Ecstasy for PTSD Treatment?5 months ago | Mental Health
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
Forty-year-old Lori Tipton said ecstacy saved her life.
For those of you who are not familiar, ecstasy, also known as “molly,” is a popular club drug. It is an illegal, synthetic drug.
“It is chemically similar to both stimulants and hallucinogens, producing feelings of increased energy, pleasure, emotional warmth, and distorted sensory and time perception,” reports the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
But Tipton did not take this drug recreationally or illegally. After experiencing multiple horrific events in her life, including finding her mother’s dead body along with the two bodies of the people her mother murdered (it was a murder-suicide), Tipton suffered from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for years.
I know it sounds crazy, but hear me out.
MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine) is the main ingredient in ecstasy. With two specially trained psychotherapists, Tipton underwent MDMA-assisted psychotherapy as part of a clinical trial, according to this report.
According to the report, “Unlike street drugs, which may be adulterated and unsafe, researchers use a pure, precisely dosed form of the drug.”
The therapy involves the patient taking this pure, pharmaceutical-grade dose of MDMA while under the supervision of the psychotherapists. In Tipton’s case, after taking MDMA, she laid in a quiet room with the therapists and revisited the traumas she had been through.
While under the influence of MDMA, Tipton said she was able to revisit traumatizing events “without the usual terror and panic.”
"I was able to find such empathy for myself," Tipton said.
This practice of using MDMA to treat PTSD is only available in clinical trials, however, advocates of this treatment are working to get approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) so that this therapy can be just as widely used as other forms of treatment (such as taking antidepressants).
"The problem is we haven't had a new drug to treat PTSD in over 17 years," said Dr. Sue Sisley, who was referenced in the report.
"There are certain illnesses that are just intractable and not responsive to traditional therapy, and we need to start thinking more broadly."
Tipton is not the only person who has benefitted from MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. For example, a recent clinical trial that involved more than 100 participants who underwent MDMA treatment as part of a 12-week psychotherapy course, showed that just two months after treatment 54 percent of the participants “...no longer had enough symptoms to meet the standards of a PTSD diagnosis,” according to this source.
Furthermore, “At the 12-month mark, that figure had jumped to 68 percent. And virtually every patient saw his or her symptoms reduced.”
Tipton also no longer qualifies as someone who could be diagnosed with PTSD, and this stands a year after her MDMA treatment.
It is not exactly understood why MDMA-assisted psychotherapy appears to work for some sufferers of PTSD, but it clearly does something to the brain. MDMA is a psychoactive drug that increases chemicals such as serotonin (also known as the “happy chemical”) and oxytocin (also known as the “cuddle hormone” or “love hormone”).
(So you can probably see why some people take this drug recreationally and abuse it).
“It [MDMA] also tamps down activity in the amygdala, a part of the brain that processes fear. This may lead to a state characterized by heightened feelings of safety and social connection."
"That allows patients to revisit traumatic memories and unpack those moments without triggering the same panic,” according to this report.
MDMA & Alcohol
Perhaps even more shocking and unconventional, there is research which suggests that MDMA may be effective in treating alcohol addiction. UK researchers from the Imperial College London conducted the first study exploring MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for alcoholism.
“After nine months follow up, around half of those in the small study remained ‘completely dry [sober]’ with just one suffering a full relapse. By comparison, eight in 10 of those given standard treatment to tackle alcohol addiction return to drinking within three years,” according to this report.
Risks associated with this MDMA-assisted psychotherapy?
“The controlled clinical trials conducted up to date report no persisting drug-related harm in over 850 participants…,” reports the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
(Taking ecstasy illegally and recreationally off the streets has many risks. It can even kill you, but taking a pharmaceutical-grade dose of MDMA administered by trained professionals appears to be safe. Of course, nothing is completely risk-free and always seek the advice of a competent healthcare professional).
“A potential concern in the use of MDMA as an adjunct to psychotherapy is the risk of patients misattributing therapeutic gains to medications minimizing the maintenance of improvements through psychological changes. As a consequence, the patients may be at higher risk of relapse, have more severe withdrawal symptoms and a greater loss of gains.”
Of course, you should also be aware of other ways to be proactive about PTSD, which we have previously discussed. And never forget the importance of a proper diet with a sufficient intake of essential nutrients, like vitamins and minerals. These eight minerals, found in a variety of foods, may be of some help. And one study suggested that the anti-inflammatory effect of blueberries may help with PTSD symptoms. PTSD is associated with increased oxidative stress (OS) and inflammation in the brain, so eating anti-inflammatory foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables, may help while you pursue other forms of therapy.
If you suffer from anxiety, you may also want to ask your doctor about a supplement called L-theanine.
Enjoy your healthy life!
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