Can the illicit drug ecstasy help those who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? It seems like an odd pairing to say the least. A drug that induces psychedelic experiences to treat a disorder that is fraught with psychiatric abnormalities seems counterintuitive at first glance. But a recent article in the Journal of Psychopharmacology seems to suggest just that.
They took a group of 20 patients who suffered from chronic PTSD and who had failed the normal psychotherapeutic and pharmacological treatments. They randomize them to placebo and ecstasy (MDMA) and each group received two 8 hour psychotherapy sessions in which they were asked to relive their trauma multiple times. The purpose was to allow them to re-experience the events in an unthreatening environment and hopefully help them overcome the PTSD symptoms the original event created. This is a process known as extinction learning. It seems to have worked, at least to some degree. Those that were given the ecstasy fared better than those that received the placebo by an 83% to 25% margin.
Hopefully this treatment will pan out.
My book Stress Fracture deals with the treatment for PTSD and how it can go horribly wrong.