Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a chronic and often a highly destructive illness that greatly affects the quality of life of the person who has PTSD and is associated with high rates of suicide and psychological disability.
Currently, it is a global public mental health problem with more than 20 million people suffering from this condition in the United States alone.
PTSD has various causes, including war, torture, accidents, sexual assault, child abuse, natural calamities and other extreme stress events.
There have been a variety of treatment options for this condition, some more controversial than others.
One of the more recent, but unusual treatment option is MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. MDMA is short for 3, 4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine.
It is an ingredient found in the street drugs referred to as ecstasy or molly.
Studies conducted in recent years add to the body of positive evidence that this psychoactive and psychedelic drug derived from safrole oil could help PTSD patients.
It is important to note that the drug itself is not the therapy, but a tool used by both the clinicians and PTSD victims.
MDMA THERAPY AND ITS EFFECTS ON PTSD
One of the major studies on MDMA and its impact on PTSD patients was carried out by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) in Canada, Israel, The United States and Switzerland.
The studies were approved by the respective drug boards of the involved countries including the FDA.
While the results were not convincing for all the patients in the study, MDMA did prove useful for the treatment of some of the most affected patients.
MDMA was in this case used to break down most of the barriers associated with PTSD therapy treatments.
Therefore, as mentioned before its use is rather complementary.
The researchers applauded MDMA for its ability to significantly quicken the results achieved through conventional therapy techniques.
The patients were given an equivalent of a street dose of MDMA spaced out over several weeks.
This was complemented with hours of non-medicated talk therapy carried out by professional mental-health clinicians.
According to the results MDMA has the ability to enhance communication skills, promote deep self-analysis, break down emotional barriers and act as a catalyst to psychotherapy.
A significant percentage of the patients in the trials recorded notable improvement after a short period of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy.
MDMA’s effect on PTSD patients is attributed to the chemical reactions in causes in the body.
MDMA is known to prevent activities in the left amygdala, the part of the brain associated with anxiety, fear, and mental trauma.
This may improve interpersonal trust between the patients and the therapists thus facilitating psychotherapy sessions.
It also triggers the release of serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that helps in the regulation of one’s moods.
Dopamine regulates emotional response while oxytocin results in improved bonding, intimacy, and trust.
The compounded action of these three substances enables PTSD patients to process and gradually overcome the psychological trauma.
The same positive nature of the drug can be properly harnessed to provide relief in different cases of this condition.
This study was just one phase of multiple steps required before the use of MDMA can be approved as a prescription treatment.
While the results so far have been promising, FDA approval requires successful successive trials done on a wider range and scale.
It is important to note that the use of MDMA to treat psychological disorders is definitely not a novel new-age treatment.
Before it became popular as a party drug, it was employed by therapists in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Studies involving MDMA were then hindered by the DEA declaring the drug a schedule I substance.
This means it was declared a drug with no accepted medical use and high chances for abuse despite thelack of convincing medical research to back the declaration.
The renewed research is definitely good news for people suffering from PTSD who have sought out many other unsuccessful treatment options.
THE SIDE EFFECTS
Although MDMA has been approved for clinical research, it has carried the risk of harmful effects just like all other drugs.
Fortunately, the effects associated with MDMA are often low profile and temporary. Most commonly, this drug increases the heart rate and body temperature.
It can also cause immune system changes, but just for a short period.
These are the observed side effects of pure MDMA. Ecstasy or molly sometimes contains other potentially dangerous substances that may warrant non-related adverse effects.
As such, non-clinical and unsupervised use of the drug is still inadvisable.
Researchers and therapists are hopeful that they will success in following studies, MDMA may be available as an option for PTSD patients in coming years.