Ecstasy Research to Enter Phase 2, Seeking FDA Approval

Ecstasy may no longer be just a drug for teenage rave parties. A new study – the first double blind study of its kind – has demonstrated that the drug, common among teens and young adults who go “clubbing” or attend rave parties, may be beneficial for those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Since the number of people, particularly returning soldiers, suffering from PTSD is predicted to increase significantly over the next ten years, the drug, also called MDMA, may provide some relief. While researchers caution that more study is necessary to determine the safety of using ecstasy in treatment, lead researcher Dr. Michael Mithoefer says, “PTSD treatment involves revisiting the trauma in a therapeutic setting, but many patients become overwhelmed by anxiety or numb themselves emotionally, and so they can’t really successfully engage. But what we found is that the MDMA seemed to temporarily decrease fear without blunting emotions, and so it helped patients better process their grief.” PTSD causes sufferers to relive a stressful incident, such as mortar attacks during war, or rape, with everyday sounds and experiences causing them to flash back. Sufferers of PSTD may also have additional mental health issues with depression and anxiety and are more likely to turn to alcohol and drugs. Because the first round of study was so successful, with almost all of the patients receiving MDMA along with the therapy having such a lessening of symptoms that they could no longer be diagnosed with PTSD, compared with only 25 percent of the control group, phase two of the study will move forward as the next step in seeking FDA approval for use of the drug as a treatment. Mithoefer says MDMA can be dangerous when not taken properly. “It needs to be taken in a therapeutic setting with careful monitoring and a lot of follow-up to help patients integrate the experience successfully,” he said. “I’ve had patients with PTSD outside the study tell me that they’ve used MDMA at a party and had bad experiences, because when feelings about the trauma came up, they weren’t prepared to deal with them.” None of the participants suffered any side effects, although most knew whether or not they were getting the placebo, something researchers will have to address before phase two of the study can begin. Shadra Bruce is a contributing writer for Mental Health News. The title of this article is incorrect, since the research is already in Phase 2 with FDA permission, but the article is informative.