You may know that cannabis benefits individuals with PTSD, but did you MDMA might, as well? It’s true! After clinical studies proved the drug (also known as ecstasy) to benefit veterans with PTSD, the Food and Drug Administration labeled it as a “breakthrough” treatment. A medication only receives that status when it is likely to offer significantly better results than currently available treatments. As a result, the FDA is now pushing MDMA through clinical trials so it might help soldiers recover from war-related trauma.
Right now, you’re probably wondering, “how could MDMA help PTSD?” It’s quite simple, and it’s for the same reason party-goers tend to take the drug at raves and music festivals. When MDMA enters the bloodstream, it inspires a massive release of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. All three neurotransmitters cause the user to feel euphoric. It also gives them a heightened sense of empathy and physical sensations. As Popular Science reports, the feeling of someone else’s skin might result in the recognition of deep feelings of love. Additionally, the rhythmic beats of music and aesthetically pleasing sights become captivating.
When veterans take MDMA, their brains, too, are flooded with the neurotransmitters that cause them to focus on positive feelings. In this state, it is much easier to recall traumatic memories. At the same time, the process becomes less painful.
Popular Science reports,
“Biologically speaking, every time you engage a memory, you’re re-experiencing it. The set of neurons that encodes that memory are all firing the same way they did when the memory formed. But that means you might have an opportunity to revise the memory every time you recall it: because the original neurons are firing, they’re more susceptible to making new connections or strengthening old ones. A fearful memory will stay fearful you experience the same fear all over again whenever you recall it.”
In one of the studies, 67 percent of PTSD patients showed no signs of the disease after three MDMA sessions. Only 23 percent of non-MDMA-assisted patients had similar results. In another long-term study that followed 16 people with PTSD who were unresponsive to other therapies, only two had relapses and the rest were “clinically cured.” Their improvements lasted for years.
Common counter-arguments to the use of MDMA include the concern that long-term use might change the brain’s structure. Several studies in the past have shown detrimental effects in chronic MDMA users. However, a follow-up study in 2011 argued that much of the data was flawed. The researchers looked at MDMA users without considering the fact that many ecstasy users tend to use other illicit drugs and drink large amounts of alcohol. When the scope was limited to people who only used MDMA, they found no signs of long-term damage from the drug.
While MDMA is not guaranteed to work for everyone (what substance ever does?), it may prove to be a promising therapy and help millions of people with PTSD reclaim their lives.
Now that evidence exists proving MDMA helps individuals with PTSD rewire their brains, mental health professionals are being encouraged to reconsider their outlook on the drug.
MDMA might not work for everyone (what substance ever does?), but it may help millions of people who suffer from violent flashbacks reclaim their lives.