MDMA, commonly known as “Ecstasy” or “Molly,” is a synthetic compound that increases the release of hormones associated with trust and bonding while decreasing activity in the brain associated with fear and traumatic memory. The user, rather than reliving trauma and remaining paralyzed by it, can instead process and make peace with the trauma in a supportive, trusting environment.
MDMA and PTSD
Much like LSD in the 60s, in the 80s MDMA went from being a substance with unprecedented psychotherapeutic promise—an estimated half a million doses were given to patients in therapy settings between 1977 and 1985—to one seen as dangerous due its use in recreational settings, in particular the all-night dance parties known as raves. But the “Ecstasy” or “Molly” found on the street is rarely if ever pure MDMA and often contains other chemicals that can indeed cause the user harm.
Meanwhile, psychedelic-assisted therapy using pure MDMA has shown some of the most promising results when it comes to treating symptoms of PTSD.
The results of a pilot study sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) that was published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in 2010 showed that 83% of the subjects who received MDMA-assisted psychotherapy no longer met the criteria for PTSD. And the overall benefits of the therapy were still being felt by patients nearly four years later.
With that in mind, MAPS in March of 2016 completed the final experimental session of its Phase 2 clinical trials of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for the treatment of PTSD (MAPS has made funding its MDMA-assisted clinical trials for the treatment of PTSD its highest-priority project). In November of that year, the FDA gave MAPS the green light to begin Phase 3 clinical trials. The organization’s goal is to get MDMA approved as a prescription medicine by the FDA by 2021. The stories of some of the veterans who have participated, or will soon participate in these studies, is a vital element in our film.
Learn more about MAPS’ research into MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD in vets
Iraq War veteran Tony Macie describes his healing experience using MDMA-assisted psychotherapy.
Iraq War Veteran Nicholas Blackston, featured in Tom Shroder’s book Acid Test, on how MDMA-assisted therapy saved his life.
Psychotherapist Marcela Ot’alora G. on how quickly MDMA-assisted therapy can heal symptoms of PTSD compared with conventional psychotherapy.
How MDMA works to heal the devastating effects of PTSD in people such as Vietnam Veteran Bob Walker.
Former Marine Nigel McCourry recounts how MDMA-assisted therapy allowed him to sleep, the first step to healing from PTSD.
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