ECSTASY could treat post-traumatic stress disorder

Ecstasy could one day be used as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

The illegal party drug, also known as MDMA, has been awarded ‘breakthrough status’ by the FDA for the treatment of the mental health condition.

This means there is substantial evidence the ‘medication’ may benefit PTSD sufferers and should therefore be developed faster as a potential treatment.

PTSD symptoms are triggered by sounds or smells that cause sufferers’ memories to come flooding back. MDMA is thought to dampen this response and allow people to overcome their trauma. 

Previous studies have demonstrated 61 out of 107 PTSD patients no longer show symptoms one year after MDMA treatment.  

Ecstasy could one day be used as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (stock)


The illegal party drug ketamine could ease depression, new research suggested earlier this month.

Patients who respond to the horse tranquilizer have greater overall activity levels days after its infusion, a study found.

Depressive episodes are partially characterized by a reduced interest in activities.

Responsive patients also sleep better the following day, the researchers from the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland found.

Ketamine is a Schedule III drug in the United States and a class B in the UK. It can legally be prescribed by doctors as a general anesthetic in humans and animals. 

‘Very good’ results so far 

The FDA has approved two Phase II trials investigating MDMA in PTSD. Phase II studies assess drug efficacy, safety and dosing.

The trials, which will cost around $25million, are funded by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) and could finish as soon as 2021.

MDMA’s potential in PTSD was first demonstrated in a 2011 US study. Since then, multiple studies have been conducted and, although unpublished, they have been reviewed by the FDA and are ‘very good’, according to MAPS’ executive director Rick Doblin.

For instance, 107 trial participants had PTSD for an average of 17.8 years, of which 90 were available to be studied 12 months later. Of these 90, 61 no longer had PTSD at the end of the studies.

Bias and funding are potential hurdles  

Yet, experts are concerned about the risk of bias in such studies as receiving MDMA may interfere with the therapy patients are also getting.

This may be particularly problematic when it comes to the Phase III trials, which compare drugs against the best available treatment and are typically the last step before approval. 

Raising the money for the trials is an additional hurdle, with only half of the $25million required being available to date. MAPS is planning to approach tech companies for donations, Mr Doblin added.

He said: ‘It’s always been the philosophy of MAPS that if we can do the work, the money will follow,’Science reported.  

In the future, MAPS hopes to conduct MDMA-PTSD trials in Europe, as well as investigating the illegal party drug for alcohol addiction.