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MAPS Bulletin Summer 2014: Research Edition
 
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January 17, 2013

Can Ecstasy Help Victims of a Trauma? Scientists in US Test MDMA for Medical Uses

By: Miriam Stoppard

Mirror

Mirror provides analysis of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy research results, explaining that the treatment can help people overcome posttraumatic stress disorder by providing factual statistics.


Originally appearing here.

A new lease of life for ecstasy? The drug has been around for some time, and not just as a recreational one.

One of the first references I found about the medical use of ecstasy, MDMA, was by marriage counsellors in the 60s and 70s to help couples get loved up, be forgiving and see each other’s point of view.

It was quite successful but disappeared from view until its emergence as a dance drug, popular as it induces euphoria and affection for all and sundry.

In 1977, our Government criminalised ecstasy.

But last year, the powerful US Federal Drug Agency gave permission for a small number of labs to make pure, medical MDMA for research.

One of the first studies to be posted online by the Journal of Psychopharmacology was using MDMA to treat post-traumatic stress disorder in Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, of which there are hundreds.

PTSD is an anxiety disorder caused by stressful, frightening or distressing events such as military combat, road accidents, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, or witnessing violent deaths and assaults.

It can start immediately or occur weeks, months or years later.

Someone with PTSD will often relive the event through nightmares or flashbacks, feeling isolated and guilty, unable to sleep and concentrate.

A novel approach tried on 21 soldiers in 2009 using psychotherapy with MDMA left 15 with virtually no symptoms.

The same regime is being used with rape victims who said it produced a “mental sweet spot” that allowed them to talk about their experiences without being overwhelmed.

A man who had been scarred by working on Ground Zero searching for bodies in the rubble of 9/11 claimed: “I had this beautiful, peaceful feeling down in the pit of my stomach, that I had a purpose and I was doing what I needed to be doing.”

In the new FDA-approved study, army veterans get MDMA in two doses over one long therapy session, having been prepared by a series of weekly non-drug sessions.

Three to five weeks later they have another drug-assisted psychotherapy session, with a 90-minute non-drug session before and after.Symptoms of PTSD like anxiety and nightmares, have dropped by 75%.

That’s more than twice the relief people feel who get psychotherapy only.


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