MDMA, aka ecstasy, has been going through an unusual renaissance as a medical treatment as of late. No longer the subject of fringe research, serious scientific work has been done to see if the substance can be an effective treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a rising problem most notably diagnosed among veterans but that affects 8% of all Americans. Now, the FDA has taken a major step to making ecstasy a medical treatment by allowing a research team to conduct a key medical trial.
The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, or MAPS, has just gotten approval from the FDA to conduct a Phase III trial on MDMA’s effect on PTSD. On a practical level, the FDA has strong reason to do so: The Phase I and Phase II trials MAPS oversaw yielded some stunning results, with two thirds of the participants no longer meeting the criteria for PTSD by the end of the trial. The current treatment, using selective serotonin uptake inhibitors like Zoloft, has been controversial since remission rates are low and some studies found SSRIs to be barely more effective than placebos. A successful Phase III trial, which monitors participants for adverse effects and to see how well treatment works, would effectively open the door to psychiatrists being able to prescribe MDMA legally.
Needless to say, that doesn’t mean everybody will be doing legal ecstasy tomorrow. MAPS is only studying the result of taking a few doses in the presence of a therapist as a way to assist talk therapy, and only advocates for it in a clinical setting. The earliest it might be available is 2021, and while the Drug Enforcement Administration has shown a surprising willingness to allow studies to be performed, it’s not clear how the current political climate might affect research into what many people still view as a “party drug.” Still, PTSD is a debilitating mental illness (that can affect anybody), and it’s increasingly clear that many are putting practicality ahead of politics.
(Via The Verge)