Posted on November 21, 2012 · Posted in Brain Injury

It sounds hard to believe, but the club drug Ecstasy is showing promise as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to The New York Times.

A South Carolina husband-and-wife team this week published a paper in the Journal of Psychopharmacology about their treatment, which employs psychotherapy and MDMA, namely Ecstasy. That drug makes people feel euphoria, as well as affection for those around them.

In their research, psychiatrist Michael Mithoefer and his wife Ann, a nurse, reported that 15 of 21 people they used their treatment on in the early 2000s still report no symptoms of PTSD, The Times said. Word has spread about the couple and their treatment, and they have been inundated by hundreds of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who are looking to escape  the PTSD that they are suffering from.

The patients that the Mithoefers wrote about were mainly rape victims. And the group was small. So it remains unclear whether the combination of Ecstasy and therapy would even help most veterans, according to The Times.

But for combat veterans seeking any way to alleviate their PTSD, it offers a ray of hope.

The Mithoefers plan to test their therapy and MDMA on 24 veterans. The Times interviewed some of the patients involved in the prior test, and they said that the drug “produced a mental sweet spot that allowed them to feel and talk about their trauma without being overwhelmed by it,” The Times wrote.

It’s believed that Ecstasy causes the hormone oxytocin to be released, which increases “sensations of trust and love,” according to The Times.

“The  drug also seems to tamp down activity in a brain region called the amygdala, which flares during fearful, threatening situations,” The Times wrote.

One Iraq veteran who underwent the treatment told the newspaper he was finally able to think about and talk about an incident where Iraqis “posing as allies” turned their guns on American soldiers, killing some. That veteran said he no longer suffers from PTSD.


About the Author

Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice :: 800-992-9447