Veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress are turning to an unconventional and potentially addictive treatment: taking the illegal drug MDMA, also known as ecstasy. According to the New York Times, a husband-and-wife team, Michael and Ann Mithoefer, recently published a paper with the Journal of Psychopharmacology outlining the results of the ecstasy treatment they use. The Mithoefers write that 15 of the 21 people they treated, using a combination of psychotherapy and ecstasy, report minor to virtually no symptoms of PTSD about ten years later.
Ecstasy induces euphoric feelings by releasing oxytocin and reducing activity in the area of the brain that is active during fearful situations. The Mithoefers, a psychiatrist and a nurse, combine traditional psychotherapy with drug use, theorizing that the drug enables people to face their trauma and talk about it without becoming overwhelmed. They begin with a series of non-drug sessions, then administer the drug and talk with the patients about the trauma while the patients are in an altered state.
The couple collaborated for the study with researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. Experts note that the preliminary data is based on a very small number of people, and the applicability to war trauma remains unknown.
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