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MDMA, a drug long criminalized by the U.S. government, may be heading towards legal treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder following a very successful trial.
A recent study involving 90 survivors of various traumas like sexual abuse, mass shootings, and military service found MDMA significantly reduced their PTSD symptoms when the drug was paired with talk therapy. "Two months after treatment, 67 percent of participants in the MDMA group no longer qualified for a diagnosis of PTSD, compared with 32 percent in the placebo group," The New York Times reports.
A final study that could lead to MDMA's legalization as treatment is currently underway; approval could happen as soon as 2023.
Researchers and doctors stress that MDMA alone does not aid PTSD sufferers, but must be paired with effective therapy that allows those with the condition to process painful memories and move on from them. Participants in the study who received MDMA reported less nightmares, panic attacks, and general social anxiety.
MDMA was first created by Merck pharmacists in 1912, but mostly neglected by science until the 1970s, when a psychedelic proponent, Alexander Shulgin, synthesized it and tried it himself. Many other chemists, doctors, and researchers were introduced to the drug and therapists and mental health professionals administered half a million doses from 1977 to 1985. Beginning in the early 1980s, MDMA began finding its way to parties and nightclubs, where it was used recreationally. It would later be referred to as Ecstasy or Molly by many and was often mixed with other drugs, which makes MDMA far more unpredictable and dangerous.
The Food and Drug Administration officially criminalized MDMA in 1985, declaring that it offered "no medical benefit." That may finally be changing.