Study Finds Ecstasy’s Active Ingredient MDMA Can Help Treat PTSD

New finding could be a breakthrough for veterans and others with trauma-related issues.

Ecstasy tablets on black background. (Getty Images)
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A new clinical trial has found that MDMA, the active ingredient in the street drug ecstasy, can enhance the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder when administered during psychotherapy. The authors of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved experiment do caution that more research is needed to fully assess the drug, since the study only included 26 patients. The study’s subjects were comprised of veterans, firefighters and police officers who developed PTSD as a result of trauma in the line of duty.

“MDMA has some stimulant effects as well as psychoactive effects,” said Dr. Michael C. Mithoefer, lead author of the study and a psychiatrist in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina, to CNN. 

MDMA has been classified as an illegal, controlled substance in the U.S. since 1985. The drug rarely causes hallucinations or disorientations and instead tends to increase feelings of empathy and trust. Mithoefer said that it also gives users an “increased awareness of inner experience.”

About eight million Americans are annually affected by PTSD. Symptoms include flashbacks and frightening thoughts, and may lead to substance abuse, unemployment, family disruption and even suicide. Mithoefer and his co-authors say that there is a clear need for different PTSD treatments. He told CNN that the “development of new treatments should address the common reasons for treatment avoidance, failure, and dropout.”

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