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FDA Approves Ecstasy Clinical Trial To Treat PTSD

Nov 30, 2016 09:37 PM EST

C. J. Hardin toured Iraq and Afghanistan three times, which gave him  post-traumatic stress disorder.  He had tried almost all acceptable treatments for PTSD.

"Nothing worked for me, so I put aside the idea that I could get better.  I just pretty much became a hermit in my cabin and never went out," Hardin said. 

In 2013, he joined a small drug testing trial for Methylenedioxy methamphetamine (MDMA) as PTSD treatment, and Hardin said the trial helped him.  "It changed my life.  It allowed me to see my trauma without fear or hesitation and finally process things and move forward."

FDA Approved Clinical Trial To Test MDMA Effectiveness On PTSD

Illegal party drug Methylenedioxy methamphetamine (MDMA), better known as ecstasy, has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to be used in a Phase 3 clinical trial to treat people with PTSD, based on the result story of people like Hardin.  If the trial is successful, it could mean a final step for the possible approval of Ecstasy as a prescription drug. 

Research has shown that ecstasy uses causes the brain to flood hormones and neurotransmitters that evoke feelings of trust and well-being, while muting fear and negative emotions.  Patients said using ecstasy during the trial gave them clarity and the ability to address their problems.

Dr. Charles R. Marmar, the head of psychiatry at New York University's Langone School of Medicine, a leading PTSD researcher who was not involved in the study, said: "I'm cautious but hopeful.  If they can keep getting good results, it will be of great use. PTSD can be very hard to treat. Our best therapies right now don't help 30 to 40 percent of people. So we need more options."

Some Experts Raise Concerns Over The Approval

Othe scientists worry that FDA's move could encourage people to use the drug recreationally, even in controlled circumstances.   Andrew Parrott, a psychologist at Swansea University in Wales who has studied the brains of chronic Ecstasy users said: "It sends the message that this drug will help you solve your problems, when often it just creates problems.  This is a messy drug we know can do damage."

The clinical trial for ecstasy will involve at least 230 patients, and if the results continue to be promising, the drug could be used for PTSD treatment in 2021. 

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