A New “Breakthrough Therapy” for PTSD Could Soon Be Ready

MDMA assisted psychotherapy could be approved in the US and Canada early as 2021.


A young woman pours the pills out of the bottle

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A third and final round of clinical trials for MDMA assisted psychotherapy will soon begin in Vancouver, paving the way for Canada and the United States to become the first countries to approve the drug for therapeutic use as early as 2021.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) designated MDMA as a “breakthrough therapy” for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in August 2017.

Conventional PTSD treatments can last anywhere from several years to an entire lifetime with only 10 to 15 percent of people actually recovering from their trauma.

MDMA-assisted therapy on the other hand usually takes less than four months with two-thirds of participants reporting to be free of PTSD symptoms one year after treatment.

The therapy consists of three eight-hour sessions in which the participant takes MDMA, and 12 sessions without the drug. The entire process spans about three-and-a-half months.

MDMA, or 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine, better known under its street-name ecstasy, is a so-called empathogen, meaning that it stimulates togetherness and trust among users.

The drug also inhibits activity in the brain that treats fear and stimulates hormones that make people feel more connected - a great precondition for successful PTSD treatment.

"For the first time in years I was able to open up and talk painlessly," Ed Thompson, a former PTSD sufferer who took part in the second round of trials told CTV. "The fear, the barriers were removed and I was able to talk to these people."

Researchers in Canada, the United States, and Israel are currently working to prove that MDMA has strong therapeutic purposes. In the United States, the FDA has greenlit a third round of clinical trials, which could be launched in the spring and continue into 2021, meaning PTSD sufferers could get much-needed and effective therapy in as early as three years.

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