Ecstasy Study Gives Hope to PTSD Sufferers

Originally Appeared At: — US researchers have published the results of the first ever clinical trial examining the effectiveness of MDMA in treating sufferers of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). MDMA is the key ingredient in the illegal drug ecstasy. Researchers at the Mount Pleasant Private Practise of Psychiatry and Clinical Research, University of South Carolina and the Santa Cruz Multi-disciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies studied 20 patients with chronic PSTD who had been unresponsive both to psychotherapy and psychopharmacology. Subjects were divided into two groups, with one receiving concomitant active drug (n ¼ 12) and the other inactive placebo (n ¼ 8) administered during two eight hour experimental psychotherapy sessions. The results, published this week in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, showed a marked improvement in symptoms for sufferers administered MDMA compared to the placebo groups at each of the three measurement phases. Researchers reported that the rate of clinical response was 10/12 (83 percent) in the active treatment group versus 2/8 (25 percent) in the placebo group. The study also showed that there were no adverse events related to the drug with no adverse neurocognitive effects or significant increases in blood pressure. The researchers noted that one of the key benefits of MDMA in the treatment of PTSD appears to be its suppression of the fear response. PTSD is a growing health problem, especially in those countries engaged in conflict. It is estimated that close to 20 percent of American servicemen and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan will present with the disorder which would translate into over 200,000 cases at current numbers. The only two drugs currently approved by the FDA to treat PTSD are sertraline and paroxetine, both selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). However, nine separate studies of SSRIs for PTSD conducted between 1994 and 2007 showed that these types of drugs have only a limited impact on the disorder. Further, a 2008 study by the US Institute of Medicine looked at 22 different drugs across seven different drug categories yet remained inconclusive with regard to their value to PTSD sufferers. Subsequent research has, however, provided more positive data. In terms of purely cognitive approaches there has been very little in the way of success. Case reports note that MDMA had been used by American psychiatrists to assist with psychotherapy before the drug was criminalised in 1985. The results of the study published week are expected to strengthen the case for its legal use in the treatment of PTSD and possibly other psychiatric conditions. This article is a thorough summary of outcomes in MAPS pilot phase II study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. Also covers the problem of PTSD, as well as currently approved drugs for treatment.