War can damage the mind as well as the body, as Vietnam veterans know only too well, but some of the psychedelic drugs popularized by the ’60s generation may turn out to be effective treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder. One in particular, the hallucinogenic drug MDMA, appears to be capable of quelling the chronic anxiety and fear that are characteristic of post-traumatic stress. Michael Mithoefer, a psychiatrist in Mount Pleasant, S.C., recently conducted a study — the first of its kind — in which 20 people with chronic PTSD who had not responded to psychotherapy, antidepressants or antianxiety drugs showed significant improvement when treatment combined MDMA with psychotherapy. See http://www.tampabay.com/news/aging/lifetimes/article1139748.ece for the full text of the article.
In this article, Michael Mithoefer, M.D., the clinical investigator for MAPS’ studies of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD, discusses the proposed mechanisms by which MDMA helps enable patients to revisit their traumatic experiences in the context of therapy. Mithoefer and other scientists and medical professionals are making the case for MDMA as a powerful adjunct to therapy–not as a “magic bullet” but as a tool that can help suffering people make better sense of their deep traumas and therefore to heal. Though it will still be several years before it’s available as a legal therapeutic tool, we are well on our way.