In a surprise turn of events, the F.D.A is now moving forward on a study that is using Ecstasy as a medicinal treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. This particular study, which was approved Tuesday, would be the last necessary measure before the legalization of the drug.
Ecstasy, otherwise known as MDMA, and “Molly”, has been a party drug for many years. If you went to a “Rave” back in the early 2000’s you would likely find it among those who were playing with glowsticks, and dancing the night away to techno music.
Oddly enough, according to the National Institutes of Health, the drug was created in the early 1900’s by Germany. Later, in the 1970’s a small group of psychiatrists began using the drug on psychiatric patients, under government supervision. It was later before the drug then hit the club scene, sometime around the 1980’s to be specific. At that point, the government placed an outright ban on the substance.
If this study turned out well, patients could begin using MDMA as an approved treatment by as early as 2021. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies is conducting the trial which will include 230 case subjects. The organization has conducted previous studies on the drugs effectiveness for sexual assault victims, as well as firefighters and police officers who were suffering from the disease.
The new trial, which is considered a phase three trial, will involve giving the patients the drug just three times per month, along with long talk therapy sessions, that will be applied to weekly sessions without the drug.
Currently, Ecstasy is listed by the FDA as a schedule 1 drug, which means that the FDA considers it to have no medicinal value whatsoever. However, if the phase three trials go over well, and show otherwise, the FDA will move forward towards the legalization of MDMA as a new treatment option for those suffering from previous trauma.
“Moving from phase two to phase three shows we have strong scientific reason to believe that MDMA is an effective treatment for PTSD in therapy. The fact the FDA is ready to move forward with phase three signals that they agree,” said Brad Burge, from the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (Maps), a not-for-profit based in Santa Cruz, California, that has pushed for MDMA to be used for medicinal purposes.
While the treatment has been shown to work for the majority of patients, there is still 1/3 of the patients who find no relief from MDMA as a treatment option.
According to the Guardian, one soldier, James Hardin, had been on three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since his tours, he had been plagued with nightmares, insomnia, and horrible flashbacks that caused him to have intense anxiety attacks. After trying psychotherapy, and prescribed anti-depressants along with anti-anxiety medications, nothing seemed to help.
Then, he enrolled in a trial for MDMA-assisted therapy. Due to the treatment, his mental health drastically improved within only three months. Now, he is completely free of PTSD.
“It has allowed me to be a productive member of society and given me new hope,” he said.
There are some medical professionals who have shown reservations regarding the use of the drug on mental patients. Charles Marmar, who is the head of psychiatry at New York University’s Langone School of Medicine is one of those. In an interview with the New York Times, he said that “It’s a feel-good drug, and we know people are prone to abuse it.” In another statement, he stated that “Prolonged use can lead to serious damage to the brain.”
As with any medicinal treatment, there are going to be some who are in favor, and others who can see another route at the end of the tunnel. However, if we are going by the effects that the medication has on the brain, it seems obvious that any type of psychoactive medication will have detrimental effects on the brain in the long run. The studies that are currently being conducted, have brought results within weeks, to only a few months. During that time, small amounts of the medication have been used, rather than a long-term treatment plan that most anti-depressants are prescribed with. Based on that information, it would seem that the MDMA treatment could possibly be better on the brain that the use of currently available medications. Only the test of time will tell, though, as with any chemical treatment available for mental health disorders.