New Trial PTSD Treatment Uses MDMA (Ecstasy) To Enhance Psychotherapy

Clinical trials have been underway to see if MDMA, commonly known as Ecstasy, might be effective in providing effective psychotherapy for PTSD sufferers whose conditions have been otherwise treatment-resistant. The use of MDMA in therapy-related settings is not unprecedented. In fact, it was regularly used in psychotherapy  before becoming a recreational street drug and being subsequently outlawed in many countries. The results of this most recent study, which was conducted in the UK, have just been published in The Journal of Psychopharmacology. Researchers are planning subsequent work in the United States, Switzerland, Israel, Canada, Spain, and Jordan.

Both in the contemporary study and in past application, MDMA has been effective as a “catalyst” to psychotherapy. Especially in people with severe, treatment-resistant PTSD, the emotional window where treatment can be effective is very difficult to open. Effective psychotherapy involves revisiting the traumatic events, and some patients have numbed themselves, so the therapy doesn’t take hold, while others experience strong flashbacks and other severe reactions when revisiting these memories in a therapeutic setting. MDMA does not inhibit emotions, but does “temporarily reduce fear and increase trust,” which allows the individual to work with the psychiatrist or psychotherapist in a way that had not previously been possible.

The results were consistent and significant. The average length of PTSD affliction for participants was 19 years, and all had tried both therapy and medication, to no avail. By the end of the study, over 80% of the participants did not even meet the diagnostic criteria for PTSD, even after years of dealing with the condition. The MDMA was administered in an environment of “concentrated periods of patient-therapist contact,” and patients were thoroughly prepared for, and followed up with after, the treatment. This is just an emerging study, and much more work needs to be done, but so far, no health risks or negative side effects have been documented, which could mean relief from years of struggle for some people living with the most therapy-resistant cases of PTSD.

© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • isabel

    isabel

    July 20th, 2010 at 1:30 PM

    newer research works and documentations have shown that the so-called ‘harmful’ drugs are not so harmful after all and the fact that large corporations enjoy great profits due to their outlawing only gives more creditability to the point that they need not have been outlawed in the first place!

  • Viki

    Viki

    July 20th, 2010 at 3:47 PM

    “MDMA does not inhibit emotions, but does “temporarily reduce fear and increase trust,” which allows the individual to work with the psychiatrist or psychotherapist in a way that had not previously been possible.”

    Is this kind of a thing not bad for the patient? Its almost like we are making the patient trust the practitioner against(or beyond) his wishes (even though the treatment is for his own good)…?!

  • hannah

    hannah

    July 21st, 2010 at 11:52 AM

    I hate the idea of using illegal drugs for the treament of a disorder that can already be so disruptibe to someones life. Why add the additional danger of addiction to this as well? There has to be a better way to treat PTSD that does not include the usage of illegal substances.

  • SMITH 007

    SMITH 007

    July 21st, 2010 at 4:31 PM

    @hannah:I second that. They should eithr not use the banned drugs completedly or legalize them. This kind of flecible rules will only facilitate its growth as a banned and sought-after substance.

  • Rebecca

    Rebecca

    August 5th, 2010 at 7:21 AM

    I understand the approach the researchers are trying to take as the caudate nucleus is somwhat implicated in PTSD and activated by MDMA. However, this approach evidences the researcher’s utter lack of how the brain operates and how PTSD is also a psychosocial concern as well as neurobiological.

    These neural reductionists really drive me up the wall.

    Are they going to start issuing glow stick and playing club music at the VA now?

  • Sandy

    Sandy

    September 21st, 2010 at 2:39 PM

    Hi:
    I am looking for a Psychologist who Rx Ecstacy in the San Francisco Bay area. I have a history of PTSD and want to be in the trial. Can you refer me to someone?

    Thank you
    Sandy

  • survivor

    survivor

    February 12th, 2011 at 8:07 PM

    It is simply amazing that so many people think that because some ignorant lawmakers banned the use of a chemical that “has no medical use” as deemed by the FDA, then there can never be evidence in subsequent years that prove otherwise. MDMA was at one time legal, and it was used by therapists for years helping patients with all sorts of psychiatric problems. MDMA does not “provide trust,” but instead, simply dis-inhibits the prefrontal cortex of the brain. It’s called the “Love drug” for a reason…all of your learned, socialized behavior dissolves, and you finally see what is REAL. Why deny someone the opportunity to move on with their lives? Just because some asshole in Congress voted to print something that says MDMA should not be prescribed? Do you really think that ETOH (alcohol for the dummies), actually produces more positive effects than MDMA? (Remember, it was once prohibited as well.) Would you rather have someone with PTSD drink and relive their experience with negativity, or take MDMA and relive their experience with insight?

  • D

    D

    March 6th, 2011 at 9:59 AM

    I am looking for a practitioner in the Portland area that uses MDMA. Any referrals?

  • Aleta

    Aleta

    March 29th, 2011 at 10:25 AM

    I have serious PTSD, I need help. I have done traditional therapy for years and it has not helped get to the core. I was badly abused throughout my childhood. I need a MDMA therapist in Los Angeles, please help.

  • steven benitez

    steven benitez

    September 25th, 2011 at 12:04 PM

    A friend of mine in London is really suffering and I know from my own experience, that if he were to take some MDMA, with a Therapist he would benefit hugely!!!
    Could someone please give me a contact anywhere in the world.

  • david

    david

    May 13th, 2012 at 7:51 PM

    I too am interested in this type of therapy. Can anyone please direct me to a therapist who can help?? I would prefer someone in the US… but anywhere in the world would be fine. thanks for the help.

  • angoe

    angoe

    December 7th, 2012 at 7:00 AM

    Hello. I’ve been in treatment since I was a teenager for severe PTSD. I have been on just about everything you can imagine. Currently on clonezapam and nortryptaline and seroquel These drugs make me feel horrible and never give me relief. It is always something new. I am in Washingt state. Whatcom county. I would be so grateful to be in a trial. Please email me.

  • Man in Car

    Man in Car

    February 27th, 2013 at 10:43 AM

    Looking for experienced a therapist near Washington DC, underground of course.

  • Man in Car

    Man in Car

    February 27th, 2013 at 10:45 AM

    Looking for good underground ma therapist near DC ?

  • Susan

    Susan

    August 30th, 2014 at 6:06 AM

    I first read about MDMA Therapy in Oprah’s magazine and have been trying to find a trial I could participate in. I was in an abusive marriage for 14 years and was emotionally, physically, and sexually abused. I got out 11 years ago. I too, like so many others, have gone through years of various therapies and have taken various antidepressants and anti anxiety drugs to function. But just last week I had yet another severe panic attack. I too feel that these traditional methods of therapy have provided something similar to a bandaid that, when it gets wet, slips off and leaves the infected area unprotected. If there is anyone out there who knows of a trial coming available in the near future in the US or another country PLEASE let me know.

  • John

    John

    January 4th, 2015 at 12:58 PM

    I was horribly abused as a child. Any referrals to therapists in Eastern Mass. using MDMA and therapy for PTCD? Please respond. TY.

  • The GoodTherapy.org Team

    The GoodTherapy.org Team

    January 5th, 2015 at 10:11 AM

    Hi John. The best way to look for a therapist on GoodTherapy.org is to go on our advanced search (https://www.goodtherapy.org/advanced-search.html) and use it to find exactly what you’re looking for. You may also call our toll-free Find-A-Therapist line at 888-563-2112 ext. 1. We hope that helps!

    Warm regards,
    The GoodTherapy.org Team

  • Teresa

    Teresa

    April 4th, 2015 at 1:39 PM

    I’ve read and seen stories about this kind of therapy I do believe that Iwould so benefit from this.I need this.How do I find or where do I look to be a part of this kind of therapy?

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