The pilot study included 28 participants with chronic PTSD who took the drug during three daylong psychotherapy sessions over three months
The double-blind study, sponsored by the non-profit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), found that after two sessions, 43% of the group that received active doses of MDMA no longer met the definition of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and a year after the first session, 76% of the active-dose group no longer had PTSD, according to results published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.
The results are compared to 33% of participants who got a low dose of the drug as a placebo.
MDMA-assisted psychotherapy combines psychotherapy with limited administration of MDMA in a controlled setting to enable people suffering from PTSD to process trauma more effectively, according to the study.
PTSD is an anxiety disorder that some people develop after being involved in - or witnessing - something traumatic such as a fire, the death of a loved one, child abuse or domestic abuse, a robbery or an accident, for example. PTSD can affect anyone who experiences or witnesses a traumatic event, with sufferers oftentimes reliving the event through flashbacks and nightmares, difficulty sleeping, severe anxiety or feeling numb.
Study authors stated that MDMA induces an “optimal state” that is complementary to the process of working through traumatic memories whilst reducing the fear response in PTSD sufferers.
Under the influence of the drug, people are able to stay emotionally connected with psychotherapists while working through trauma.
“Our study demonstrated that different therapy teams were able to get similarly robust results, further strengthening the case for MDMA-assisted psychotherapy as a promising option for the treatment of PTSD,” said Principal Investigator Marcela Ot’alora.
“Plus, the results of the study indicate that this treatment has the potential to greatly improve the lives of people suffering from PTSD, regardless of the source of their trauma. After treatment, a great majority of our participants have reported feeling more connected to themselves and to others, more joy, more compassion, and with new skills for facing life’s challenges.”
Further studies which will include 200-300 people across the U.S., Canada and Israel began last month, with researchers suggesting FDA approval can be expected by 2021 if those trials are successful.
If you or a loved one are experiencing PTSD after a traumatic event, counselling may help.
Charity ASSIST trauma care provides information and specialist help for people with PTSD and anyone supporting them. Visit their website or ring their helpline on 0178 856 0800.
Photo by Marc Schäfer on Unsplash