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August 29, 2011

Soldier’s Clinic Begins Ecstasy Trials to Treat PTSD: Inventive or Crazy?

By: Max Slowik

Guns.com

The pressing need for innovative treatments for PTSD has led to positive coverage from more than one unexpected media source. Here, firearm aficionado site Guns.com describes MAPS’ experimental MDMA-assisted psychotherapy as a promising way to help soldiers devastated by their traumatic memories of combat.


Originally appearing at http://www.guns.com/soldiers-clinic-begins-exstacy-trials-to-treat-ptsd-inventive-or-crazy.html.

PTSD is shitty. In its myriad of forms, it ruins people, breaks families, and takes years of therapy to overcome, even in small ways.  But in a way, we’re fortunate, in that we as a society formally recognize it, we adapt and treat it.  It’s a real problem and we deal with it, which is something that even a few years ago was shunned rather than confronted, even if it’s been a recognized disease since the ‘80s.

Medicine and therapy have changed, too.  A byproduct of the sixties and seventies, psychedelics were banned.  It wasn’t even possible to explore their application outside of (honest-to-God, we’re not advocating the benefits of foil-based haberdashery, this stuff really happened) CIA and prison experiments.

But with a combined desire to seek out new treatments, and for the cynical, new drugs, the old war chest of illegal mind-altering substances keeps getting peeked into, with surprising results.  One of the most recent applications of psychotropics is the use of MDMA, Ecstasy, to treat PTSD:

“[Doctors Michael and Annie Mithoefer] are upfront: should trauma not surface at the patient’s behest, well, then at a certain point they’ll make it surface. The process can be painful, and spans hours, so patients arrive mid-morning. After final ‘set’ preparations each subject is handed one small, curious capsule. It’s 10AM and they’re ingesting ecstasy.

“The daylong sessions that follow are part of a small, open-label Phase II study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for post-traumatic stress disorder in war veterans. The experiment examines how 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, better known as ecstasy, may alleviate the crippling, long-term horrors of ‘chronic, treatment-resistant, combat-related PTSD’ when administered at low doses and in controlled settings.”

That clinic be rollin’ soldiers.

Still, even if it works, the patients might not be out of the woods: the long-term effects of MDMA often include increased rates of depression, anxiety, and paranoia, to name a few.  There are to reasons to believe that the currently-suspected side effects may not actually be that egregious.  First, the data collected is from users of impure, illegal Ecstasy.  And it’s put together by people who, generally, aren’t pro-casual-drug-use.

These volunteer soldiers are in the clinical care of doctors who are administering controlled, pure, government-sanctioned MDMA in a strict double-blind trial.  Along with cognitive behavioral therapy, they’re betting on doing good for people who really need it.  If you had, or have, PTSD, would you trip balls if it made you whole?


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