The US Food and Drug Administration has given the green light for phase three trials of MDMA (ecstasy) for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This will be the final phase of validation required to turn the party drug into a legal medicine. Previous studies have shown it to be very effective for treating patients with PTSD – a debilitating mental condition that can be caused by witnessing or experiencing life-threatening events. The scientists are careful to distinguish between the pure MDMA that they are using in these trails, and what is called ‘ecstasy’ in the club scene. They point out that, “More than half of the ‘ecstasy’ available on the street contains no MDMA at all. It is usually just a mixture of much more harmful chemicals.”
Pure MDMA was originally created 40 years ago for use in family and relationship counselling, but by the mid 80’s people had started using it for recreational purposes. It became extremely popular as ‘the love drug’ and was soon made illegal. These new studies return MDMA to its original purpose. The treatment involves giving patients the drug just once a month for three months as part of long talking therapy sessions.
If these final trials go well MDMA could be legalized as soon as 2021. “Moving from phase two to phase three shows we have strong scientific reason to believe that MDMA is an effective treatment for PTSD,” said Dr Brad Burge, the leader of the study. If legalized, the drug would not be available on prescription for patients’ use at home. “People come into a clinic and receive one MDMA pill from the doctor and take it right away for their therapy session. They don’t take it home,” said Burge.