MDMA/Ecstasy shows promise for easing PTSD.

MDMA/Ecstasy shows promise for easing PTSD.

Ecstasy Shows Promise in Boosting Talk Therapy for PTSD


A new study has found that the party drug “ecstasy” can enhance the effects of talk therapy for individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The clinical trial discovered that three months of talk therapy, combined with monitored doses of ecstasy (MDMA), yielded better results than therapy alone. This research offers further proof that MDMA-assisted therapy is a legitimate treatment for PTSD.

The study involved 52 patients who completed MDMA-assisted therapy, and an impressive 87% of them were considered responders. Responders experienced significant reductions in recurring nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety, and other PTSD symptoms. Moreover, 71% of the patients no longer met the criteria for a PTSD diagnosis at the end of the study, compared to only 48% among those receiving talk therapy with a placebo.

While these findings are promising, it’s important to note that MDMA-assisted therapy is not a universal solution. Not everyone responds to this approach, and the long-term benefits of the treatment remain unknown. However, the results contribute to the growing body of research exploring the therapeutic potential of MDMA and other psychedelics, such as psilocybin (magic mushrooms) and ketamine, for various psychiatric conditions.

MDMA floods the brain with serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of well-being. Additionally, it triggers a robust release of oxytocin, often referred to as the “love” or “bonding” hormone. Oxytocin enables individuals with PTSD to feel a level of self-compassion, which aids them in sticking with psychotherapy. This is particularly crucial since therapy requires patients to confront their traumas, which can be distressing and challenging.

MDMA’s reputation as a party drug, known as ecstasy or molly, has overshadowed its therapeutic potential. However, the field of psychiatry has long been interested in exploring the benefits of MDMA. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a nonprofit organization that funded the current trial, anticipates that MDMA-assisted therapy could receive approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by 2024.

PTSD affects an estimated 13 million Americans, making it a common and challenging condition to treat. Standard therapy fails to provide relief for up to half of the patients. In the trial, participants had been suffering from PTSD for an average of 16 years and had experienced suicidal thoughts. The patients were randomly divided into two groups: one underwent MDMA-assisted therapy, while the other received therapy supplemented with a placebo.

The treatment involved three 90-minute preparation sessions with a therapist, followed by monthly eight-hour sessions of MDMA (or placebo) combined with talk therapy for three months. In between these monthly sessions, patients attended therapy once a week. The trial results surpassed those of a previous study conducted by the same team, with 71% of patients no longer meeting the criteria for a PTSD diagnosis after MDMA-assisted therapy.

One noteworthy aspect of the new trial is the inclusion of a more diverse group of patients, including marginalized minorities who often face additional barriers to accessing this type of therapy. First responders, veterans, and survivors of sexual abuse are more likely to experience PTSD.

Regarding safety, the main side effects observed in the MDMA group were muscle tightness, nausea, and sweating. Importantly, no patients dropped out of the study due to side effects.

Nevertheless, it is crucial to recognize that MDMA-assisted therapy is not a cure-all solution. Patient preferences for trying this treatment will vary. However, experts in the field advocate for embracing this new paradigm of therapy and express hope for its potential to help individuals battling PTSD.

For more information on PTSD, refer to this HealthDay article.

Sources: – Jennifer Mitchell, PhD, Professor of Neurology, University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine – Rachel Yehuda, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience of Trauma, and Director of the Center for Psychedelic Psychotherapy and Trauma Research, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York City – Study published in Nature Medicine on September 14, 2023.