71.2% of the people in the MDMA-assisted therapy group no longer met the diagnosis for PTSD
MDMA (3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine) is not considered a classic psychedelic, but rather is categorized as a phenethylamine due to its chemical structure. MDMA is commonly referred to as an empathogen (to induce empathy for oneself and others) or an entactogen (to get in touch within).
Alexander (Sasha) Shulgin, an American medicinal chemist, biochemist, organic chemist, pharmacologist, psychopharmacologist, and author, is credited with introducing MDMA, (commonly known as "ecstasy") to psychologists in the late 1970s. MDMA was highly effective for couples therapy, until it “jumped the lab” into the rave scene. In 1985 the DEA declared an emergency ban on MDMA, placing it on the list of Schedule I drugs, defined as substances with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.
Due to the unique pharmacology of MDMA, this medicine has shown to be highly effective in treating PTSD. When used with the proper guidance and protocols, MDMA is among one of the safest substances, and holds a tremendous amount of therapeutic benefit.
The confirmatory findings for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) Phase 3 trials, published Sept. 13, 2023, in the journal Nature Medicine, demonstrate that by the end of the 18-week trial period, 71.2% of the people in the MDMA-assisted therapy group no longer met the diagnostic criteria for PTSD, versus 47.6% of those in the therapy-plus-placebo group. MDMA produced no serious, adverse side effects.
The trial, which included a diverse pool of participants, validates an earlier Phase 3 study and is the final step in clinical drug testing. This puts MDMA, used in conjunction with therapy to treat PTSD, on track to be the first psychedelic to seek approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
David Nutt's harm scale is a widely cited ranking system that compares the harmfulness of various drugs based on a range of criteria, including physical harm, dependence, and social harm. According to this scale, alcohol and tobacco are ranked among the most harmful drugs, whereas MDMA is ranked relatively low in terms of harm.
Regarding the safety profile of MDMA compared to alcohol and tobacco, it is well established that both alcohol and tobacco have negative impacts on health and can cause a range of physical and mental health problems. In contrast, MDMA has a relatively low risk of physical harm and a favorable safety profile when used under guidance.
MDMA and PTSD
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can develop after a traumatic event, such as military combat, sexual assault, or a natural disaster. Research suggests that psychedelic substances, such as psilocybin (found in magic mushrooms) may help alleviate symptoms of PTSD by allowing patients to process traumatic experiences in a therapeutic and controlled setting, leading to a reduction of symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and flashbacks.
Studies have shown that psychedelics can produce a profound shift in perspective and help patients gain new insights into their experiences, leading to a reduction in the emotional intensity of traumatic memories. They also appear to increase neuroplasticity and the brain's ability to create new connections, which can help rewire the brain to reduce symptoms of PTSD.
MDMA, also known as 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, has shown great promise in clinical trials as a potential treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The effectiveness of MDMA in treating PTSD is thought to be a result of its unique pharmacological properties and how it impacts the brain and therapeutic process.
Enhanced Emotional Processing: MDMA is known to increase the release of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine in the brain. This results in heightened emotional openness and increased empathy, which can facilitate the therapeutic process. In the context of PTSD, it allows individuals to revisit and process traumatic memories with reduced fear and anxiety, which can be difficult with traditional therapies.
Fear Extinction: One key aspect of PTSD is the persistence of fear and anxiety associated with traumatic memories. MDMA may aid in the extinction of these fear-based responses. It appears to reduce the activity of the amygdala, the brain region responsible for processing fear and emotional memory, while enhancing activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in rational thinking and decision-making. This combination can help individuals confront their traumatic memories in a more controlled and less fear-inducing manner.
Enhanced Trust and Communication: MDMA also has the potential to enhance trust and communication within therapeutic settings. Patients often report feeling more connected to their therapists and being more open to discussing difficult and deeply-rooted emotional issues. This can facilitate the therapeutic relationship and lead to more effective treatment.