Psychedelic compound in ecstasy moves closer to approval to treat PTSD

May 1, 2017

By Amy Maxmen

Psychologists have occasionally given people psychedelic drugs such as LSD or magic mushrooms to induce altered states, in an attempt to treat mental illness. Today, many of those drugs are illegal, but if clinical trials testing their efficacy yield positive results, a handful could become prescription medicines in the next decade. The furthest along in this process is MDMA — a drug sold illegally as ecstasy or Molly — which is showing promise in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Last week, at the Psychedelic Science 2017 conference in Oakland, California, researchers presented unpublished results from phase II trials involving a total of 107 people diagnosed with PTSD. The trial treatment involved a combination of psychotherapy and MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine). The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reviewed these data in November, which were not released to the public at the time. The agency recommended that the researchers move forward with phase III trials, the final stage before potential approval of the drug.

At the conference, researchers affiliated with the non-profit organization that is sponsoring the trials, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) in Santa Cruz, California, presented some of their latest resutls. They used a cinically validated scale that assesses PTSD symptoms such as frequency of nightmares and anxiety levels. More than one year after two or three sessions of MDMA-assisted therapy, about 67% of participants no longer had the illness, according to that scale. About 23% of the control group — who received psychotherapy and a placebo drug — experienced the same benefit.

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One comment on “Psychedelic compound in ecstasy moves closer to approval to treat PTSD”

  • There’s an interesting article in the current New Scientist magazine about human personality.

    Apparently psilocybin (from magic mushrooms) can have a permanent, or at least long term, affect on personality.

    I’ve head that some MMA fighters have been taking micro-doses to enable them to ‘see things before they happen’. Not so much supernatural powers, but more of a Bruce Lee type state of ‘flow’, occasionally experienced in athletic and other performances.

    Of more relevance is that people who score very high on the openness trait on the Big Five personality analysis tools tend to already be like this anyway. i.e. Taking magic mushrooms pretty much just puts anyone in the same state as someone who is highly ‘open’ in personality dimensions. Which pretty much includes more or less anyone who is seriously interested in science, or creative thinking or activities.

    Gist of it is that highly open people (or some druggies) tend to be able to switch foreground and background, drop normal mental filters and accept much more sensory input (if only briefly) than would normally be relevant in any situation. They literally can ‘see’ more in any visual perception. Probably same applies to other senses. Perhaps experiencing jamais vu more frequently, where the mind seeks more connections to realign familiarity etc. Occasionally having a distorted sense of time, where everything seems to slow down – seeming to allow more opportunity for the mind to analyse the big picture of what’s happening in a rapidly changing or otherwise confusing or ambiguous situation.

    It might not necessarily be a good thing. One idea being that in a situation of extreme threat then every available signal in the internal or external environment becomes relevant and salient simultaneously. Perhaps that’s the connection with PTSD? The threat detection system is somehow chronically or acutely overloaded via hormonal and other signals, but never quite turns off. A bit like chronic, systemic, low-level inflammation – which is now believed to be a major factor in chronic disease, especially depression and other brain disturbances.

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