leftspacer middlespacer rightspacer
Media Menu
Featured Material

MAPS Bulletin Summer 2014: Research Edition
Media > Recent and Archival
November 20, 2012

Ecstasy May Help Treat PTSD

By: Suzy Mage


Health-News-Watch provides a detailed, scientific explanation of how MDMA-assisted psychotherapy can people overcome PTSD.

Originally appearing here.

According to a recent study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, psychotherapy combined with MDMA has proven effective for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Many soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD. As traditional therapy and prescription medicines fail to cure their condition, these soldiers are becoming increasingly interested in alternative treatments, such as MDMA, or Ecstasy. Ecstasy is a party drug that was in high demand in the 1980s and 1990s.

The drug is known to induce the release of the hormone oxytocin, which increases feelings of euphoria and a radiating affection. However, it was put on the list of prohibited substances 1985, along with other drugs such as heroin. However, government regulators have since licensed a small number of labs to produce MDMA for research purposes.

In addition to oxytocin, Ecstasy also seems to reduce activity the region of the brain called the amygdala, which spikes up during fearful and threatening situations.This is why many psychotherapists believed that MDMA may help treat PTSD.

Michael and Ann Mithoefer, the husband-and-wife team offering the treatment (he is a pyschiatrist and she a nurse), write that they found 15 of 21 people who recovered from severe PTSD in the therapy in the early 2000s reported minor to virtually no symptoms today. Their initial study did not include veterans.

“The study is the first long-term test to suggest that psychiatrists’ tentative interest in hallucinogens and other recreational drugs — which have been taboo since the 1960s — could pay off. And news that the Mithoefers are beginning to test the drug in veterans is out, in the military press and on veterans’ blogs. “We’ve had more than 250 vets call us,” Dr. Mithoefer said. “There’s a long waiting list, we wish we could enroll them all.”

The couple, working with other researchers, will treat no more than 24 veterans with the therapy, following Food and Drug Administration protocols for testing an experimental drug; MDMA is not approved for any medical uses.

Most have found that their score on a standard measure of symptoms — general anxiety, hyperarousal, depression, nightmares — drops by about 75 percent. That is more than twice the relief experienced by people who get psychotherapy without MDMA, the Mithoefers said.”

However, For more on the study, click here.

Back to MAPS in the Media

Give Our Veterans Hope
1 in 7 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer from PTSD, in many cases leading to suicide. We owe it to our veterans to stop this epidemic.

Tell the Pentagon to fund MAPS' groundbreaking work to treat PTSD.