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Prescription Ecstasy? US FDA Greenlights Ecstasy Trials for PTSD

Dec 01, 2016 07:27 AM EST

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that develops in people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.

For instance, CJ Hardin, a veteran who spent three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, has been alcoholic and sometimes suicidal. A treatment trial for MDMA -- or ecstasy -- has helped him recover from trauma. He said the current trials have allowed him to see his trauma without fear and hesitation and finally move forward.

According to the New York Times, this trial for the drug is already on its phase 3 clinical trial. This means it's one step away from allowing ecstasy to be considered as a prescription drug. If approved, this means ecstasy can be a potent treatment for PTSD.

An FDA spokeswoman declined to comment as they are not allowed to disclose information about drugs that are being developed.

Regardless, Charles Marmar from the New York University's Langone School of Medicine said that if the good results about the Ecstasy trials continue, then it will be of great use. This is because PTSD is fairly hard to treat. In fact, the best therapies right now do not help 30 to 40 percent of patients, which means more methods have to be available.

And while ecstasy may really be effective, prolonged use may damage the brain.

It can be remembered that the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a small non-profit, is advocating the legal and medical use of MDMA, LSD, marijuana and other otherwise illegal drugs to treat PTSD patients. The nonprofit supported six phase 2 studies that helped treat 130 PTSD patients. 

It will now fund Phase 3 of the research, which includes at least 230 patients. The trials focused on treating combat veterans, sexual assault victims, police and firefighters with PTSD. These patients normally struggled for 17 years.

After administered and guided doses, there appears to be a 56 percent decrease in the severity of symptoms on average. According to this study, two-thirds no longer even met the criteria for having PTSD, and improvements lasted for more than a year.

Michael Mithoefer, the psychiatrist who conducted the trial, said this kind of improvement can be sometimes seen in traditional psychotherapy but only after years.

The good results urged them to apply for the so-called breakthrough therapy status with the Food and Drug Administration. According to AOL, if approved, this could be made available as soon as 2021.

According to the New York Times, Alexander Shulgin first saw the euphoria-inducing traits of MDMA in the 1970s and introduced it to psychologists he knew. By then, thousands began using it as an aid for therapy sessions. By 1985, it spread in parties and dance clubs under the name of ecstasy, and it was banned since.

Now people seeking treatment for PTSD has exploded and psychiatry couldn't keep up the pace. Hopefully, this move could help speed up the process and treat more patients.  

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