Ecstasy and Molly are “street names” for the 1980’s illicit party/rave drug, clinically known asmethylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA). Its effects include increased empathy, euphoria, and heightened sexuality. While therapeutic uses for the Schedule 1 drug may seem contradictory, the Federal Drug Administration has approved a large-scale, Phase 3 clinical trial of the drug to treat patients with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Six previous trials, funded by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), have involved 130 patients. This next phase, also funded by the non-profit, will include a minimum of 230 patients. According to MAPS, “Our highest priority project is funding clinical trials of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) as a tool to assist psychotherapy for the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).” The organization believes that drug therapy in conjunction with psychotherapy can help people “overcome PTSD, and possibly other disorders as well,” explaining, “MDMA is known for increasing feelings of trust and compassion towards others, which could make an ideal adjunct to psychotherapy for PTSD.”
While the F.D.A. declined to comment,Dr. Charles R. Marmar, head of Psychiatry at New York University’s School of Medicine, spoke with 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.” However, he cautions about potential abuse, “Prolonged use can lead to serious damage to the brain.” MAPS acknowledges that in MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, MDMA is only administered a few times, “unlike most medications for mental illnesses which are often taken daily for years, and sometimes forever.”