Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can result from being the victim or witness to a number of traumatic events including war, an automobile accident, physical abuse, assault, homicide, and other difficult or devastating experiences. It is an equal opportunity disorder and affects men, women, and people of all cultures similarly. In the United States, PTSD has been thrown into the limelight due to the number of service men and women who are returning from active duty with this condition. The current publicity around PTSD has left many in the medical and mental health fields looking to and for variations of treatment in hopes of finding more effective, longer-lasting methods to treat this illness.
One of the more promising treatments, currently in Phase 2 of 3 in testing, is MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy. MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) is a psychedelic, synthetic substance noted for its capability to help patients delve into their excruciating memories. The drug reportedly facilitates trust and compassion between the patient and therapist, all the while greatly reducing the patient’s feelings of defensiveness and terror while in session. It is believed that MDMA is able to offer this therapeutic safe haven by stimulating the release of hormones (prolactin and oxytocin) linked to bonding and trust which comforts the patient and reduces symptoms of avoidance and panic.
According to the research data, an astounding 83% of participants who received the treatment no longer met the guidelines for PTSD while in Phase 2 of the study. Additionally, many of those participants reported the results lasted 3 ½ years or longer. So, why is this treatment not already approved and readily available for those who so desperately need it?
One potential answer to that question could be the stigma surrounding MDMA. Most all of you have heard it referred by it street names of “Molly” or “ecstasy.” And given so, some will not be comfortable using it as an aid during therapy even in a controlled setting providing such positive, long-term results. Secondly, the cost and time frame for each individual trial is fairly massive. The End of Stage 2 meeting is estimated to take an additional 3 years and $2.3 million before presenting results to the FDA. Afterwards, Stage 3 is speculated to have a price tag of $15.8 million and spanning 5 years until the treatment is fully available for use with the public.
MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy. (n.d.). Retrieved September 9, 2015, from http://www.maps.org/research/mdma
Treating PTSD with MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy – Home. (n.d.). Retrieved September 8, 2015, from http://www.mdmaptsd.org/index.html
Crystal K. Bray, B.S.
WKPIC Doctoral Intern