The future is intriguing. I’m sure you’ve heard of our friend ‘Molly,’ or better known as MDMA. Today, this active ingredient in ecstasy is not only known as a recreational drug, but as a potential new treatment in medicine. Some have even gone far enough to call it psychiatry’s new antibiotic.
So what’s happening?
In a world’s first, researchers at Imperial College London are set to begin a clinical trial into the use of MDMA as part of a programme to treat alcohol addiction. They were granted ethical approval to conduct the trial on twenty patients recruited through the recreational drug and alcohol services in Bristol. These patients are heavy alcohol drinkers who have repeatedly relapsed, consuming an equivalent of five bottles of wine per day on average.
Why is this a good thing?
For the psychiatry industry, this is the first opportunity they have to tackle psychological trauma within alcohol addicts and in fact, they are in need of this approach. ’50% of people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) don’t respond to traditional treatment and countless of other treatments are failing patients,’ said Ben Sessa, a clinical psychiatrist on the trail and senior research fellow at Imperial College London.
How will the clinical trial work?
After the selected patients go through a detox period, they will receive two therapy sessions. Following these sessions is a day where they are given a capsule of high-dose MDMA. These patients will be the first to undergo a psychotherapy session ‘while under the influence of 99.99% pure MDMA.’
“It’s using drugs to enhance the relationship between the therapist and the patient, and it allows us to dig down and get to the heart of the problems that drive long-term mental illness,” said Ben Sessa.
“We know that MDMA works really well in helping people who have suffered trauma and it helps to build empathy. Many of my patients who are alcoholics have suffered some sort of trauma in their past and this plays a role in their addiction,” he continued.
What have we learned from this clinical trial?
In 2010, we learned that more than 80% of patients with PTSD stopped showing symptoms of the condition after two sessions of therapy following supervised MDMA use. At the Psychedelic Science Conference in 2017, researchers showed that after several sessions of MDMA-assisted therapy, 67% of patients no longer had PTSD.
Although these results are promising, researchers have just scratched the surface of the benefits of MDMA and are only beginning to explore this further in relation to medicine. Experts have warned that the recreational use of MDMA can cause harm as each person can react differently to the drug. However, by ensuring a safe environment and the supervised-used of MDMA, the benefits of these clinical trials could just outweigh its risks.
Photo from freestocks.org at Unsplash
Author: Sada Piqolette