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MDMA is an effective treatment for PTSD, reveals trial data

Data found that MDMA-assisted therapy was better than talk therapy alone

  • Aneesa Ahmed
  • 22 March 2022
MDMA is an effective treatment for PTSD, reveals trial data

New data from trials shows that MDMA could improve mental health when combined with therapy, and is effective in the treatments of disorders such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Researchers report on follow-up data from a phase 3 clinical study last year in which MDMA (commonly known as ecstasy), in combination with therapy, was examined for the treatment of PTSD. The findings were presented at the American Chemical Society's (ACS) Spring Meeting for 2022.

Data found that MDMA-assisted therapy was better than talk therapy alone in helping relieve symptoms of PTSD and that this relief was long-lasting as some patients reported feeling better for months longer than in comparison to talking therapy alone.

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MDMA, also known as ecstasy, formally called 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, is a synthetic drug that has both stimulant and psychedelic properties. The findings with this drug from this trial can potentially make provisions for formal approval of MDMA by the Food and Drug Administration in the near future.

MDMA-assisted treatment has recently gotten a lot of attention in the scientific community, thanks to fresh studies and a successful drive for drug legalization in general.

As reported in Science Alert, neuroscientist Jennifer Mitchell from the University of California, San Francisco says: "MDMA is really interesting because it's an empathogen...It causes the release of oxytocin in the brain, which creates feelings of trust and closeness that can really help in a therapeutic setting."

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In Phase 3 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of MDMA-assisted therapy for the treatment of severe PTSD, researchers included 90 people with amnesia, flashbacks, and nightmares connected to prior traumatic experiences.

These people were then put into an eight-hour therapy session after receiving their dose, the optimal dose was calculated during Phase 2 of the trial. These participants received two sessions of MDMA-assisted therapy a month apart, in conjunction with weekly talking therapy sessions.

Around two-thirds of individuals no longer matched the diagnostic criteria for PTSD two months following their final MDMA-assisted treatment session. In the placebo and treatment conditions, only one-third of individuals observed a substantial improvement in their PTSD symptoms.

None of the participants showed any signs of addiction during this trial. Studies on the addictiveness of MDMA have shown varied findings, so this current study's apparent absence of addiction is grounds for optimism.

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However, researcher Mitchell does reiterate that MDMA should not be used in an unregulated manner to treat any mental health issues.

"If MDMA is decriminalized, that doesn't mean it's safe," she says. "It can be a very powerful tool, but it needs to have the right dose in the right context with the right support system."

As said in Gizmodo, if the results of these trials continue to be positive, MDMA-assisted treatment for PTSD might be authorized by the FDA as soon as late next year.

These results were presented at The American Chemical Society's Spring Meeting for 2022, you can find out more about what was said on their website.

Read this next: Ecstasy island: How MDMA reached the UK in 1988

Aneesa Ahmed is Mixmag's Digital Intern, follow her on Twitter

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