Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disabling disorder marked by intrusive thoughts and memories, negative effects on thinking and mood, depression, hyperarousal and reactivity, and avoidance.
People who suffer from PTSD may have a lower quality of life and relationships, as well as mental health issues and suicidal tendencies.
An international study in Psychopharmacology says that 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, commonly known as MDMA, ‘ecstasy’ or ‘molly’, could be a important tool for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The study showed significant improvements in people who had not responded to previous therapies, according to UBCO Associate Professor of Psychology Zach Walsh. He also points out that this is the most thorough study on the safety and efficacy of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD.
“PTSD symptoms decreased after one session of MDMA together with psychotherapy,” said Walsh, study co-author. He goes on to say that after two sessions, 54% of subjects no longer fit PTSD criteria, and their depressive symptoms improved as well.
Participants’ responses to MDMA-assisted psychotherapy were compared to those who received small dosages or non-drug psychotherapy.
“These findings are promising and indicate the needed for larger studies,” added Walsh. “Too many people with PTSD struggle to find effective treatment, and use of MDMA in a supportive environment with trained mental health professionals could be an important addition to our treatment options.”
Ecstasy is a synthetic substance made up of methylenedioxy and methamphetamine.
Walsh and a team of researchers from the US, Switzerland, and Israel looked at the results of six clinical trials involving 103 patients. Men and women with persistent, treatment-resistant PTSD from a variety of causes were among the trial participants.
The US Food and Drug Administration designated MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD as a breakthrough therapy based on these findings, admitting that it “may demonstrate substantial improvement over existing therapies” and promising to speed its research and approval.
In November 2018, the first of two more in-depth clinical trials of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD began recruiting volunteers, with the goal of having 100-150 volunteers across 15 sites in the United States, Canada, and Israel. Following an interim examination of the results from the first trial, the second trial will enrol an additional 100-150 people. Trials in Europe are expected to begin in the near future.
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