A new study has suggested that MDMA could be an effective treatment for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), when delivered through psychotherapy sessions.

The research was published in Psychopharmacology and has compiled data from six trials involving MDMA for the treatment of PTSD. It revealed that, at the original end point of the trials, over half of participants (56 per cent) no longer met the clinical criteria for PTSD.

During the treatment, which lasts for eight to 12 weeks, patients participate in two to three day-long MDMA-assisted psychotherapy sessions, each one spaced approximately one month apart.

They also undergo extensive therapy before beginning the MDMA-assisted sessions and are required to attend follow-up sessions afterwards.

In addition to the initial positive findings, there are also positive long-term benefits, with those who underwent MDMA-assisted psychotherapy sessions continuing to experience improvements in their condition after the sessions ended. In the one-year follow up, it was discovered that 67 per cent of participants no longer met the clinical criteria for PTSD.

Other positive effects of the therapy included a reduction in suicidal thoughts as well as in “clinically significant symptoms” one year after the sessions.

In addition, 94 per cent of those who participated in the trials said that they would like to continue with MDMA-assisted psychotherapy sessions.

Co-author Rick Doblin commented: “These long-term follow-up findings show that once people with PTSD learn that they can productively process traumatic memories instead of suppressing them, they can continue to heal themselves even after they have stopped receiving MDMA-assisted psychotherapy.”

The study also found that there is no evidence that having MDMA-assisted psychotherapy sessions makes participants more likely to abuse this, or any other, drug.

As a result of these positive findings, MDMA-assisted psychotherapy has now entered its Phase 3 human trials. Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US granted the treatment Expanded Access, which means some patients can now receive it before it is an approved therapy, Pharmafile reported.

With the Phase 3 trials currently underway and due to last 12 to 18 months, full FDA approval is anticipated in 2022.

This isn’t the only example of trials using psychedelic drugs to help treat mental illness. The FN Media Group recently highlighted Mind Medicine (MindMed), a US-based company that is exploring the uses of psychedelic drugs such as LSD and MDMA for the treatment of a number of mental health issues.

MindMed is launching Project Lucy this year, which will focus on LSD-based experiential therapy to treat anxiety disorders. It is collaborating with Professor Dr Matthias Liechti who is based in Basel, Switzerland and heads up the world’s leading psychedelics pharmacology and clinical research group.

Later this year, it plans to launch a Phase 2b human efficacy trial looking at whether experiential doses of LSD can be effective for patients when administered by a therapist.

The company has also announced that it plans to launch a Phase 2a clinical trial in conjunction with the University of Maastricht, exploring the use of LSD to treat adult patients with ADHD.

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