Not many people know this, but ecstasy(MDMA) was originally a successful treatment for several psychological disorders including post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
MDMA was first produced about 100 years ago but it wasn’t examined for it’s potential until the 1960s. It took another 10 years before it’s promising future was realised when a Californian psychotherapist postponed retirement to study it and started introducing it to therapists in Europe and America. In 1985, the DEA stepped in and banned MDMA after it started making the rounds of the dance club scene. Without any investigation into whether MDMA was being used for research, an emergency classification was made to have it classed as a Schedule 1 drug - the most restrictive category for drugs with “a high potential for abuse” and “no currently accepted medical use”. This was despite a court ruling that recommended MDMA should not be banned but left to medical experts for continued research.
Because of US drug policy and the DEA, thousands of people have missed out on a potential cure for PTSD. But this is just a fraction of the real damage caused by an ignorant and fanatical DEA. The worldwide crack down on ecstasy has seen the rise of dangerous fillers replacing the relatively safe, MDMA, resulting in a massive increase in deaths and related harms. But, with the current shift towards more evidence based policies and the realisation that current drug laws have failed, we may start to see drugs like MDMA once again put back in the hands of medical experts and scientists.
Researchers Use Ecstasy to Treat PTSD
By Madonna Behen - HealthDay Reporter
A small study suggests that the illicit "club drug" Ecstasy may have one positive use: making psychotherapy more effective for people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The drug, also known by its chemical acronym MDMA, appears to benefit patients for whom standard treatments have failed. But experts stressed that the study is preliminary and safety issues must be resolved before any recommendations can be made.
"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," said study lead researcher Dr. Michael Mithoefer, a psychiatrist in private practice in Charleston, S.C. "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."
In PTSD, the sufferer typically "relives" the trauma via flashbacks or in other ways, such as becoming hyper-vigilant to everyday sounds. Other mental health issues include depression, anxiety disorder, adjustment disorder and alcohol and substance abuse.
Mithoefer and his colleagues studied 20 patients who'd had PTSD for an average of 19 years but had failed to get relief from psychotherapy and medications. The study participants underwent two eight-hour psychotherapy sessions scheduled about a month apart, with 12 patients taking MDMA, and eight taking a placebo. Subjects were also given psychotherapy on a weekly basis before and after each experimental session. An independent psychologist evaluated each patient's symptoms of PTSD prior to and after the sessions.
At the end of the trial, more than 80 percent of the patients who received a combination of MDMA and psychotherapy no longer met the diagnostic criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder, compared with only 25 percent of the placebo group. In addition, the three patients who reported being unable to work due to post-traumatic stress disorder were able to return to work following treatment with MDMA.
During the trial, none of the patients had any drug-related side effects or neurocognitive problems related to the drug, the researchers reported.
The study is the first completed randomized, double-blinded clinical trial to evaluate MDMA as an adjunct to psychotherapy in any patient population, the researchers said. It was sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a Belmont, Mass.-based nonprofit group that focuses on the medicinal uses of psychedelic drugs.
The phase 2 study, the second of three phases of research required by the federal government before approving a drug for a specific use, was published online July 19 in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.
Before MDMA began to be used recreationally under the street name Ecstasy, many psychiatrists and other therapists in the United States and Europe used the compound as a catalyst to psychotherapy, the study authors noted. However, the drug has been illegal in the United Kingdom since 1977 and was criminalized in the United States in 1985.
People with post-traumatic stress disorder who may want to experiment with the drug should know it can be dangerous when not used properly, Mithoefer said. "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."
One important limitation of the study, Mithoefer said, was that most participants guessed accurately whether they were in the treatment or the placebo group, and trial investigators could detect raised blood pressure and other symptoms in the MDMA group. He added that an upcoming phase 2 trial -- looking at the effects of MDMA-assisted therapy on veterans with PTSD -- will hopefully avoid this problem, since all patients will receive the drug, but in different dosages.