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MAPS Bulletin Summer 2014: Research Edition
Media > Recent and Archival
September 30, 2011

Ecstasy to be used to help war veterans

By: Stephen Adams

The Telegraph (UK)

Encouraged by the extremely positive results of our flagship U.S. study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD, researchers are hoping to be able to conduct a similar study in the UK. In the article, prominent psychopharmacologist David Nutt, M.D., describes why he wants to see the study take place: “I feel quite strongly that many drugs with therapeutic potential have been denied to patients and researchers because of the drug’s regulation.” Worldwide, psychedelic research is booming, and researchers are hopeful that the UK could be the next government to put science before politics.

Originally appearing at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/8799963/Ecstasy-to-be-used-to-help-war-veterans.html.

Doctors are to use ecstasy to treat people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the first British trial of its kind.

They believe it could help those who have experienced extremely distressing events - be they in battle, or as a result of child abuse or rape - to come to terms with their past.

A small-scale American trial found 10 out 12 volunteers given the drug to help facilitate two psychotherapy sessions reported significantly improved mental health, two months later.

Of the other eight who were given a placebo, but otherwise experienced the same therapy sessions, only two reported significant improvements.

The 12 were given MDMA - the acronym for 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine - the active ingredient in ecstasy.

According to Michael Mithoefer, the psychiatrist who helped run the trial, one said: “I feel like I’m walking in a place I’ve needed to go for so long and just didn’t know how to get there.

“I feel like I know myself better than I ever have before. Now I know I’m a normal person.”

Now Prof David Nutt, the controversial psychopharmacologist, and Dr Ben Sessa, a psychiatrist, hope to perform their own version of the trial. They will also scan participants’ brains to see what differences there are between those taking the drug and those not on it.

Prof Nutt’s views on ecstasy have got him into trouble in the past.

In 2009, he was sacked as chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs for criticising the reclassification of cannabis and saying alcohol and cigarettes were more dangerous than ecstasy. He also said riding a horse was as dangerous as taking ecstasy. He has never apologised.

Speaking to The Guardian, he said: “I feel quite strongly that many drugs with therapeutic potential have been denied to patients and researchers because of the drug’s regulation.”

He pointed out that heroin, while illegal, had been around long enough for medics to realise its enormous therapeutic value as a painkiller. However, he said it remained the exception that proved the rule. The pair are awaiting a funding request for the trial.

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