A clinical trial led by the University of California, San Francisco, has shown that MDMA-assisted therapy can be a significant help in treating patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Around 87% of patients who completed the MDMA-assisted therapy reported meaningful reductions in their PTSD symptoms, such as recurring nightmares, flashbacks, and crippling anxiety.
Remarkably, 71% of these patients no longer met the criteria for a PTSD diagnosis by the end of the study.
This contrasts with a 48% rate among patients who received talk therapy plus a placebo. The findings have been published in the journal Nature Medicine.
Researchers randomly assigned 105 patients into two groups: one group underwent MDMA-assisted therapy, and the other received therapy plus a placebo.
The treatment involved three 90-minute preparation sessions with a therapist, followed by once-a-month, eight-hour sessions with MDMA (or the placebo) and talk therapy for three months.
Weekly therapy sessions were conducted in between these monthly sessions.
The Science Behind MDMA-Assisted Therapy
MDMA, popularly known as ecstasy or molly, has often been associated with party culture. However, the substance has attracted interest from the psychiatric field for its therapeutic potential.
MDMA acts on the brain by releasing serotonin and oxytocin, chemicals associated with feelings of well-being and self-compassion. This allows PTSD patients to discuss their traumatic experiences more openly during psychotherapy.
The main side effects reported in the MDMA group included muscle tightness, nausea, and sweating. No patients dropped out due to these side effects.
Jennifer Mitchell, the lead researcher, cautioned that MDMA-assisted therapy is not a cure-all. A significant question that remains unanswered is the long-term efficacy of this treatment.
Rachel Yehuda, director of the Center for Psychedelic Psychotherapy and Trauma Research at Mount Sinai, who was not involved in the research, echoed this caution but said that MDMA-assisted therapy represents a “new paradigm” in treating PTSD.
MDMA-assisted therapy has not yet received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, although it could be approved as early as 2024.
The need for effective PTSD treatments is dire, with an estimated 13 million Americans affected in 2020 and up to half not responding to standard therapies.
While not a panacea, MDMA-assisted therapy shows considerable promise as an effective treatment for PTSD, opening new avenues for psychiatric research and potentially revolutionizing how the condition is treated.
However, more research is needed to ascertain the long-term benefits and potential limitations of this approach.
If you care about mental health, please read studies about 6 foods you can eat to improve mental health, and B vitamins could help prevent depression and anxiety.
The research findings can be found in Nature Medicine.
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