PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder is an often disabling condition suffered by many veterans of military service and others who have had highly stressful experiences. This condition has not had a truly effective treatment for severe cases until the recent emergence of psychedelic medicines such as MDMA emerged as a successful alternative in recent years. How does MDMA work for treating PTSD? This synthetic drug known for its street names, molly and ecstasy, is effective as an adjutant for treating PTSD in much smaller doses than used for traditional treatment with antidepressants.
What Is MDMA?
MDMA stands for 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine. This drug was first synthesized in 1912 and was briefly used to improve the results of psychotherapy in the 1970s. Due to the recreational use of MDMA and other psychedelics research into the use of this drug stopped and only resumed in recent years. MDMA is taken by mouth. It starts to work within half to three-quarters of an hour and its effects last for up to six hours. MDMA helps users recall traumatic events in their lives with less anxiety than otherwise experienced.
What Is PTSD?
PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder is a condition in which someone who experiences a traumatic or terrifying event is never able to escape from repeatedly reliving that event. Severe cases can last for a lifetime and are a major root cause of suicide, especially in veterans of military service. Individuals who have PTSD experience flashbacks to traumatic events. These flashbacks are triggered by events in the person’s current life and commonly not all that related to past events. Sufferers from PTSD are often depressed and anxious as well.
Psychotherapy Treatment of PTSD
Successful treatment of PTSD involves helping those who suffer from this condition sort out past events from current triggering factors. Those who succeed are able to put the past back in the past and get on with living their daily lives without the trauma of suffering through past events again and again. The problem in severe cases of PTSD is that when the person tries to recall past trauma they experience severe anxiety, depression, and confusion. One of the keys to success in in treatment is a strong bond with the therapist. This is difficult to obtain when every attempt to bring up and address past events is accompanied by renewed emotional trauma.
MDMA Improves Effectiveness of Psychotherapy
For mild cases of PTSD psychotherapy, so-called “talk therapy” is effective. However, in severe cases of PTSD the mere attempt to bring up past trauma brings back memories of that trauma full force. While there are antidepressants and other medications that are of some use for assisting in psychotherapy none is a surefire cure. However, psychedelics like MDMA are not only helpful but help in just one or two doses and the benefits last for years. MDMA reduces the anxiety that emerges when a PTSD sufferer recalls past trauma. With less anxiety acting as mental static the individual is able to remember more, remember more clearly, and gain insight into what happened and how that is affecting life in the present. Because painful memories are less threatening the patient and therapist are able to have substantially more successful therapy sessions. Because of the success of MDMA in treating PTSD it has been tried (also with success) in treating alcohol and drug use disorders.
It is important to realize that MDMA by itself is not the cure to PTSD. Rather MDMA is an important adjunct to psychotherapy. Unlike with recreational use where a person is exposed to random and typically confusing stimuli the use of MDMA in a therapeutic setting focuses on the task of breaking the bonds created by past trauma and does so in a setting designed to achieve therapeutic success. Unlike with the use of antidepressants as therapy for PTSD, one does not need to take pills every day for years. Rather, a single dose is taken prior to therapy and may be all that the patient ever needs. There is research evidence that one dose of MDMA along with psychotherapy sessions can be effective for as long as six years.
At No Fallen Heroes we are excited about the prospects of more use of MDMA as adjunctive therapy for PTSD both to treat this condition and to reduce and eventually eliminate veteran suicide.