In a clinical trial, researchers found that three months of psychotherapy, plus carefully controlled doses of ecstasy (MDMA), was more effective than therapy alone in treating people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
The results of this trial, published on September 14, 2023 in the journal Nature medicine (Source 1), suggest that MDMA-assisted therapy may constitute “a real treatment” for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The research team divided their participants into two groups: 53 received the MDMA-assisted treatment, while 52 received the usual placebo-assisted treatment instead of ecstasy. Treatment consisted of three 90-minute sessions with a therapist. Once a month for three months, participants received a high dose of MDMA or a placebo, accompanied by psychotherapy, for an 8-hour session.
Verdict: At the end of the study, 71% of participants in the MDMA group no longer met the criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD, compared to only 48% in the placebo group.
It is not a “miracle solution”, but an addition to the therapeutic arsenal
As for side effects, the researchers reported muscle tension, nausea and sweating in the MDMA group, and noted thatno patient dropped out due to these effects.
However, scientists qualify their results, insisting that it is not a “miracle solution” and that MDMA is not a “panacea.” Because while this approach may be appropriate for certain patients, others may not be receptive to it. Furthermore, it is not yet known how long the beneficial effects of this therapeutic approach last, hence the need for more research.
A psychedelic that promotes self-empathy
The researchers explain that if MDMA has acquired a bad reputation due to its recreational use, it is of interest to psychiatry specialists due to the perceptual changes it induces.
MDMA has the effect of flooding the brain with serotonin, known as happiness hormone and well-being, but also to release oxytocin, hormone of love and attachment. Patients who suffer post-traumatic stress and receive MDMA will thus see their Increased level of self-compassion.that would help them continue your psychotherapy despite the obstacles and difficulties encountered. Because following psychotherapy for post-traumatic stress means having to talk and face your traumas, which is not easy.
Finally, it should be noted that although MDMA-assisted therapy is not yet approved in the United States or Europe, the US Food and Drug Administration has given the green light to clinical trials on this topic. Which constitutes a first step towards a potential authorization.