American scientists said today they were planning to conduct a study into whether the dance drug ecstasy can be used to help sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Scientists to Conduct Ecstasy Trial for CounsellingBy Mark Sage, PA News, in New York
The researchers believe that the drug could help people open up in therapy and express deep fears and painful memories.
If the study is successful the scientists hope that the drug MDMA will eventually be made available on prescription.
Dr Rick Doblin, president of the Florida-based Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, said the US Food and Drug Administration had already approved the trial.
He said that the feelings of self-acceptance and closeness to others reported by recreational ecstasy users suggested that the drug would work in a counselling environment.
“In a therapy setting it’s not that you take MDMA and feel ecstasy and happy and your problems go away,” Dr Doblin said.
“But it helps you go deeper into the problems and work through them.
“We anticipate that people who have had traumatic experiences but haven’t been able to really move past them, because they are too scary, will be able to really open up.
“They will be able to go through really deep emotions of fear, anger, pain, sadness, and let it go,” he said.
The test subjects would be patients who have already failed to overcome post-traumatic stress disorder with the therapy and drugs currently available.
The volunteers would include victims of violent crime, including rape.
Cancer sufferers in the end stages of terminal illness would be studied to see if the drug aids them in coming to terms with the prospect of death.
A parallel study, to be conducted in Israel, would include victims of terrorism and political violence which have dogged the region for many years, Dr Doblin said.
He went on: “There’s often a lot of shame and self-blame when people are attacked that’s really unnecessary and problematic.
“MDMA has this fundamental ability to help people with self-acceptance.”
The study could begin as early as January as long as the US Drug Enforcement Administration gives clearance for the researchers to handle the illegal drug.
Initially 20 victims will be studied. Each will be given a pill either a placebo or 125mg dose of MDMA before undergoing therapy sessions.
Neither the patients or therapists will know who has been given the drug and who has been given the placebo.
Even if the trial goes ahead without scientific or political disruption it could be at least five years before MDMA is available on prescription, Dr Doblin predicted.
Studies would have to be conducted on a much wider scale before Government agencies could be convinced of the benefits of making the drug legally available, he said.
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