Can Ecstasy Help Ease Post-Traumatic Stress?

The drug MDMA—better known by its street name, Ecstasy—may be illegal, but a new study suggests that it’s also a promising treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

The study, which appears in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, included 20 people with PTSD stemming from traumas such as sexual assault and combat stress. On two separate occasions, 12 of the people took a dose of MDMA and then spoke for several hours with a pair of trained therapists. The others took a placebo but received the same therapy. (All of the participants received additional therapy sessions that did not involve the drug.)

Two months later, 10 of the 12 people who took MDMA had improved to the point where they no longer met the diagnostic criteria for PTSD, and three participants whose condition had prevented them from holding down a job were able to return to work.

By contrast, just two of the eight people in the placebo group experienced a substantial improvement in their symptoms.

MDMA is believed to raise levels of the feel-good brain chemical serotonin and the so-called “bonding hormone,” oxytocin. The resulting sense of euphoria and emotional warmth seems to help patients connect with their therapists, says Michael Mithoefer, M.D., the lead author of the study and a Mount Pleasant, South Carolina-based psychiatrist who specializes in PTSD.

“A lot of the time, people have quite painful and challenging experiences revisiting the trauma, and [MDMA] can help them do it without being overwhelmed or numbed out,” he says.

Don’t try this experiment at home. Ecstasy use can cause depression, severe anxiety, and potential cognitive problems, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. And when purchased on the street it can be contaminated.

Conducting a study with an illegal drug is a complex process. This was the first clinical trial to explore the therapeutic potential of MDMA since the drug was outlawed in 1985, and the researchers required the permission of the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration , and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

“It took quite a bit of time to get approval,” Mithoefer says.

The study was funded by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a California-based nonprofit organization that also sponsors research on medical marijuana and psychedelic drugs such as LSD and psilocybin.

The use of MDMA in psychotherapy has been studied for decades, but research in the U.S. all but ground to a halt after the drug became illegal.

Mithoefer and his team are now gearing up for a similar study involving combat veterans, which is scheduled to begin later this year.

– Article from CNN.



  1. Anonymous on

    a top british drug council or w/e did research on MDMA and LSD and found that both are less dangerous then riding horses and even walking under coconut trees(more ppl die per year.) i know that if ganj was legalized and everyone started joining in on the peoples cannabis genetic project then we could possibly have a cure for just about anything. but mdma in moderation is not that bad for you. it’s not somethin u can smoke all the time like weed that why you do it once in a long time. back in the 60’s i believe when it was first used to treat PTSD on ww2 vets they would equate it to 3 years of therapy in 3 hours. and those vets lives have been changed forever just like the people you know, only in a different manner. there are two sides to every story so include all perspectives

  2. Anonymous on

    whats wrong with whoever put this article up man? are you serious? you know how many people I know That Theyre Lives Have Been Destroyed For Exstacy?? Are we really going from natural occuring medicine of nature to harmful chemical synthetic substences?? take this off man it is an article that truly does embarras this website and puts a bad stigma on tokers !!!

  3. Anonymous on

    POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER… this is what weed is for, FUCK CHEMICALS, LAB RATS!~!!! Nice try goofs!

  4. 420Yuppy on

    I think legalization movement has to solely focus on marijuana only and marijuana only!

  5. War Veteran on

    As a veteran of the U.S.’s current Iraqi war: I would say no to ecstasy. The amount of brain damage is phenomenal with this drug and the daily explosions (IED’s) we face while in our vehicles (funded by illegal drugs via its residue: money –which is why it all needs to be legal) causes brain damage –though the up-armored vehicles may be strong enough to not make a scratch or a burn on the soldiers anymore (though it still happens with the better made bombs bought with drug money): we still get all shook up, which causes brain damage –one bomb is the equivalent of years worth of head-banging to heavy metal and can cause the same damage as seen in shaken baby syndrome just from the concussion and reverberation –so, XTC will only make things worse. Mushrooms and acid may work, but pot is hands down the real cure and cheaper (for us and the State) than a counselor for PTSD . . . alcohol makes us childish and hateful of civilians and spouses, thus causing violence (I can attest) while pot keeps the bad dreams away . . . valium, opiates etc. only serve to cause addiction, health problems and zombies when the goal is to move forward in life or combat missions . . . but since my job with the state keeps me from smoking now: I get bad dreams of being deployed: the fear of a looming battle or being away from one’s country and family for an endless sea of days and weeks.

  6. Anonymous on

    All hard drugs can have some mild benefit in cases of psychological trauma but they’re so risky, -brain damage & addiction are torture, literally, so lots of education about risks is needed before potentially hurting ones self.

    I’ve, with some regret, used MDMA in the US & in England & wouldn’t use it in the future or really recommend it, -it just jacks up serotonin production & makes a dreamy surreal feeling… I would strongly recommend particular strains of cannabis before MDMA to a traumatised vet, -easy choice.

    Hard drugs really are for extreme cases & maybe one MDMA session with a professional would de-programme the painful bio-software an injured vet carries against will, but not in a way that cannabis couldn’t just as easily! The civil right of educated adults to use hard drugs should be, but MDMA therapy is a risky procedure to be avoided for health/sanitys sake. -Salvia Divinorum therapy can be very insightful too, & like cannabis, doesn’t carry the risk of brain damage or addiction MDMA does.