PTSD and TBI Therapy: Marijuana Vs. Ecstasy… Marijuana Wins Hands Down

Originally appearing here. The New York Times headlined an article about ecstasy for PTSD and TBI titled, A Party Drug May Help the Brain Cope With Trauma on November 20, 2012. I nearly fell off my stool. Ecstasy or ‘MDMA’ (Methylenedioxymethamphetamine) The street name for it is Adam. It is one of the most dangerous and most lethal of the amphetamine-like drugs with extremely strong brain stimulation and interference with serotonin, one of the brain’s most important nerve mediators. As soon as MDMA was found to cause death by over-stimulation of the brain it was declared illegal by the US government. But it became widely used as a super-meth or super-cocaine. It does have some actions like marijuana which many veterans have found to be excellent therapy for both combat terrors, PTSD and some aspects of TBI. It is estimated (by me) that at least one million PTSD veterans use marijuana safely and successfully. To make the leap to MDMA is beyond understanding but there it is in the New York Times. The VA standard drugs, the morphine-like drugs and anti-depressants, have been a colossal failure and have caused many deaths and rejection by veterans. Because of this, some people are trying various brain-stimulating drugs such as MDMA. How this article got into the New York Times is beyond my understanding. The two investigators, psychiatrists, Dr. Michael Mithofefer, and his wife, Ann, a nurse, are the researchers. They report treating 21 patients with MDMA and face to face psychotherapy with success in 15 with this regimen. A few were combat veterans and they hope to enroll about 24 for further studies. An important caution to this kind of research is that both PTSD and TBI are graded in intensity from 1, very minor, to 10… which is extremely severe. They do not disclose the severity of their successfully treated patients. Two treated patients say MDMA, “made them feel and talk about their trauma without being overwhelmed by it”. This is important, most PTSD veterans with a severity of over 5 can not talk about their PTSD experiences, which is a primary sign/symptom of their disability. The Mithofefers treat patients with MDMA in small doses over one long face to face therapy session after non-drug sessions to prepare the patients. This is followed by MDMA medication plus psychotherapy sessions of about 90 minutes once a week. Some of these sessions, “Last eight to ten hours” which may cost in the thousands of dollars, which is way beyond what anyone can pay for including the Veterans Administration. As indicated above, possibly as many as one million US combat Veterans in many states are using marijuana successfully for combat stress and PTSD and the Israeli and Canadian governments have been using it routinely and successfully for years. To assume MDMA as a meth-type drug for PTSD is almost preposterous. Salem News writes about the use of medical marijuana and MDMA as treatments for PTSD. Noting recent research into MDMA-assisted psychotherapy as a treatment method for PTSD, an optimistic outlook for the future of medicine if projected.