The US Is One Step Closer to Approving MDMA For Medical Use

A recent clinical trial showed promise when using it to treat PTSD

MDMA dose
A dose of MDMA in the office of Dr. Michael Mithoefer, a psychiatrist, who has studied the use of MDMA as a treatment for PTSD.
Travis Dove for The Washington Post via Getty Images

A lot can change in a decade’s time. If you’d asked someone 10 years ago what they thought of MDMA, the please “club drug” likely would have been uttered. Ask someone the same question today and — well, you might get a similar answer. But you might also find yourself talking to someone extolling MDMA’s ability to help people struggling with PTSD live a better life. Multiple scientists have been working hard to dispel myths about the drug and unearth new uses for it.

That hard work seems to be paying off. As Sara Reardon reports in a new article at Nature, MDMA is one step closer to getting FDA approval as a medical treatment for PTSD.

This news follows the conclusion of a large clinical trial where MDMA was shown to be an effective treatment for the condition. As Reardon writes, the results of the second study found that a combination of MDMA and therapy was effective in 71% of patients, as opposed to 48% of the group that was in therapy and received a placebo. (In this case, “effective” means that the patients stopped qualifying for a PTSD diagnosis once the treatment was completed.)

As the article details, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies plans to approach the FDA for their approval before the year is out.

When reached for comment, Vaile Wright of the American Psychological Association told Nature, “I see this as one solution to a very complicated problem that needs multiple solutions.” That seems like a sensible approach — MDMA may be effective for some people with PTSD, but viewing it as an all-powerful cure could complicate matters.

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Still, it’s taken a lot of work to get to this point — and MDMA has had impressive effects on veterans suffering from PTSD. We’re not quite at the point where MDMA is an approved course of action for doctors around the country — but it seems like we might not be too far from there, either.

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