Ecstasy is usually associated with fairy-winged ravers and thumping EDM -- not chaise lounges and psychiatrist offices. But the notorious party drug could make its way, legally, into the mental health world as a potent treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Some experts have known for a while that ecstasy (the pill form of MDMA) could be a valuable tool in treating mental illness; after all, it was first introduced to psychiatrists in 1970 to be used in conjunction with therapy. Since the drug releases serotonin and creates feelings of euphoria, it ended up being a helpful aid in couples therapy, and for those suffering from depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder -- until it spread to clubs and college campuses, and the DEA classified it as a Schedule 1 narcotic in 1985. That pesky DEA is always getting in the way of people having a good time/overcoming past trauma, man.
Since then, ecstasy and molly have become ubiquitous in clubs and on the electronic dance music circuit. But its psychological benefits still persist; a small drug trial in 2013 to test MDMA's effects in treating PTSD yielded positive results for long-suffering patients. On November 29th, the FDA approved large-scale phase 3 clinical trials for ecstasy, which would be the last step before it could possibly be legalized as a prescription.
The phase 2 trials of the drug, which were sponsored by the nonprofit group Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, focused on treating patients who had struggled with PTSD symptoms for an average of 17 years, according to The New York Times. After one trial, two-thirds of the patients' symptoms improved so much, they could no longer be diagnosed as having PTSD.
If the drug gets approved, it could be available as early as 2021, but it would have to be administered to patients under the watchful eye of a trained psychotherapist, and as part of a more comprehensive treatment program. This hopefully will make it harder for recreational users to get their hands on the drug, since some experts worry MDMA abuse could end up like the current opioid addiction epidemic. And no, most DJs don't have psychiatric training.
Still, if the positive trial results are any indication, those suffering from severe PTSD, especially combat veterans, victims of abuse, and first responders, could finally find the relief they so desperately need.