You won't believe this compound is being used to treat PTSD

A new meta-analysis examines clinical trials for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder with MDMA-assisted psychotherapy.

1 minute & 42 seconds read time

A new meta-analysis published in the American College of Clinical Pharmacology confirms MDMA's beneficial impact on patients with PTSD.

You won't believe this compound is being used to treat PTSD 01

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects roughly seven percent of people in the United States. Trauma-specific psychotherapy is the foundation of PTSD treatment, but this approach becomes ineffective over the long term for over half of the people afflicted.

The recent meta-analysis studies clinical trials conducted involving MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. Patients are administered a pharmaceutical-grade, carefully dosed amount of MDMA before undergoing a two to three-hour therapy session. Multiple therapy sessions without MDMA are also conducted before and after an assisted session.

3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, or MDMA, is the active ingredient in illicit drugs known as ecstasy or molly. MDMA has mild psychedelic properties, and users report feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and enhanced empathy and sociability. The use of the drug helps patients feel more comfortable revisiting and exploring traumatic events with the help of therapists and psychiatrists.

The studies analyzed used the same point scale to determine the therapy's effectiveness. A score above 50 indicated severe PTSD, and a reduction of more than 10 points from baseline was clinically meaningful. Daily antidepressant therapy reduced PTSD scores by 6 to 14 points compared to placebo.

In contrast, MDMA-assisted psychotherapy reduced the same scores by 22 points. Patients were twice as likely by the end of the trials to no longer meet the criteria for PTSD diagnosis. Only eight percent of patients withdrew from the MDMA-assisted psychotherapy trials, compared to 27 to 47 percent for the antidepressant trials. Some of the adverse effects can include teeth grinding, jitteriness, headaches, and nausea.

86% of participants said they received substantial benefits from the approach when sent a questionnaire a year after their last MDMA-assisted session. 84% reported improved feelings of well-being, 71% reported fewer nightmares, 69% had less anxiety, and 66% reported sleeping better.

These results indicate that MDMA-assisted psychotherapy treated PTSD directly, not simply alleviating the symptoms. The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) currently classifies MDMA as a Schedule I controlled substance, hampering scientists' efforts to conduct research involving it and similarly classified compounds. However, changes in 2018 made by the DEA for securing a waiver for research purposes have allowed the pharmaceutical potential of these drugs to be explored further.

You can read more from the meta-analysis here.

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Adam grew up watching his dad play Turok 2 and Age of Empires on a PC in his computer room, and learned a love for video games through him. Adam was always working with computers, which helped build his natural affinity for working with them, leading to him building his own at 14, after taking apart and tinkering with other old computers and tech lying around. Adam has always been very interested in STEM subjects, and is always trying to learn more about the world and the way it works.

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