MDMA May Be Helpful in Treating PTSD

In fact, the former party drug's efficacy is staggering.

By Elizabeth Yuko, Ph.D.
March 18, 2020

For those living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the frequent vivid flashbacks and nightmares can make everyday life a challenge. And while medications used to treat other mental illnesses may help with PTSD, that’s not the case for everyone, which is why new research from the University of British Columbia looking into whether MDMA — also known as a party drug called “ecstasy” — is helpful in treating PTSD is so important.

The large, international study published in the journal Psychopharmacology found that MDMA may be a valuable tool for treating PTSD. In fact, the research demonstrated substantial improvements in individuals who had not responded to previous treatments. Zach Walsh, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia noted that participants’ PTSD symptoms decreased after just one session of MDMA when used in conjunction with psychotherapy. After two sessions, 54 percent of those in the study no longer met the criteria for PTSD and also saw improvement in their symptoms of depression. 

“These findings are promising and indicate the need for larger studies,” Walsh said in a statement. “Too many people with PTSD struggle to find effective treatment, and use of MDMA in a supportive environment with trained mental health professionals could be an important addition to our treatment options.”

Approximately 7 to 8 percent of the U.S. population will experience PTSD at some point during their lifetime, which can result in a much lower quality of life and relationships stemming from other mental health conditions and suicidal tendencies.

MDMA — a synthetic drug made from a combination of methylenedioxy-methamphetamine — is not currently legal in the United States and Canada, but the FDA recently approved its use in clinical trials for treatment resistant PSTD patients, suggesting it may be an effective option for sufferers in the future.

About the writer:

Dr. Elizabeth Yuko is a bioethicist and writer as well as an adjunct professor of ethics at Fordham University. She has written for print and online publications, including The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe AtlanticRolling StoneCNNFodor’sLifehackerReader’s Digest and Playboy.

Outlier Disclaimer

This site is for educational purposes and not a substitute for professional medical care by a doctor or otherwise qualified medical professional. The information provided by Outlier Magazine is on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services.

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