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My therapist gave me a pill: Can MDMA help cure trauma?

The ‘party drug’ is synonymous with rave culture, but an ambitious clinical study could prove it has the power to treat PTSD

âMy therapist gave me a pill': can MDMA help cure trauma? | Society | The Guardian

Stashed in: Brain, Awesome, Medicine, PTSD, PTSD, Mental Health, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Mental Health

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"... two and a half years ago, Alice enrolled in a clinical trial for a treatment combining psychotherapy with MDMA, near her home town of Erie, Colorado. She took 125mg of the drug, the same dose a clubber might take recreationally, three times over the course of 12 weeks. Her “trips” were accompanied by eight-hour therapy sessions. “I sat on a comfy couch and my therapist gave me a pill in a little handmade ceramic cup,” she says. “It had a ritualistic feel to it. I was terrified the first time.” Having taken the capsule, Alice was given an eye mask and headphones, and lay back listening to drum music until the drug, which she’d never taken before, kicked in.

During the session, her psychiatrist guided the conversation according to goals she had set with Alice beforehand. “I had the first few minutes of peace I’ve had in years,” Alice says, though the sessions weren’t all plain sailing. “Some parts were wonderful and others were kind of hellacious. I was super-sad and couldn’t stop crying. It was not just an automatic love drug. But I was always able to come back to feeling good.”

Alice’s recovery was astonishing. The gold-standard assessment tool for this kind of trauma is the clinician-administered PTSD scale, or Caps, which uses a lengthy questionnaire to determine the severity of a patient’s symptoms (sample question: have there been times when you felt emotionally numb or had trouble experiencing feelings like love or happiness?). Any score over 60 is “severe”. Alice’s score went from 106 to two. It’s now at zero. In other words, her PTSD is gone."

Alice is one of 136 patients who have undergone MDMA-assisted psychotherapy in trials run by the not-for-profit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (Maps), based in Santa Cruz, California. Maps was founded in 1986 by Rick Doblin, then a trainee therapist, and now an effervescent 62-year-old who has dedicated his life to studying the medical uses of psychedelic drugs, including psilocybin (magic mushrooms) and marijuana. “It’s taken 30 years to get to this point,” he says. “I’ve always known MDMA would work, but it’s been really gratifying to see such tremendous results.” He has studies nearing completion in Vancouver, Colorado, South Carolina and Israel, with plans for more in Australia.

These initial results seem promising.

But I'm unclear on what the side effects are.

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