Better known to nightclubbers as ecstasy, the euphoria-inducing drug MDMA appears to alleviate Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in war veterans, firefighters, and police officers, researchers said Wednesday.
In a trial in the United States, three different doses of the drug were tested on 26 service personnel diagnosed with the debilitating affliction after experiencing trauma in the line of duty.
Those on the two higher doses — 75 or 125 milligrammes — enjoyed greater relief of PTSD symptoms than those given the smallest dose of 30 mg, a team reported in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry.
All 26 received psychotherapy throughout the drug trial, and did not know what dose they were receiving.
A month after their second dose, 86 percent of the 75 mg group no longer met the diagnostic criteria for PTSD, said the study authors.
The figure was 58 percent for the 125 mg group and 29 percent for the 30 mg group.
In a second leg of the study, participants previously on 30 mg who had their dose upped to 100-125 mg of MDMA saw symptoms “significantly” decrease.
After one year, the severity of symptoms among the 26 remained “significantly reduced”, the researchers reported. Sixteen participants who suffered from PTSD when they joined the trial no longer met the criteria for diagnosis.
The findings suggest this “novel approach to pharmacotherapy” may help accelerate patient treatment by combining psychotherapy with a fast-acting drug “administered only a few times at monthly intervals,” said the team.
But this did not mean that people suffering from a psychiatric disorder should rush out in search of ecstasy — an illegal drug — in the hopes it will make them feel better, said the team.
MDMA treatment should only be done hand-in-hand with psychotherapy under the supervision of a qualified medical professional, they added.