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.