Clinical Study of MDMA Confirms Benefits Noted by Therapists Before It Was Banned

A pilot study of MDMA (a.k.a. Ecstasy) as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, reported online today in the Journal of Psychpharmacology, suggests the drug can be a useful adjunct to psychotherapy. The researchers, led by South Carolina psychiatrist Michael Mithoefer, randomly assigned "twenty patients with chronic posttraumatic stress disorder" to receive either MDMA or a placebo while participating in two eight-hour "experimental psychotherapy sessions." As measured by a "Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale," 83 percent of the subjects who received MDMA showed statistically significant improvement, compared to 25 percent of the controls. No negative reactions were observed. Mithoefer and his co-authors conclude that "MDMA-assisted psychotherapy can be administered to posttraumatic stress disorder patients without evidence of harm, and it may be useful in patients refractory to other treatments."

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, which supported the study, notes:

Before MDMA became used recreationally under the street name Ecstasy, hundreds of psychiatrists and psychotherapists around the world administered MDMA as a catalyst to psychotherapy. MDMA was criminalized in the US in 1985...Several decades later, this study is the first completed randomized, double-blinded clinical trial to evaluate MDMA as a therapeutic adjunct in any patient population.

Previous Reason coverage of the Mithoefer study here, here, and here.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Fluffy||

    But it might make people have fun.

    And young people might listen to music and have sex.

    And those things must be stopped at all costs!

  • ||

    But it might make people have fun

    That's why heroin is not used as a painkiller.

  • ||

    Those young people are having all the imaginary sex and orgies that I wanted to have as a young person, but that no one has in reality! Damn kids!

  • Warty||

    Are you telling me that Ecstasy causes rainbow parties?

  • ||

    In a prosecutor's horny, bitter mind it does, and that's what counts!

  • ||

    Ecstasy doesn't make people horny. It might make them trust a stranger they meet at a rave to take them home though.

  • kilroy||

    That's good to hear. For a minute I thought it was a choice between stressed war vets and horny war vets...

  • ||

    It could mean a non-stressed war vet who gets taken home by a shaman and inducted into some kind of hippie love cult, though.

    Then five years later he's calling himself Po and drinking the koolaid.

  • skr||

    Po will be making noodles

  • Warty||

  • jtuf||

    Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies

    Awe. Why does it have to be on the West Coast? *Sigh* I guess I'll eventually find the right research center for me.

  • ||

    You can give speed to a fighter pilot for use during a mission, But you can't give PSTD vets Ecstasy.

  • kilroy||

    Ecstasy is good for Dyslexia too. Get some.

  • ||

    I can totally believe this. It definitely does relieve anxiety and make you feel all right with yourself and the world and whatever may have happened to you in the past.

    As someone who has experimented with drugs in a responsible way I wouldn't recommend it for recreational use, though. It dangerously impairs your judgement of risk, and it may cause significant long-term brain damage if used chronically.

    Wouldn't recommend heroin as a painkiller either. I'd prefer something that leaves less risk of turning me into a heroin junkie.

  • ||

    How often do you have to use it to be considered chronic, lol.

    From my experience anymore than once or twice a week ruined it a bit anyway.

  • Neu Mejican||

    I have seen some pretty burned out folks resulting from chronic use 3-5 days a week.

  • ||

    I'd say anything over once every two weeks is too much.

  • johnl||

    Using H for pain management, in the context of a lot of pain, has virtually 0 risk of leading to addiction. Maybe you were joking. But there are confused people all over the USA in profound pain because they do not want to be "addicted" to pain killers.

  • ||

    Which is truth and which is falsehood?

    H and coke manipulate your dopamine levels directly, which make them more inherently habit forming. I dont know why lots of pain would change that.

  • BakedPenguin||

    There is a difference between tolerance and addiction. When there is no euphoria, you won't become addicted. This is why most pain patients don't become addicted to painkillers.

  • ||

    That assumes that the only aspect of the drug which affects your reward/motivation system is the euphoria.

  • Neu Mejican||

    That doesn't jibe with the concept of physiological addiction to opiates. The addiction is marked by physical symptoms upon withdrawal of use. Those don't depend upon the euphoria.

    Tolerance is a separate, but related issue.

  • johnl||

    The physical symptoms of withdrawal are nothing for anyone using the drug in a supervised situation to worry about. For recreational users, especially those trying to hide their use from their families, it is a problem.

  • Unthinking Person||

    I have never gotten reliable information from the government on any drug. You just have to observe its effects on other people and if you are brave on yourself.

    The government seems particularly afraid of psychedelics/entheogens. There are many theories as to why, but the potential benefit of these drugs ought to outweigh the fear that the public will lose control.

  • ||

    Not getting this from the government. Getting it from a senior level neurobiology class I just took.

  • ||

    Oh and personal experience. X makes you think that anything and everything is safe, because it will all be okay in the end, no matter what.

  • objector||

    It never did that to me. It didn't make me feel gushy about people I didn't already know, trust, and like either.

  • ||

    Hazel: What? No it doesn't. What it does is make you feel like you are a worthwhile person, and to feel empathy and love, and want to get to know people and get along with them. Sounds like you have been misinformed.

  • SIV||

    Fuck that
    Drugs are fun.You'll never know if a drug is for you unless you try it.

    Don't want to turn into a junkie? Don't use it every day, or at least not first thing in the morning.Past experience indicates I am totally immune from opiate withdrawal but for those of you who aren't' it's not usually any worse than the flu.

  • skr||

    The best piece of advice I got regarding coke was,"only get as much as you can use in a night and don't have any left in the morning." I had some left one night and then on Saturday morning I though, "I could go for a little pick me up." I was jonesing the rest of the day. Fuck that.

  • skr||

    thought even

  • ||

    only get as much as you can use in a night and don't have any left in the morning

    Bingo. Because you're going to want some the next morning, but it's not too bad, and by the end of the day you're OK. But if you have some the next morning...

  • ev||

    Absolutely my experience.

  • Stephen||

    "No negative reactions were observed."

    How about the crippling depression and memory loss that occur in the next few days after administration? I've eaten quite a bit of molly in my day, and I think it should be legal and all, but I'm not really buying this therapeutic ecstasy stuff.

    http://www.urbandictionary.com.....le+tuesday

  • ||

    They may have been using low-level controlled doses.

  • ||

    "How about the crippling depression and memory loss that occur in the next few days after administration?

    Hmm, I've probably done E over a 100 times, and never noticed any memory loss, or depression. Although, I will admit that you are usually tired the next day, but then again you did stay up all night dancing.

    The only things I've done that IMO had really bad effects were speed (too much paranoia, and I don't need to be up for 3 days) and the horrible combo of speed and acid.

  • ||

    Speed and acid is the worst trip I ever had. Absolutely, monstrously awful. I hate the shitheads who put speed in acid and don't tell you.

  • ||

    I didn't say I didn't do it on purpose, I said it was a horrible idea.

  • BakedPenguin||

    I doubt I'm telling anyone here anything new, but many psychedelics are amphetamines. MDMA, MDA (and all of the analogs), STP, etc.

    I haven't taken LSD in 22 years, but I remember it giving an amphetamine-like speedy feeling. It was blotter, so I don't think the baker or dealer could have added enough speed to have a noticeable effect.

  • ||

    MDMA is related to amphetamines, but LSD is not. I've had utterly clean acid and there's no speedy effect whatsoever, same with shrooms. Why anyone would add speed to acid is beyond me, but they do.

  • ||

    It's a cheap and easily accessible thing to cut with it to make more money?

  • ||

    I'm not sure if speed is cheaper than acid. I remember when you could get a sheet of blotter for $300-500, so that's 100 hits. That's a LOT of acid.

    For $300 you could get what, a quarter to a half ounce of speed, (depending on quality). A couple of people could do that up pretty quick.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Hmm, I've probably done E over a 100 times, and never noticed don't remember any memory loss, or depression.

    Teehee.
    I found it to leave a general malaise and noticable short term memory challenges. And a sore jaw from teeth grindng.

  • ||

    Yes, I've had plenty of sore jaws, or even small lacerations in the mouth. Warning, doen't use listerine when you have those, lol.

  • Unthinking Person||

    As a teenager I drank beer then wine one night and I began barfing that night and continued barfing the next day. Plus I had a headache and I felt depressed.

    In college I started barfing blood so I had to give up on beer and Jack Daniels for a while. And I was depressed the next day after barfing blood and my stomach hurt.

  • ||

    Personally, it leaves me with severe feelings of depression immediately upon the comedown.

    Like hate-myself-and-want-to-die kind of depression. Then 2-3 days of general malaise and short-term memory loss.

  • skr||

    wow crazy. Don't do e. Never had that experience and I consumed quite a bit. There is also always the possibility of stepped on shit. Discussions such as these are always a PITA b/c you can never be sure the other person was actually taking what they think they were taking. (not saying that is the case here just mentioning it.)

  • ||

    "Crippling depression and memory loss?"

    Not in my experience. More like a day of general lethargy, a notable lack of appetite, and feeling a little slow in the gulliver.

    And I certainly don't recall having ever experienced any memory loss...

  • ||

    short term memory loss ...

    as in ... walkign into the kitchen to get a spoon and the forgetting why you went into the kitchen.
    Not like you forget what happened on E. You just feel kinda like you're getting early alzheimers for a few days.

  • ||

    "short term memory loss ...

    as in ... walkign into the kitchen to get a spoon and the forgetting why you went into the kitchen."

    I included that phenomenon under "slow in the gulliver".

    However I feel it happens to me all the time, regardless of substance use.

  • ev||

    Man. I'm immune to E. Twice I've been with a group of friends and we all took two hits. Everyone else is writing on the ground and dancing and laughing. I felt maybe a tingle which was probably placebo-induced.

    I got upset, drove to my dude's place and got some blow. GOt pulled over on the ride home but didn't get caught.

    Being an unassuming white boy has helped me many times in my life.

  • cynical||

    Wouldn't memory loss be considered therapeutic for people with traumatizing memories (if the older memories were subject to the effect)?

  • Neu Mejican||

    Yes.

  • ||

    Some douchebag federal prosecutor is preparing arrest warrants as we speak.

  • hmm||

    But it causes people, kids, to die of thirst. THINK OF THE KIDS. Why do you hate the kids.

  • ||

    Why do you hate the kids.

    Because they remind me of a time when I didn't want the world to die a fiery death. Also, they're better at videogames than I am.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Just peaked at the "PILOT" study: n=20.

    Not sure I would go as far as saying it "confirmed" anything. "Suggests" would be about as strong a statement as you can make here.

    From the researchers:

    This study has several limitations and should be considered only a preliminary step toward exploring MDMA as a possible therapeutic adjunct.
  • Robert||

    Still, 83% vs. 25% is huge. How often does any kind of drug produce effects that widely?

  • ||

    You're right. The study is worthless, because it doesn't tell us anything that anyone who has already tried the drug doesn't already know.

    Yes, it's a wonder drug.

  • ||

  • ||

    (and my comments)
    "I was a pastor on crack cocaine, sir,” said Mr. Allen,"

    Oh I see because you had a problem with drugs, we should throw millions of other young people in prison because they smoke a bit of marijuana? Doesn't prison ruin lives too?


    "Ms. Harris, who is running for state attorney general, issued a statement saying that the proposition would encourage “driving-while-
    high,” and drugs in the workplace"

    Wait, so does alcohol legalization encourage driving while drunk, or drinking in the workplace?


    "“How stupid to think that by legalizing a vice it’s going to help the situation,” said Darryl B. Heath, pastor of St. John Baptist Missionary Baptist Church in Sacramento. “This is not a game. A whole generation is at stake.” "

    But legalization DID help the situation with alcohol. It ended all of the alcohol fueled gang violence (Coors and Miller don't kill each other over territory) and it stopped locking people up for doing something that's none of the government's business in the first place.

    Is doing drugs the best thing in the world for you, probably not. But their problems are FAR less than those associated with being thrown in prison. At least our last three presidents have all smoked marijuana (and Obama and probably Bush both did coke as well) and yet they went on to be president.

    It's time to stop this nanny statism, and let people be responsible for their own actions. Stop locking people up people for making the choice to get high in the privacy of their own homes. We've wasted billions of dollars and millions of lives in a failed war on drugs that hasn't significantly effected demand. People still get high, and they always will. Funny how quick people are to give up freedom when it allows them to stick their nose into their neighbors business. How DARE they get high and have fun. And what's with this new rock music they are playing.

    Oh and one last thing, kids report that it's easier to by marijuana than alcohol. Apparently drug dealers don't card. So in our need to pursue some fantasy puritan/authoritarian utopia, we've actually made ie EASIER for kids to get high. Good freaken job statists.

    Bottom line is this. Legalization will increase freedom, increase tax revenues, reduce prison populations, and reduce drug money fueled gang violence (that has almost caused a civil war in Mexico, and is causing us to lose the war on terror in Afghanistan). It's time for a change.

  • Sigmund Freud||

    There is a fundamental tension between society and the individual. You libertarians must learn to live with your discontents. People become neurotic because they cannot tolerate the frustration which society imposes in the service of its cultural ideals. I explain all in "Civilization and Its Discontents"

    You should read my book:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C.....iscontents

  • johnl||

    I've seen a troubled teenager on E become an angel who dotes on kids. I am sure this could compliment talk therapy.

  • ||

    Believable. E makes you love and trust everyone, and want to take care of them.

  • skr||

    and the effect can last for a long time. hmmm, instead of giving prisoners saltpeter....

  • ||

    You are assuming that loving and trusting *everyone* unconditionally is actually a good thing.

    There are lots of circumstances where it isn't. E short-circuits a lot of really helpful, useful, warning lights. Like your asshole alert detector.

  • ||

    No, it doesn't do anything of the sort. Please stop parroting the nonsense you learned in school from other people who also don't have a clue. Give it a try yourself--it won't hurt. In fact you'll see pretty quickly why this study showed a 60% increase in effectiveness vs placebo.

  • Aging Hippie||

    OT but here goes: Have any of you freaks tried Salvia Divinorum?

    I would appreciate any thoughts or observations. Young people today just aren't using the same kind of drugs we used back in my day.

  • ||

    There was a thread on a few months back ...

    http://reason.com/blog/2010/04.....n-rolls-on

  • ||

  • Aging Hippie||

    Thanks, I manged to find those on my own.

    Apparently Salvia leaves people wondering what DMT would be like, or wishing they could be guided through some kind of chewing the Sage ceremony by some friendly Mazatecs.

    No possibility for recreational use though. Could there be a possible link with terrorism and Salvia use?

  • zoltan||

    Young people today like their doggies and don't want them shot.

  • Aging Hippie||

    Don't understand your nomenclature son.

    Is doggie some kind of Saliva slang?

  • دردشة||

    thank u

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement