumatic to relive this. It disconnects that fear response in the brain,” Lubecky said.

“It helps people connect to each other on a deeper level. Open up and feel more vulnerable,” said Yevgeniy Gelfand, a psychiatrist involved with Phase 3 of the MDMA-Assisted Therapy.

Leaders with MAPS, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, say they’re working to make MDMA legally available for use in therapeutic settings. They say MDMA stimulates the release of specific hormones associated with feelings of trust, bonding, and intimacy. More details can be found 

“It creates an optimum window of arousal, where they’re not too numb to talk about the experience, but they’re not too excited so they can actual tolerate the story and engage their emotions,” Gelfand added.

“Depression went down by 70 percent, suicidal ideation’s gone. That there in and of itself is the biggest one,” Lubecky said of himself following treatment. Data suggests 68 percent of those in Phase 2 of the trial no longer had PTSD after a 12-month follow up.

The FDA granted Breakthrough Therapy Designation to MDMA for the treatment of PTSD in 2017.

“This therapy is the sole reason that my son has a father instead of a folded flag,” Lubecky said. He said he plans to continue speaking with lawmakers in the hopes of legalizing the treatment.