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MAPS Bulletin Summer 2014: Research Edition
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October 4, 2011

Ecstasy and Its Use in Therapy

By: Kieron Allen

Focus Magazine Blog

Professor David Nutt and psychiatrist Dr. Ben Sessa are considering recreating a MAPS-sponsored study in the United Kingdom about the effects of MDMA on people with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The original study conducted in the United States resulted in 83% of the participants reporting a significant improvement to their condition after a two month period. The new study would incorporate neuroimaging to provide insight into the effects of MDMA on the brain, and would be the first-ever human clinical trial of MDMA to take place in the UK.


Originally appearing at http://sciencefocus.com/blog/ecstasy-and-its-use-therapy.

Despite its reputation as drug of choice on the clubbing circuit, it seems that ecstasy – or at least its active ingredient MDMA – may start being utilised in a very different way as doctors reveal plans for the first UK trials of the drug as a treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Professor David Nutt at Imperial College London, and Taunton-based psychiatrist Dr Ben Sessa have applied for funding to recreate an earlier trial carried out in the US. This initial study was on a fairly small scale, just 20 participants. Of these, 12 were given MDMA during therapy sessions, while the others received a placebo. Research funded by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies found that 83 per cent of the patients that received MDMA saw a considerable improvement in their condition just two months after receiving a second dose of the drug.

The British team hopes to take this research even further, and incorporate neuroimaging into the trials to gain a real insight on the effect the drug has on the brain.

MDMA isn’t the only psychoactive drug being studied by scientists as a therapy. Research into the medical benefits of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and pysclobin – the hallucinogenic component of magic mushrooms – are currently underway. In June, Focus reported the experience of Michael Mosley after he volunteered himself in a pysclobin trial at Cardiff University.

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