Created on: January 03, 2013
A drug with deadly side-effects including lurid hallucinations and a tendency to create psychosis in its users may turn out to be the answer to a desperate prayer: the discovery of an effective therapeutic treatment for the scourge of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
A study conducted by former British MP and medical doctor, Evan Harris, found evidence the active ingredient—
MDMA—in the street drug Ecstasy (3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine) may help treat the sufferers of what once was termed "shell shock."
Ecstasy, also known as "XTC," is a popular drug especially among younger people who frequent nightclubs. Because of the stigma attached to all illegal substances only one formal study was conducted on MMDA. No follow-up study was immediately undertaken despite the promise that MDMA may be efficacious in treating certain neurologically-related disorders.
Many illegal drugs are the basis for an array of pharmaceutical drugs including heroin, cocaine and, for a time, even LSD which was used by some psychiatrists in an attempt to treat patients suffering from certain types of schizophrenia.
The initial results from the new, long-term follow-up study, primarily centered on MDMA-assisted psychotherapy as a possible treatment for patients suffering from the debilitating effects of PTSD, have confirmed the study's data that MMDA may offer an effective treatment.
Although many PTSD sufferers are men and women exposed to the ongoing stress of potentially lethal combat, others can also develop symptoms of PTSD through exposure to acute physical or psychological trauma.
The study has been given the green light to go ahead with research experiments. Many medical scientists are excited about the promise of MMDA as a treatment for PTSD and possible people who suffer from panic attacks.
A professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University, Roland Griffiths told the Reuters News Agency that "It's a potentially important, new application of use for a set of compounds that have not been available for clinical research for decades now. PTSD is an awful, awful disease."
When reminded about the social stigma placed on the illegal street drug, Griffiths responded, "I don't think we should stick our heads in the sand."
Referring to the study, Amanda Feilding, a director of the Beckley Foundation, writes in the Guardian, "Our brain imaging research complements work in progress in America into the efficacy of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy as a treatment for PTSD: the participants include war veterans, police officers and firefighters. The research is urgent because Pentagon statistics released in June show suicides among active troops running at about one per day, significantly outnumbering combat deaths."
An MDMA medical pioneer researcher, Dr. Mithoefer, told Reuters that "The use of MDMA seems to help the brain learn to process traumatic memories without becoming overwhelmed by emotion or fear." Dr. Mithoefer is an assistant professor at the University of South Carolina's medical Department of Psychiatry.
Mithoefer shared personal experiences from patients. "People have said things like, 'It's changed my relationship to my emotions.' They realize, 'I don't have to be so afraid of the fear anymore.'"
Most agree the go ahead on intensive research of MDMA for treating PTSD is groundbreaking. Many have high hopes that the debilitating disorder may be conquered, or at the very least, effectively managed.
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