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23rd Mar 2022

MDMA is now an effective drug for PTSD, study suggests

Kieran Galpin

Similar studies have seen success in treating anxiety and depression with drugs

New research suggests that MDMA may actually be an effective drug in treating post-traumatic stress disorder, more commonly referred to as PTSD, when combined with therapy sessions.

While drugs like MDMA (methylenedioxy-methylamphetamine) are widespread in recreational use across the UK, with findings from 2019 suggesting that MDMA is the third most likely drug to be taken, the medicinal community has also researched its applications in treating an array of mental disorders.

New research from the University of California at San Francisco suggests that MDMA may actually be effective in treating PTSD when combined with talking. It is believed four in every 100 will develop PTSD at some point in their lives.

Their findings were presented to the American Chemical Society (ACS) on March 22, where lead scientist Dr Jennifer Mitchell revealed how treatment would work.

“MDMA is really interesting because it’s an empathogen,” the neurologist said. “It causes the release of oxytocin in the brain, which creates feelings of trust and closeness that can really help in a therapeutic setting.”

In the US, MDMA was made illegal in 1985, while in the UK it was banned in 1977 after a change in the Misuse of Drugs Act of 1971.

At the end of Dr Mitchell’s study, two months after the final session, roughly two-thirds of patients no longer met the criteria for PTSD compared with one-third of those who received a placebo.

Dr Jennifer Mitchell

On the recent study, Dr Nick Allen, the co-founder of Ksana Health and director of the University of Oregon’s Center for Digital Mental Health, told Healthline that: “the most intriguing is that the study is exploring how psychological and drug therapies can work together to be truly synergistic.”

Essentially, when MDMA is paired with therapy sessions, the drug helps the treatment “to work more effectively” by opening the patient up more.


“This may be because of the way MDMA can expand people’s capacity to experience empathy, which is a key component of many psychological therapies. So, both aspects are likely to be necessary components,” he added.

Similar experiments are happening more frequently in the UK, like at Kings College London where they found that “MDMA makes people cooperative, but not gullible.”

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