-Paul Dillon, Sydney Star Observer - issue 909 - published 13/03/2008
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We’ve spoken about this research before but here is an update on the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) funded trials using MDMA, or ecstasy, to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
There are believed to be almost 25 million veterans currently in the US and there is great concern about the rate of suicide amongst this group. Due to the lack of treatment options for PTSD, the US Army is now considering something pretty radical to treat the problem – ecstasy.
Apparently the US military carried out lethal dose studies of MDMA on animals in the 1950s before it became an illegal drug. MAPS founder and President Rick Doblin became aware of MDMA in 1982, and since then has been convinced of its therapeutic uses. Accordingly, his organisation has coordinated and/or funded recent studies into MDMA treatment of PTSD and hopes to make the drug a prescription medication in the very near future.
One of the studies, currently in phase two, is crucial, according to Doblin, “to prove safety and efficacy”. Safety and efficacy are the prime obstacles standing in MAPS and MDMA’s way, especially since the drug was listed as Schedule 1 in 1985, shortly after it was named “ecstasy” by its users in 1984.
Due to a number of high profile ecstasy-related deaths there is a perception in the general community that MDMA is a particularly dangerous drug. There have been many studies examining the lethality of ecstasy and a great deal of heated debate.
The MAPS studies have subjected the drug to rigorous testing, and have thus far found little to suggest that it is as “dangerous” as was once suggested.
It is important to remember that we are not talking about using ecstasy in a nightclub setting here. These studies examine the drug administered in a measured dose in controlled settings. Potential problems such as overheating and dehydration are monitored closely.
If MDMA treatment of PTSD does eventuate, some politicians and doctors in the US are scared that they will see a dramatic increase in the number of people using the drug. However, Doblin sees the drug becoming a normal prescription drug like antidepressants, prescribed by therapists and the like. It will be interesting to see what happens next – watch this space.
Remember: if you do not want any negative consequences, do not use the drug and, no matter how many times you have used a substance, never be blasé.