MDMA could help trauma survivors face painful memories

Rachel Schraer reports for the BBC:

MDMA – most commonly known as a party drug – could be more effective than therapy alone at treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The results of a keenly-awaited trial suggest two-thirds of people no longer qualified for a PTSD diagnosis after treatment.

The study represents a significant step towards approval of the drug in the US.

But UK experts warn against overhyping MDMA’s potential, saying more research is needed to understand its effects.

PTSD can be the result of a very distressing or frightening event, or longer-term series of experiences. That might include accidents, abuse, rape, combat or illness.

And it can be very difficult to treat.

This trial, run by US charity the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (Maps), found 88% of people had a “meaningful reduction in symptoms” and 67% no longer qualified for a PTSD diagnosis at all after 18 weeks and three sessions of MDMA-assisted therapy.

Talking therapy alone led to a significant improvement in 60%, and remission in 32% of people.

The participants in the study, which was published in the journal Nature, had suffered from PTSD for an average of 14 years.

While scientists acknowledge these findings provide important evidence in MDMA’s favour, they are based on just 91 people. And since they were self-selecting (they volunteered for the study), they may not be representative of all trauma survivors.

The trial also compared MDMA with a type of therapy not recommended by the NHS for trauma, making the comparison less useful, according to some UK psychiatrists …”

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