A new study has reached a promising conclusion in an experiment that measured the effects of MDMA, (a.k.a. Ecstasy) on mental well-being among suffers of PTSD. While the experiment was limited by no control group and just 28 participants – over 95% of whom had considered suicide at least once – 76% of participants fell below the criteria for PTSD within one year after “MDMA-assisted psychotherapy.”
Twenty-eight people with chronic posttraumatic stress disorder were randomized in a double-blind dose response comparison of two active doses (100 and 125 mg) with a low dose (40 mg) of MDMA administered during eight-hour psychotherapy sessions. –Journal of Psychopharmacology
The study, sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) and conducted by licensed professional counselor Marcele Ot’alora in Boulder, Colorado, found that the mean PTSD scores (CAPS) for each test group fell by up to 28%.
The subjects who received the low dose in the first two sessions were later given an opportunity to take active doses, after which their mean CAPS score fell by another 47 percent. All three groups of subjects showed continued improvement at the one-year followup, when the average CAPS score was 31, down from 92 at baseline. That’s a drop of 66 percent. The highest possible CAPS score is 136, and the cutoff for a PTSD diagnosis is 50. By the end of the study, 19 of the 25 subjects (76 percent) were below that threshold. –Reason.com
While study does not separate the effects of the psychotherapy from the benefits of the MDMA – a 2005 meta-analysis of PTSD sufferers reveals that 62% of those who have undergone psychotherapy alone fell below diagnostic thresholds for the condition. In short, MDMA may be an effective method of maximizing the impact of psychotherapy for PTSD sufferers.
The theory behind MDMA-assisted psychotherapy
“(MDMA)-assisted psychotherapy is a novel approach that combines psychotherapy with limited administration of MDMA in a controlled setting to enable people suffering from PTSD to process trauma more effectively,” reads the study. “MDMA’s unique subjective and therapeutic effects induce an optimal state that complements the process of working through traumatic memories while reducing the fear response. Trauma theorists have asserted that emotional engagement is necessary for processing traumatic experiences and, under the influence of MDMA, people are able to remain emotionally connected while working with difficult traumatic material.”
Of those in the experiment who had moderate to severe PTSD, three treatments of psilocybin brought them below the medically defined threshold for the disorder, while those initially suffering from lower levels of PTSD required just two treatments.
To understand if three experimental sessions were more beneficial than two sessions, outcomes were evaluated again two months after the third (last) MDMA session. After the third experimental session, both the 100 mg and 125 mg groups showed further reductions in CAPS-IV scores, providing evidence that an additional session significantly improved PTSD outcomes. On the other hand, after the 40 mg group crossed over, a large treatment response resulted after two open-label sessions with little change after the third. –Journal of Psychopharmacology
Read the study below:
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