Ecstasy Shows Promise as PTSD Treatment
That's the conclusion of a study by two psychiatrists published in this month's Journal of Psychopharmacology.
Twenty patients afflicted with PTSD were given either Ecstasy or a placebo, and then partook in two eight-hour psychotherapy sessions.
The study zeroed in on tough-to-treat cases: Participants had all been coping with PTSD for several years, and the condition hadn't responded to previous treatment efforts.
Ten of the 12 patients given Ecstasy showed remarkable improvements in their PTSD symptoms and no longer met the diagnostic criteria for the illness after two months. Only two of the eight patients on placebo improved.
Because Ecstasy, also known as MDMA, signals the release of "feel good" brain chemicals, triggering a sense of euphoria and sociability, it's believed to help patients open up and engage with counselors.
"MDMA seems to bring people into the optimal zone for therapy and seems to help them process the trauma and not be overwhelmed by feelings," lead researcher Dr. Michael Mithoefer said in a statement.
The study sample was small, but big enough for the Food and Drug Administration to take note. The agency has approved a study of 40 military veterans from Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam, to be performed by the same research team.
It's a move that signals a new willingness among federal health agencies to consider every option, from yoga to acupuncture, in addressing the massive number of troops returning from war with post-traumatic stress.
But no matter how effective Ecstasy is, the psychiatrists are emphatic that it needs to be used in well-supervised settings.
"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," Mithoefer told U.S News and World Report.
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