Ecstasy Vs. Trauma
A study sponsored by MAPS reveals very promising results with using MDMA-assisted psychotherapy in healing PTSD. The clinical trial consisted of 20 patients with treatment-resistant PTSD, a prerequisite being that the patient had received both psychotherapy and psychopharmacology and failed to find relief. The length of the PTSD in the patients was over 19 years on average.
The treatment consisted of two eight-hour psychotherapy sessions 3-5 weeks apart. Subjects also received psychotherapy sessions weekly. There were 12 patients receiving the MDMA-assisted psychotherapy and 8 in the placebo group. Over 80% of the treatment group no longer met the DSM’s criteria for PTSD after treatment. Also, all three subjects that had been unable to work due to PTSD were now able to do so. No "serious adverse events" or adverse neurocognitive effects were experienced. Additionally, there were no significant blood pressure or temperature increases.
After the two-month follow-up, the eight subjects in the placebo group were offered MDMA-assisted psychotherapy treatment. Seven of the eight accepted, with successful treatment outcomes similar to the initial group.
MDMA’s pharmacological effects include serotonin release, 5HT2 receptor stimulation and increase in levels of the neurohormones oxytocin, prolactin and cortisol.
A hallmark of post traumatic stress disorder is heightened and uncontrolled fear responses. Therapists use the method of revisiting traumatizing experiences to heal, but this is often very difficult for the patients, resulting in intolerable feelings or the patients emotionally numbing themselves--causing the therapy to have little effect. The goal of MDMA assisted psychotherapy is to reduce fear and increase trust while letting painful emotions and memories to come to light--creating a window where psychotherapy becomes more effective.
This type of treatment radically differs from traditional outpatient therapy because of the “concentrated periods of patient-therapist contact,” with all-day and even overnight stays in the clinic. According to psychiatrist and study sponsor Michael Mithoefer, MD, this allows for further support in processing emotions and integration of cognitive shifts.
New measures like this give hope to people who haven’t found relief within the traditional parameters of Western medicine. The FDA just gave the go ahead for a “protocol for a three-arm, dose-response design” that they expect will result in successful blinding, upholding the integrity of the study. The new study is for US veterans with war-related PTSD, most from Iraq and Afghanistan and a few from Vietnam.
Please click here to read the study in its entirety.
Image, "keli" by cliff1066 on Flickr courtesy of Creative Commons Licensing.