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M.D.M.A. : A Breatkthrough in P.T.S.D. Treatment

My game plan is to research, condense my findings, and translate it into everyday language for busy people.



What if taking ecstasy under the supervision of medical doctors was actually good for you? There has been research put into the use of ecstasy for the treatment of P.T.S.D. that has produced such good results that it is being called a "breakthrough treatment" and has been showing much medicinal value and potential. For people who often do not show improvement by traditional means of treatment for P.T.S.D. this ground breaking new form of treatment for the disease can have life saving implications.

Challenges of Modern Day Treatment of P.T.S.D.

Typically when someone is diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder the first thing that is recommended is psychotherapy. However, often this treatment has limitations in its effectiveness. One of the difficulties may be when comorbidity exits. Comorbidity means more than one condition exists at the same time. For example, depression and post traumatic stress disorder sometimes occur at the same time. Often psychiatric medications are prescribed. However, these have their limitations too. A new approach that has had some hopeful outcomes is the combination of psychedelic drugs along with psychotherapy. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has had good results with 2 psychedelics. There are several psychedelics presently being tested for their ability to help treatment of P.T.S.D.

The Challenges

Due to the fact that P.T.S.D. is a complicated disorder that comes with multiple neurobiological alterations, the use of the drugs paraxetine and setraline along with exposure-based psychotherapy are commonly used to treat P.T.S.D. Yet, for some people this treatment has serious limitations in its effectiveness. What mental health professionals do is try to get the person to relive the trauma and have a cognitive framework for change. This benefits many people. However 40 to 60 % of people do not respond to this type of treatment. Some people have problems with emotional detachment, remembering fragments of traumatic events, and cutting the session short due to not having emotional capacity to re-experience traumatic events. It is especially hard for those who associate guilt or shame with these emotions.


The Benefit of Psychedelic Drugs

What psychedelic drugs do is help the people who are suffering with problems with therapy and drugs to treat P.T.S.D. They facilitate therapy by diminishing fear and arousal and allow the patient to relive these traumatic events without the negative emotions like shame, guilt, fear, and hyperarousal. One of these psychedelics is commonly known as ecstasy, or compound 3, 4-methylenedioxmethamphetamine often abbreviated as M.D.M.A. The benefits of M.D.M.A., assisted therapy are:

  • reduces fear response to stimuli that causes anxiety
  • enhances introspection
  • increases personal trust
  • facilitates imaginal exposure, cognitive restructuring, and corrective attachment.

But these properties do not fully explain the sense of empathy towards self and openness to engage in self reflection. People taking M.D.M.A. report feelings of energy, well-being, empathy, transcendence, and sensory pleasure, and these are optimal conditions for engaging or processing of difficult or traumatic material."

— Dr. Rachel Yehuda, Ph.D. Director of Mount Sinais Traumatic Studies Division

"Breakthrough Treatment"

M.D.M.A. first got attention in the 1970's when more than one psychologist used it alongside psychotherapy. It was in 1988 that it got a reputation as a party drug. After this, it was placed on schedule one of the Controlled Substances Act by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. This made it an illegal substance. In 2010 it started being tested for the treatment of P.T.S.D. It was being tested for helping alcohol dependency and for social anxiety in autistic adults in 2019. It was in 2017 that the F.D.A. claimed that the designated M.D.M.A.- assisted therapy psychotherapy was a "breakthrough therapy" for the treatment of P.T.S.D. There are presently several sites in the U.S., Canada, and Israel with Phase 3 trials. In several European countries phase two trials are occurring. The F.D.A. may approve M.D.M.A. assisted therapy as soon as 2022.


History of Trials of M.D.M.A.

In Spain, from 2000 to 2002 the very first clinical trial for the use of M.D.M.A.-assisted psychotherapy was done involving six women who were suffering from chronic P.T.S.D. due to sexual assault. It was shown that P.T.S.D. was diminished in these women. However, due to the group being small, it did not allow for statistical analysis. The main conclusion that was derived from this was that the M.D.M.A.-assisted therapy was both physically and psychologically safe. In 2010, another study was done that proved that 83 % of patients who were given M.D.M.A.-assisted therapy showed that they no longer met the criteria to be diagnosed with P.T.S.D. Only 25 % of the placebo group had these results. Following these people three to five years later, the results were still the same. In 2018, a study showed similar results and that the M.D.M.A. patients had an increase in post traumatic growth. In 2019, another study was done that revealed after two sessions the M.D.M.A. group had a percentage of 54.2% that no longer met the diagnosis of P.T.S.D. while the placebo group had 22.6 %. Military veteran Virgil Huston was prescribed antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication by the V.A. for years after deploying in the Iraq war. Nothing helped. He heard of M.A.P.S. (Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies) and decided to give M.D.M.A. a try. He figured out it allowed him to process difficult memories and then have them go back to a part of the brain where they no longer bothered him anymore. M.A.P..S. was founded in 1986 and is a 501 non profit research and educational organization.



In conclusion, there are many benefits to using M.D.M.A. assisted therapy for survivors of P.T.S.D. not just of war but of sexual assault, child abuse, and other traumatic events. This is a breakthrough treatment that could facilitate therapy for many different people coming from many walks of life. This ground breaking research should continue as it is having promising results and providing much hope for devastating illnesses.

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