A long-term study with a small sample of subjects recently showed that psychotherapy in combination with MDMA (Ecstasy) could have lasting benefits for people suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The results, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, indicate that 83 percent of participants did not present symptoms of PTSD two months after starting treatment, and improvements were still observed, on average, 3.8 years later.
Psychiatrist Michael Mithoefer and his wife Anne (a nurse) and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) participated in this study led by researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina.
The study participants were given two doses of MDMA during a long therapy session, after several weekly sessions of psychotherapy where they didn’t receive any drug. MDMA was administered again three to five weeks later.
PTSD’s symptoms—anxiety, hyperarousal, flashes, depression and nightmares—were reduced by 75 percent. The Mithoefers said this is more than twice the relief experienced by people who get psychotherapy only for the condition.
“Experts familiar with the work cautioned that it was preliminary, based on small numbers, and its applicability to war trauma entirely unknown,” reported the New York Times.
An effective solution is needed: Number of PTSD cases has spiked up
The increase in terrorism and the insertion of troops into foreign wars are among the factors that explain the increased number of cases of PTSD.
According to MAPS, one in seven Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer from PTSD, in many cases leading to suicide. Not many medications (usually antidepressants) or psychotherapy treatments have proven effective in the treatment of the condition. Instead adverse events, like weight gain, fatigue, somnolence and hypersalivation occurred in patients receiving risperidone, a study showed.
Not every soldier who has gone through a traumatic event suffers the symptoms of PTSD. It is more prominent among those who experienced rape and severe beating or physical assault.
According to the psychiatrist Daniel Siegel in his book Neurobiology of ‘We,’ the odds of developing PTSD might be related with a preexisting “disorganized attachment,” which would interfere with developing the necessary resilience to overcome trauma.
A “disorganized” attachment occurs when the infant’s need for emotional closeness is not met, and the parents’ behavior has been a source of confusion or fright. Follow ups of children who displayed a disorganized attachment to parents, show their behavior tends to be chaotic with difficulties in the regulation of emotions, social communication, academic reasoning and even more severe emotional problems.
Add that in our society at large there has been a tendency to a disconnection from extended family, friendships, and community.
It’s then worthy of note that a drug like Ecstasy, that increases a sense of connection to others, be used to treat PTSD.
Not risk-free: What does Ecstasy do to the body?
MDMA stands from 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine. Street names include Ecstasy, X, E, or XTC, beans, candy, disco biscuits, happy pill, love drug, smartees.
Statistics show that over six percent of teens have tried Ecstasy, a stimulant that has become the most popular “club drug” in the market.
Ecstasy belongs to a class of psychoactive drugs that help people feel euphoric, in touch with their emotions and connected to others. It also causes perceptual disturbances, including changes in perception of colors and sounds, and moderate de-realization with no hallucinations. The drug also increases blood pressure and heart rate.
Ecstasy’s chemical structure is similar to that of methamphetamine, a stimulant, and mescaline, a hallucinogen.
MDMA is a potent releaser and/or reuptake inhibitor of presynaptic serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.
Serotonin is one of the substances in the body that modulates mood. There are receptors for serotonin in different organs of the body (95 percent of the body’s serotonin is housed in the gut). This molecule influences the formation of blood clots and produces constriction of blood vessels. It also plays an important role in sleep, appetite, memory, sexual behavior, breathing, aggression, peristalsis and the function of our glands. However, its most important function is the regulation of perception that gives us a sense of reality.
A boost in serotonin increases the production of cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones induce euphoria, but the adrenals soon get exhausted, taking a long time to recover and causing several health problems.
Toxicity can manifest with increased muscle rigidity, hyperreflexia, and hyperthermia. Sustained use can cause progressive neurodegeneration of the serotonin neurotransmission.
Researchers have found that consumers of Ecstasy might suffer from a type of severe depression that is resistant to treatment.