Can MDMA Cure PTSD?
Trials Are Set to Begin in Vancouver
MDMA + Funky looking key = No more PTSD? via.
Studies have shown that an occasional dose of Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, stupid) in tandem with psychotherapy can dramatically improve the mental health and wellness of patients suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. A paper published last year by Michael and Ann Mithoefer (a psychiatrist and nurse respectively, who are also married) in the Journal of Psychopharmacology has produced some eye-opening results.
It’s important to note that this study doesn’t suggest simply prescribing MDMA pills for the popping. Rather, throughout the course of therapy, patients are given two doses of MDMA over two eight-hour sessions held three to five weeks apart. This only happens once, and for some patients it will be the first and last time they ever take MDMA, but those three or four pills taken over an eight-week period could change their lives for the better.
What the study has shown is that MDMA works like a therapeutic catalyst. Patients’ scores when measuring common PTSD symptoms such as anxiety, paranoia, nightmares and depression, consistently dropped by over 75 percent. That’s more than a twofold decrease compared to patients who went through the same therapy without the drug, or had only been given a placebo.
More importantly, when following up with patients two months after they had received the treatment, 83% were no longer even diagnosed with PTSD, and three to five years later the benefits were still maintained with no signs of long-term health effects associated with MDMA at all.
Consider that standard, government approved drugs like Zoloft or Paxil are only effective in 20% of PTSD patients, and therapy assisted MDMA is looking more and more like a breakthrough. Even Oprah is getting her name behind it.
Due to the success of the Mithoefer’s study, similar trials are underway in Switzerland, England, Australia, Israel and—just last week, after two and a half years of regulatory inspections and political red tape—nine grams of pure MDMA arrived in Canada.
Vancouver psychologist, Dr. Andrew Feldmar, will begin trials on a relatively small (12 people in total) group of soldiers, police officers, and sexual assault victims suffering the effects of PTSD who have found no relief in a variety of prior treatments.
The hoops that Dr. Feldmar has had to jump through to get his hands on nine grams of MDMA (which he acknowledges would have been easier to just find on the streets of Vancouver) are almost comical. Two-and-a-half years after the study was approved, officials were still flying back and forth from Ottawa to inspect the pharmacy where the MDMA will be stored, behind shatterproof glass, in a safe nailed to the floor. As Feldmar described it to the CBC, “It’s as if the whole of Vancouver was waiting to see this drug arrive and would rob the pharmacy to get it… It’s like Fort Knox has been waiting for this drug.”
When working with patients suffering from PTSD, he defines three crucial connections that must be made: First, the patient must be made to feel safe within the present moment. Second, in that moment, patients need to feel comfortable enough to acknowledge painful memories and to freely grieve. And third is that, through these first two steps, patients reconnect with the world, establishing an empathy and trust with the therapist they are communicating with.
He says that MDMA addresses the progress of all three stages of therapy in parallel with the drugs own three perceptible influences: “MDMA, has three major effects if it is taken in the right setting. One is to open your heart. Another one is to make yourself present, so that the future and past don’t matter, you really arrive into the here and now. And the third one is, for some people, for the very first time you feel no shame. So you’re shameless.”
The trials will follow the Mithoefer’s method, and Feldmar describes what this looks and feels like in the context of a psychotherapy session, “Ecstasy has been developed as an empathogen, it increases the person’s empathy. If you’re my therapist, I might think that behind your face there is the person who has hurt me. I basically don’t trust any person because of past events. Now if I take ecstasy, I forget what happened, I don’t worry about the future, my heart opens and suddenly, if indeed you are a well meaning person, I will intuit that, and maybe for the first time since I’ve been traumatized, I will form a connection with you that I feel safe in.”
Stereotypically, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is perceived as Shell Shock, designated to veterans or those who have been through violent combat. But what is being brought further into the greater public consciousness—and this study has the potential to shine even more of a light on that—is that PTSD doesn’t just touch those who have lived through war, terrorism, or random violent accidents. It also affects those who have suffered in silence: victims of family violence, sexual assaults, or other stressful events that occur while living life in an arbitrary and often unforgiving world.
If these studies continue to show positive results, one would hope that the drug would become more accessible and more studies would receive funding from militaries, ministries of health, and private-sector donors. Regardless of how taboo it might seem at the moment, if MDMA can be used responsibly to aid PTSD, making this unforgiving world a little less harsh on those who have suffered it, then, by all means, Molly needs to go to therapy.
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