Party Drug No More? FDA Approves Trial Of Ecstasy To Treat PTSD

First Posted: Dec 02, 2016 02:47 AM EST

A popular party drug, ecstasy, has been approved for large-scale trials to treat post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.

Ecstasy, commonly known as Molly or the chemical 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), has been a popular club drug for decades. It has been banned because of its psychedelic effects of euphoria and abundant compassion among users.

Now, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given the green light to phase 3 trials of MDMA to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. If this final phase of validation would be passed, Ecstasy could be a party drug no more but a legal medicine.

"I'm cautious but hopeful," Dr. Charles R. Marmar, the head of psychiatry at New York University's Langone School of Medicine who was not part of the study, told The New York Times.

"If they can keep getting good results, it will be of great use. PTSD can be very hard to treat. Our best therapies right now don't help 30 to 40 percent of people. So we need more options," he added, saying that he has concern over the potential abuse since it is a "feel-good drug."

Phase 3 Research

The phase 3 research will involve about 230 patients and will be funded by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), an agency that promotes the use of marijuana, LSD and MDMA to treat medical conditions.

The phase 2 has already been funded and completed. It involved 130 patients with PTSD. In one study involving 19 patients, 56 percent claimed their symptoms were reduced in severity after receiving three doses of Ecstasy.

Mostly, the participants of the study were combat veterans, police, firefighters and sexual assault victims who suffer from PTSD and who had not responded to traditional prescription drugs or psychotherapy. On average, the patients suffered from the symptoms for 17 years.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

If the trials go well, Ecstasy could be legalized as soon as 2021. PTSD is a debilitating mental condition wherein patients who suffer from it had a previous experience with a life-threatening event.

Usually, patients who suffer from PTSD have symptoms of anxiety attacks, nightmares, insomnia and body shakes.

"Moving from phase two to phase three shows we have strong scientific reason to believe that MDMA is an effective treatment for PTSD in therapy. The fact the FDA is ready to move forward with phase three signals that they agree," Brad Burge, a spokesperson for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (Maps), told The Guardian.

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