The molecule of ecstasy, administered in a controlled way to accompany a psychotherapy, may have some effectiveness for soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress suggest researchers in a study published Wednesday.
The study published by The Lancet Psychiatry has its limits, recognize its authors. A small number of people participated: 26, including 22 veterans, three firefighters and a police officer. And the results were not compared with a group that would have taken a placebo.
Nevertheless, it suggests that treatment with MDMA “is safe and could enhance the benefits of psychotherapy,” the review said in a statement.
The subjects followed a strictly supervised protocol.
Without their knowledge and without the knowledge of their doctor, and after the first three sessions of psychotherapy of one hour and a half each, they took more or less high doses of MDMA (30 mg, 75 mg or 125 mg according to two sessions of eight hours each, specially adapted.
They were followed closely: a night under observation, a week of telephone interviews, and a debriefing at three new psychotherapy sessions of one hour and a half.
According to the researchers, the patients who took the highest doses saw their symptoms of post-traumatic stress reduction further. The narrowness of the sample is recognized as a statistical weakness.
And that is not without inconvenience. Some participants said they felt they had a stronger desire to commit suicide under MDMA. And “all groups reported negative effects after treatment” including “anxiety, headache, exhaustion, muscle tension and insomnia,” noted the researchers.
The study poses an important ethical question, since it is forbidden today to administer MDMA, a substance that feeds a large narcotrafic.
Two professors of psychiatry in Oxford, Andrea Cipriani and Philip Cowen, praised the protocol developed in this study and its results, while expressing reservations.
“The unmet demand for post-traumatic stress treatment, particularly for veterans and emergency workers, is clear. However, the possibility of generalizing MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for more ordinary psychiatry remains to be established, “they wrote in a commentary published by The Lancet .