A small, phase 2 pilot study found that MDMA, also known as Ecstasy, might help treating people with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Michael Mithoefer, MD, a psychiatrist in private practice in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, was the lead author on the study, 20 people received MDMA or placebo along with two days of "experimental" therapy. The idea was to use the drug to reduce subjects' fear and reactivity to traumatic events.
Mithoefer told Medscape,
"We didn't want to just test the drug," explained Dr. Mithoefer. "We wanted to test the drug's ability to catalyze psychotherapy. It's important that people realize that MDMA should be used in the right way, and that it's not a stand-alone solution for PTSD."
He found that subjects didn't need to take the drug every time they had therapy, nor for a long period of time. It was able to get them over the therapeutic hump enough to make progress; they could then continue to progress on their own.
Keith Young, MD, vice chair of research in the Department of Psychiatry at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, who was interviewed for the article, noted that the effects shown might be due to the release of oxytocin that MDMA causes, and that it might be better to simply dose PTSD patients with oxytocin.
The study was paid for by Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).
See two earlier posts on the use of Ecstasy to treat PTSD: