The Cure

Post-traumatic stress disorder is common among military veterans, and victims of sexual abuse who suffer from the symptoms such as anxiety attacks, body shakes, nightmares and insomnia.  There is a potential way to cure that. A clinical trial of a drug that could treat it and help a lot of people: MDMA.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given the green light to phase-three trials of MDMA to treat PTSD. This is the final phase of validation that’s required to make it a legal medicine. MDMA, is a psychoactive drug that reduces inhibitions and causes you to be more alert, affectionate, and energetic. Essentially, it’s the party drug people take at raves, and it’s a form of Ecstasy.

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a small nonprofit organization created in 1985 to assist the medical use of MDMA, LSD, marijuana and other banned drugs, sponsored phase two studies treating about 130 PTSD patients with the drug. It will also fund phase three of the research, with 230 patients this time around.

That’s more progress than researchers have made with the party drug in the past. In the 1970s, doctors used MDMA as a common aid in psychotherapy, though without the FDA’s or Drug Enforcement Administration’s support.

It’ll be treatment for combat veterans, sexual assault victims, and police and firefighters with PTSD who had not responded to traditional prescription drugs or psychotherapy. In fact, one study from South Carolina did a placebo-controlled study with 20 patients. The patients were given the same therapy with some taken the MDMA. It turns out that 83% of those given MDMA no longer met the criteria for PTSD following treatment, compared with the 25% of those given the placebo.

People diagnosed with PTSD may become stressed by emotion or far removed from their feelings when reprocessing their trauma. That type of feeling makes it difficult for them to work through their trauma effectively, especially when the process is painful overall. MDMA, on the other hand, gives a person some time to work through their traumatic memories. Take C.J. Hardin as an example.

After three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, Hardin, who was suffering from PTSD, wound up hiding in a cabin in North Carolina. Divorced, an alcoholic and at times suicidal, Hardin joined a small drug testing session in 2013. The session tested whether or not PSTD could be treated with MDMA. After the therapy session, it changed his life. Hardin stated that it allowed himself to see his own trauma with no fear and process things while moving forward. (He’s out of the cabin and is now enrolled in college and working as an airplane mechanic).

Research has shown that the drug causes the brain to release hormones and neurotransmitters that evoke feelings of love, trust, and well-being, with no fear and negative emotional memories that can be overpowering for patients with PTSD.

The drug would not be available on prescription for patients’s use at home like marijuana is in many US states. The purpose of the trial means that the drug could only be administered by a trained psychotherapist in licensed centres. If all goes well, MDMA could be legalized as soon as 2021. This could help to those who have PTSD. A horrendous condition that can be caused by witnessing a life-threatening event.

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