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Will a banned party drug help solve PTSD symptoms for good?

Mental health issues can be much more difficult to treat than physical injuries. It can be hard for doctors to quantify any progress made with a patient, and those with severe symptoms often go years without improvement. Successful care can require years of therapy.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects many Americans because of trauma they’ve experienced themselves or witnessed. PTSD can result from military service, domestic violence or even a car crash.

Although some people are able to manage their PTSD, for many others, it is so severe that it limits their daily function or ability to work. Researchers have begun studying the effects of a popular party drug as a therapeutic support for those with PTSD.

How does a party drug help people with trauma?

People call 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine or MDMA many slang terms, like Molly, X and Ecstasy. These nicknames make it clear that the drug produces a happy, euphoric state in users. This illegal drug can also lead to profound changes in how people process or experience certain memories.

Some anecdotal medical reports show that traumatized individuals who are administered MDMA in a medical setting can potentially improve their mental health and even eliminate many of their trauma triggers. Patients may be able to recall memories better after an MDMA treatment and could even reprocess the trauma attached to the memory in a way that renders recalling the memory less harmful in the future.

While studies of this possibly life-altering therapy are underway, current patients struggling with PTSD or trauma-related anxiety or depression may have such serious symptoms that they cannot work and require disability benefits to support themselves.