Using MDMA to treat PTSD and depression
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Using MDMA
06-10-16 Category: Depression rehab, Research, Trauma

Using MDMA

Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) – the active chemical component of ecstasy and Molly – is a powerful hallucinogenic that has acquired a popular reputation among young party-goers. However, preliminary research suggests that this club drug may someday become available at your local pharmacy as a treatment for certain psychological disorders.

MDMA treatments for PTSD

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) conducted clinical trials with individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The majority of participants were given MDMA. All participated in psychotherapy sessions. Two months into treatment, over 80 percent of participants showed no signs of the disorder. Checkups performed over four years found most participants still enjoyed the benefits of treatment. However, the researchers acknowledge the study was small: only 20 participants, eight of whom received a placebo.

PTSD is characterized by vivid flashbacks and exaggerated fears associated with a past traumatic event. MDMA produces euphoria, an increased sense of well-being and – most importantly for participants – decreased fear response. MDMA differs from other drugs because its efficacy rests on its ability to induce these various reactions without rendering the user into an inert mass not dissimilar to a beanbag chair. A patient with PTSD who is no longer beset by fears or with excessive trust issues is able – in conjunction with psychotherapy – to work through the experience without reliving them (also known as fear activation).

MAPS plans to roll out phase 3 clinical trials next year. Phase 3 trials are the last trials conducted before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves a drug. Contingent upon FDA approval, MAPS expects MDMA to become a recognized therapeutic treatment by 2021.

MDMA treatment for depression

Researchers in Britain conducted studies on the efficacy of treating depression with MDMA. Scientists note taking MDMA increases serotonin in the brain. Individuals with depression are often incapable of turning off the negative thoughts and feelings coursing through their minds. The rush of serotonin disrupts this repetition and rumination and does so without befuddling a user’s senses. According to the researchers, MDMA is effective because it affords the patient and therapist time to address issues that someone in the grips of depression wouldn’t typically explore.

The British experiment garnered a great deal of attention – mostly negative. The study was funded by Channel 4, a British television network. According to study author David Nutt, psychology professor at University College London, using the network was the only way to procure funding. In return, the network broadcasted the proceedings, including patients taking MDMA. Like the U.S., Britain has outlawed MDMA. Politicians resoundingly criticized televising the use of an illegal substance.

Another concern was voiced by Andy Parrott, a psychology professor at Swansea University. He believes the television broadcasts would lend credence to the idea that if MDMA is treatment for depression, then the drug itself is safe. “Once people start writing that MDMA is being used for therapy, kids will look at that and think it’s a safe drug,” he says.

Nutt disagrees. “The changes in the brain are in the regions we predicted, so that does suggest that the underpinning theories are right,” he says.

Sovereign Health of California treats PTSD, depression and a myriad of psychological disorders without MDMA. Our regimen includes cognitive behavior therapy as well as experiential therapy techniques. Contact our 24/7 helpline to find out more about our treatment programs for behavioral health issues.

About the author:

Darren Fraser is a content writer for Sovereign Health Group. He worked two and half years as reporter and researcher for The Yomiuri Shimbun until they realized he did not read, speak or write Japanese and fired him. Undeterred, he channels his love of research into unearthing stories that provide hope to those dealing with addiction and mental illness. Darren loves the Montreal Canadiens hockey club and horror films and would prefer to enjoy these from the comforts of his family’s farm in Quebec. For more information about this media, contact the author at

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