Articles

Ecstasy to treat post traumatic stress? The FDA says MDMA research is a go


Molly, the powdered form of MDMA, was a popular street drug in the 80s and 90s. Soon, it could be used to treat PTSD. Photo credit Tanjila Ahmed

The Food and Drug Administration has approved a large-scale clinical trial of MDMA to explore the possibility of using it to treat PTSD according to The New York Times.

MDMA is more commonly referred to as Ecstasy, E, X, or Molly, a street drug that gained popularity between its introduction in the 70s and its subsequent ban in 1985 as a party drug. In 1985, the Drug Enforcement Agency classified Ecstasy as a Schedule 1 drug, making it illegal in any capacity.

Chemist Alexander Shulgin, a WWII Navy veteran, was the first to notice the "euphoria-inducing traits" and originally intended MDMA to be a drug which might treat anxiety, among other emotional issues.

His dream was cut short during the height of Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign, and he died in 2014 before that dream became reality.

Charles R. Marmar, the head of psychiatry at New York University's Langone School of Medicine, has spent much of his career focused on PTSD. While not directly involved in the small scale studies leading up to the FDA's approval of the new study, Marmar is "cautious but hopeful," according to The New York Times.

"If they can keep getting good results, it will be of great use," Marmar told The New York Times. However, Marmar noted that MDMA is a "feel good drug" and prone to abuse.

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a non-profit founded in 1986 to explore the medicinal and societal value of psychedelic drugs and marijuana, funded the six small-scale studies that lead to the approval by the FDA.

According to a report in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, subjects in the small-scale studies had previously been unresponsive to traditional therapy. They participated in psychotherapy sessions; during two to three of those sessions, they were given Ecstasy.

The studies treated a total of 130 PTSD patients, most of whom could no longer be classified as meeting the "criteria for having PTSD."

According to The New York Times, the researchers involved in the study have applied for "breakthrough therapy status" with the FDA.

If the FDA approves that request, and the studies continue to show similar results, Ecstasy could be a viable treatment for veterans with PTSD by 2021.

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