Know what MDMA is?

Originally appearing at: For those suffering from PTSD, the drug MDMA, colloquially called ecstasy, may prove to be a valuable component of their treatment. A study published in July in the Journal of Psychopharmacology indicates that MDMA can be prescribed to reduce the fear responses that are typical of this disorder. When fear responses are reduced, psychotherapy has a better chance to be effective. That is because fear responses may show up as an inability to speak about the precipitating events. or as a numbing of feelings about them. A pilot Phase II clinical trial had 20 participants who had had chronic PTSD for an average of over 19 years. They hadn’t had effective relief from symptoms through psychotherapy or medication. Over 80 % of those who were treated with both psychotherapy and MDMA no longer met the criteria listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV. Only 25% of the group that was given a placebo had the same result. The criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD are: 1) Experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening “traumatic event” 2) Subjective feelings of helplessness, fear or horror during that event 3) Reliving or re-experiencing of the traumatic events (intrusions) 4) Being overly aroused, alert, nervous (hyper-arousal) 5) A minimum of 4 weeks suffering from these consequences 6) Severe problems in social, occupational, or other everyday functioning The placebo group in the pilot trial was offered the opportunity to receive MDMA plus psychotherapy after a two month follow-up period. Seven out of eight in the group did so, and the results were the same as they had been in the first group that received it. The study, however, did not take into consideration the ethnicity or sex of the participants, and the participants and investigative team generally guessed correctly whether they were in the placebo group or were getting the “real thing.” Moreover, the study would benefit from a long-term evaluation. This is underway and will take over three years to complete. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a study of veterans who have PTSD related to war. The study just completed was funded by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies in Santa Cruz, California. This article discusses the protocol and results from the recent MAPS sponsored MDMA-PTSD study and mentions the recently approved new study for veterans with PTSD.