Using MDMA to treat mental illness, PTSD

MDMA or ecstasy, as it is more commonly known, frequently appears in the news after its misuse at a rave or music festival. But if administered properly and therapeutically, it can act as a lifesaver for people suffering from stress or other mental afflictions.

According to a report on website The Conversation, scientific research is increasingly pointing to psychedelic drugs like psilocybin and MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine) as more viable options, given that some antidepressants, which an estimated 1 in 10 Australians are taking, might be no more effective than a placebo.

According to the article, research from John Hopkins School of Medicine in the US has shown psilocybin could reliably induce mystical states leading to positive changes in personality such as openness and sociability. Psychotherapists at UCLA harnessed these effects to reduce anxiety and depression in people with terminal cancer, The Conversation reported.

It also revealed that researchers across the USA, Switzerland, Canada and Israel had achieved promising results treating PTSD with psychotherapy (“talk therapy” guided by trained therapists) assisted by MDMA. Click here to read more from The Conversation’s fascinating article.

Indeed, according to a report from Newsweek, Israel’s Ministry of Health has approved the use of MDMA for use on dozens of patients. While the drug is still considered illegal and dangerous for recreational use, it is now being administered as treatment for compassionate use, meaning drugs that are still in the development phase being made available to patients outside of a clinical trial due to a lack of other options.

In Australia, up to 12% of the population experiences PTSD symptoms at some stage in their lives. The disorder is characterised by flashbacks, anxiety, or dissociation. Such experiences can lead a person to erratic behaviour, substance abuse, and even suicide, Newsweek reported.

So how does MDMA actually help? It floods the central nervous system with serotonin, producing strong feelings of euphoria that can last for over eight hours. This is why it is popular on the party circuit as it sustains partygoers all night.

In the US, MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, which reports say may help to create a stronger bond between patient and psychotherapist, is currently undergoing phase III clinical trials for the treatment of PTSD. If these demonstrate that it is effective with acceptable levels of safety, FDA approval could be expected by as early as 2021, Newsweek reported.

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