MDMA could potentially treat symptoms of PTSD, according to prof

A UBC researcher is studying whether MDMA, also known as ecstasy, can help treat post-traumatic stress disorder.

Mark Haden, a professor in Population and Public Health, along with various other researchers, has been hoping to make MDMA a psychotherapeutic drug for PTSD treatment. Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a mental illness that often affects those who have experienced trauma.

“PTSD is an unconscious tape loop that is incredibly destructive to people…. The emotional component of [PTSD] is fear, pain, anger, anguish and paranoia,” said Haden.

Only 25 per cent of PTSD victims who were treated with standard psychotherapy recovered from the illness, according to McLean’s. However, MDMA may be a game changer.

Haden is also chairman of the Canadian branch of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, which is conducting the study that will essentially ask what are the benefits of MDMA on trauma victims.

“[MDMA is] absolutely perfect for psychotherapy. The reason why is that it’s loosely described as a combination between a stimulant, which is methamphetamine, and a psychedelic,” said Haden. “If you think about [it], at that dosage, what the stimulant provides is confidence, and what the psychedelic provides is two things: unconscious material … and empathy.”

These two effects of MDMA work together to allow psychotherapists to better reach out to and work with patients affected by PTSD. In 2011, a similar study reported that 83 per cent of patients given MDMA-assisted psychotherapy experienced a significant reduction in their symptoms.

Although initial results have been very encouraging, there still remains much for MDMA to prove for itself as an effective tool for psychotherapists. Haden noted that psychedelics haven't been used legally in Canada for 44 years.