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Your thoughts: Treating PTSD with Ecstasy
Readers sounded off about the study of the effects of MDMA, the chemical name for pure Ecstasy, on those with PTSD.
December 4th, 2012
01:08 PM ET

Your thoughts: Treating PTSD with Ecstasy

CNN recently published a three-day series on the experimental use of the drug Ecstasy as part of treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. Readers had a lot to say in response to scientists who are studying the effects of MDMA, the chemical name for pure Ecstasy, on patients with PTSD.

Many readers said they were familiar with past research that’s been done on these drugs and questioned why they are still illegal.

Thom Burke
"I think the judicious use of many psychedelics can be very helpful in a lot of these cases. Sad how their use got derailed in the '60s because of culture wars.”

Pagan Champ
“100% agree Thom. The real problem is that politics and policy stand in the way of advancing science and medicine for chemicals that we've had at our disposal for nearly 100 years now.”


Bret Sammons
"Wow. Bills Hicks' quote from 'Sane Man' (1989) is coming true. 'Wouldn't you like to see a positive LSD story on the news? To base your decision on information rather than scare tactics and superstition? Perhaps? Wouldn't that be interesting? Just for once?' ”

Snarky Snark
"MDMA was synthesized 100 years ago, and it is cheap and easy to make. There's no patent protection and therefore not much upside for big (pharmaceutical companies). Big pharma will lobby to keep MDMA, marijuana, and psilocybin illegal. They will be successful because of deep pockets."

Several commenters questioned the short- and long-term safety of using these drugs to treat PTSD.

SurgeoninTraining
"Unfortunately, one can design a study to show about anything you want it to. MDMA is a very, very harmful drug that induces major depression and has ruined countless lives."

Ed167
"I'm sure some people with PTSD would consider that a fair trade. It may not even work well, but if it works better than what there is now, that is an improvement."

Karla Lindberg Buckland’s comment got a lot of attention from other readers. She said, “It all comes down to the question ‘Does the benefit outweigh the risk?’ as with every other pharmaceutical on the market. Sometimes quality of life is more important than quantity.”

Marion Kee
"Living with this stuff can be hellish. You never know what's going to happen and trigger your brain into putting you right back into the worst moments of your life. ..."

DCConwell
"I have suffered from PTSD since my time in Vietnam and have been an outpatient at the VA ever since. I take daily doses of Sertraline, Prazosin and Mirtazapine. The sound of helicopters still send me running for cover. If this drug works for her, I'm hopeful it will help others. I don't care if it's legal or not, that's just how important I want to live my last years in peace with myself."

Pavitrasarala
"Thank you for serving our country. I'm so sorry for your struggles, and I hear you. I have PTSD as well from decades of abuse. … The thought that MDMA and a couple months' worth of sessions could get so many of us back on track sounds like a dream come true."

By the end of the series, readers had not reached a consensus, and neither have scientists. Additional studies using MDMA against PTSD either have been completed, are planned or are under way in Colorado, Canada, Spain, Switzerland, Israel, Australia and Great Britain.

Doodle Bug
"So instead of learning to cope, you learn to buffer with drugs that do what to you again? And what happens when they are off these drugs, or run out or cannot afford. I'm sorry, but this is like putting a kid on drugs because everyone deems them 'hyper.' ”

Dr. Joe
"Some people may never be able to cope. You can call them weak, or you can help them function in daily life. Who gets to decide?"

Gerard Gustav
"People should understand that using this kind of treatment is a 'one and done' kind of deal. The trade-off though being that using the MDMA to properly treat the PTSD is oftentimes a very unpleasant experience magnifying the pain and suffering of the original trauma tenfold during the therapy. But the trade-off of not having to suffer daily and long term is probably worth a few hours in hell."

Salini
"Interesting stuff, but definitely not worth it. Too risky. Too much potential for long-term damage. People do not see just how toxic these substances are and what they do to your liver, kidneys, brain and immune system. Once again, Americans always want the quick fix. Real healing isn't quick; it takes time, effort, patience, faith and commitment."

Martin Monita III
"Well, of course, we want the quick fix. Would you rather spend years or maybe decades trying to overcome a traumatic incident, hoping patience and faith clear your mind? Or would you rather take a 'drug' and have some therapy sessions to fix it within months? I'll take the shorter route."

Read the full series on Ecstasy and PTSD treatment


soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. Richard Posner

    As a retired RN, I'm depressed about how the hundred years of Prohibition has warped the general public's view about psychoactive drugs. The vet who won't use 'recreational drugs to change his cognition' has probably used alcohol. The fact that people can't understand that MDMA is not a street drug. Ecstasy is a street drug. These patients are going to go down to the rave and get treatment for PTSD; they're going to given pharmaceutically-prepared medications in a supervised environment. Most people with PTSD self-medicate with marijuana and alcohol, sometimes prescription drugs. Some of your readers equate self-medicating actions with therapy.
    I'll bet most of them wouldn't turn down an antibiotic from their physician because it might have some effect on their mood. I'll bet, if it was surgery we were talking about instead of a medication that's been stolen by profit-seeking foreign drug producers for recreation use no one would raise an eyebrow.
    I'm begging you, people. Quit just absorbing opinions from your neighbors, the media, your priest, minister, etc. Read the news, especially science news, and allow your mind to think over what you've read. It could save you a great deal of pain, suffering and anguish.

    December 4, 2012 at 13:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • notstupid

      I agree i'm very tired of explaining to kids that LSD doesn't get stored in your spine, nor does MDMA kill people with one use, nor is ketamine only used for animals ( I always have to tell them that ketamine is one of the only anesthetics that can be injected intramuscularly, you try finding a vein on a cat's paw! + all mammals have almost identical monomine systems in the brain, therefore labeling ketamine an "animal tranquilzer" is the same thing calling marlboro reds "animal cigarettes" or adderall "animal stimulant", the reasons they use rats in drug studies is because we generally respond the same to drugs.) My personal favorite is some kids will tell me the effects from psilocibic mushrooms come from poison in the mushrooms. I love bursting their bubble to tell them the effects come from 4-HO-DMT, and 4-phosphorloxy- DMT, two safe natural tryptamines. Well misinformation is never fun, but it is funny to me at least.

      December 12, 2012 at 14:04 | Report abuse |
  2. kev

    anything and everything should be looked at. sucks living with it. as the exes.

    December 4, 2012 at 14:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. JonathanL

    I had PTSD after the 911 attack where I worked downtown. I fared a lot better than many co-workers because I immediately got back to work full time as a manager I was on the phone 12 hours a day until we were able to re-locate. Staying busy and having someting positive to focus on was not a cure but certainly helped me back to normal before many others. There are better ways to reduce the stress as well and hallucinagens are not the answer. Try learning to meditate and control what you think about. Don't let one event occupy your thoughts, your consciousness and subconscious mind, all the time. Try to realize that the traumatic is not the norm and you should not shape your whole life around and dwell mentally on an abnormal incident or situation. It happened and it was very tragic, but you didn't die, so what do you do now. Start by being practical. It is OK to cry but if you are crying all the time, jumping at every tick of the second hand on the clock, it time to give it some thought and try to understand where that thing should be in the scheme of things so it doesn't destroy you too. Try thinking about something else. I am learning a musical instrument. That is a good meditation. I would not recommend drugs. Don't dumb yourself down or screw with your brain receptors. Try Yoga first, relax, breath. Start over.

    December 4, 2012 at 14:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Anthony S

    The number of unqualified people saying 'don't mess with your brain using drugs' clearly stick out as those who have no idea what the drug does, or how it is prepared and administered. MDMA is virtually harmless. All of the horror stories come from abuse of a street drug called 'Ecstasy', which is often MDMA cut with a stimulant. When this drug is taken repeatedly and in a hot closed space, you have the potential to exhaust your serotonin receptors (E-tarded, temporary) or dehydrate. In a controlled clinical setting there is virtually no short term or long term risk for this drug. It bombards your brain with a naturally occurring neural transmitter, that's all.

    The treatment being proposed is a very low-use low-risk scenario that helps patients to confront terrible episodes without losing self control. The drug helps them to face their own demons, that is why it is a few sessions in a controlled setting, and not a drug you keep taking.

    December 4, 2012 at 15:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Damon

    What kind of answers can be expected when asking the general public about drugs that have been demonized? It can be very frustrating because there is so much to be learned, so many to help, and people have definitely been helped. Besides the illegal part, the next big obstacle is understanding that these drugs are cures, they address the problem directly instead of masking symptoms, or making the problem easier to suppress. It isn't always a one and done thing, sometimes it is, but the problems addressed are major issues, it may take several or many sessions to work through the problems. We are complex people and sometimes it takes a complex solution to work through complex issues.

    December 4, 2012 at 16:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Laura

    I have had PTSD as a result from a rape. AFter 5 years of traditional therapy, my symptoms were still prevalent and I had been suicidal twice. A friend referred me to an underground network, and I was able to get treatment with MDMA. It saved my life! For all of you who are afraid of the drug, please open your minds. Administered by a professional therapist, MDMA allows you to revisit the event and find a way to heal from your brain outwards to the whole of your body. If you have not suffered from PTSD, please, PLEASE do not tell someone to just cope, or just keep your mind on other things. It's a horror no one should have to suffer with their whole life, and this drug/therapy combination is indeed a life saving combination. Why do you want us to suffer, when we can be helped to make ourselves well and be whole people once again?

    December 4, 2012 at 18:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sunshine100

      Dear Laura, Your comments echo in my head. People who never experienced great trauma and the resulting PTSD cannot comprehend the emotional and physical pain we endure. Those folks have no validity, for me, with their butterfly solutions. I was ok after 14 yrs of psychological therapy, and remained balanced, well-adjusted, for nearly 12 years. Was triggered about 3 months ago, and feel all my hard work, and $, down the drain. Hard to recover w/o therapy, but doing my best. I receive General Relief with inadequate amount to afford private treatment, enrolled in county mental health clinic–which actually contributed to my PTST relapse, and seeking help from family and a couple of friends. Dissociative, hyper-reactive, memory loss, visual distortions, etc. Inexperienced, uneducated, unknowledgable, non-PTSD, do-gooders need not respond.

      December 11, 2012 at 00:35 | Report abuse |
    • Man in Car

      Hi Laura, I have a case of severe PTSD, have read many articles on mdma therapy and want to try it. But as you know finding an underground therapist doing this work is very difficult. I live near Washington DC and would like to find someone as local as possible, but still willing to travel if needed. Can you help me in any way ? I have spoken to people at MAPS and the Mithoefers, as well as a few others. There is no doubt in my mind that this therapy deeply helps those in the acute ptsd maelstrom of anxiety and despair, and depression. Your guidance would be so appreciated. thanks, Man in Car

      February 3, 2013 at 16:25 | Report abuse |
  7. John N.

    As a person who suffered from PTSD after my mother's suicide and someone who is now one happy joyfull person without the aid of any kind of medicin I want to give my own input in this discussion. As with most people who suffer from ptsd I dealt with it by putting the memories of my mother in a box far away, something I did not dare to touch because it was clouded by the memories of the dark period near the end of her life and of her suicide. I found refuge in my addiction to a computergame (World of Warcraft) and comfort food (Pizza, Fries, ...), which eventually lead to me becoming Obese Class III (The highest form of being obese, which means that your overweight can be life threatening). This was my unhealthy way of dealing with the pain. It took one mdma session with my best friend at that time to change all of this in a way I could have never expected. This mdma session took place at a holiday at the Belgium coastline, it would be my first experience with a recreational drug. During this experience I suddenly found myself being able to think about my mother, not only about her tragic ending, but more importantly for this first time in 4 years I remembered what a great parenting job my mother had done, all the things she had done for me and the special bond we had. I suddenly realised that I did not had to fear thoughts about my mother, since even though her ending was clouded in pain, the 23 years before her dead were filled with loving and hearth-warming memories given to me by the most amazing woman in my life. Ever since this experience I've opened up, and there is now not a single day that I'm still afraid to think about my mother, since my thoughts about her bring my joy and happyness, nothing really changed it just took one drug experience for me to realize this. As of now I'm far from obese anymore and have been on a steady healthy weight for the past 2 years, so I'm not only mentally a healthy person now but also physically, something that would be impossible without my mental health. My next experience with recreational drugs was 6 months after my first experience, so in no means was it the drug that changed me, it was the memories that were always there, the drugs just helped me reach out to those and realize that they were there.

    December 5, 2012 at 09:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Portland tony

    If someone self medicates and it works in alleviating his or her condition, it's time for the medical world to get involved. Most street and recreational drugs started out as tools for researchers.

    December 5, 2012 at 11:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Aaron

    I just find it amusing that people find it ok to take drugs that can possiblely kill them from side effects to "cure" everything from ED to allergies... but its some how horrible for anyone to even consider the actual medical uses of drugs such as MDMA which by the way... was originally made to be used to help with psychological issues....

    December 6, 2012 at 05:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Marcus, Oregon

    Psychedelics (soul manifesting) substances are illegal not because a high potential for abuse or for any of the reasons the DEA claims. They have been used safety by hundreds of cultures for over a millennium. This is just the tip of the ice berg. Soon America will realize that healing can come from within. This is a great start for that process!

    December 6, 2012 at 21:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • notstupid

      Exactly, the "safe" drugs prescribed by our doctors kill more people each year than all other psychedelics combined.

      December 12, 2012 at 13:50 | Report abuse |
  11. Marcus, Oregon

    “We have been to the moon, we have charted the depths of the ocean and the heart of the atom, but we have a fear of looking inward to ourselves because we sense that is where all the contradictions flow together.” ― Terence McKenna

    December 7, 2012 at 01:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Matt

    I think that its such a strange but useful drug that can have amazing effects if it is used in a safe environment

    December 8, 2012 at 00:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Richard

    80% of California's "medical marijuana" ends up in the hands of recreational drug users. This will too.

    December 9, 2012 at 07:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • notstupid

      references?

      December 12, 2012 at 13:47 | Report abuse |
    • Pursuit of Wellness

      How many alcohol users are recreational...vs people who use / or abuse it to Medicate ? Point is ...labeling recreational is just a term that bleeds yellow journalism ....maybe the real truth is people need to elevate beyond the everyday reality that is so deep in red tape and ink and filled with Government Graft to feel , good inside? and Out!

      January 4, 2013 at 16:01 | Report abuse |
  14. kralyn

    Why does the medical community continue to mask the injury with medication? Often individuals diagnosed with PTSD are simply given medication to mask their feelings and never treated for the actual root of the problem. Too often military service members in particular are “filled full of pills” and sent on their way. If we do not address the root of the problem and merely mask the injury with medication the individual will never be fully treated.
    After reading this article, the MDMA study was conducted on a very small scale and may become a viable treatment in the future but until a larger in-depth study is conducted we should not label MDMA as a viable solution. Perhaps MDMA combined with other treatments could alter the state of the individual and prevent suffering but it still will not address the root of the problem.
    One main concern I have with MDMA treatment is that a large portion of individuals diagnosed with PTSD often abuse alcohol and when alcohol is combined with MDMA the results are often fatal.

    MAJ Kralyn R Thomas Jr
    United States Army
    ILE Class 2012-003
    Staff Group C
    The above comments represent the views and opinions of the author only, and should not be interpreted to represent the official position of the United States Army or the Department of Defense.

    December 10, 2012 at 14:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Sunshine100

    Dear Major Thomas, alcohol abuse may go away if PTSD symptoms go away. Isn't this worth a try provided the proper studies are completed?

    December 11, 2012 at 00:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. MASON

    Has anyone read the book Slaughter House Five By Kurt Vonigure, this book shows the terrible effects of PTSD.

    December 11, 2012 at 17:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. notstupid

    You guys should really research mdma therapy before you comment. First this is not like some prescription medication given to soldiers. Its not like they go to the pharmacy and get a bottle of mdma capsules which they take every day in the morning. They are given the mdma in a therapuetic setting at safe doses, and only at a rate close to once every 6 months. The whole point of using the MDMA isn't that MDMA itself is an antidepressant, its to make soldiers trained at masking their emotions comfortable enough to talk about the most emotional experiences of their lives. Many therapists say that one therapy session with MDMA is more effective than hundreds of sessions without it. There has never been a study proving mdma causes permanent brain damage, nor has there been a study proving mdma can kill someone with a first time use. Also California's medical marijuana industry is abused because anyone can go to the doctor and say " oh i have chronic pain" and get a medical card. MDMA treatment would not be abusable, one because one the sessions are all monitored, two because the MDMA would never be in patient possession, and three MDMA must be used during therapy. I doubt some kid wanting to get high will be willing to pay thousands of dollars to get a diagnosis for PTSD, then pay even more for the therapy that goes with the MDMA use. It would be much cheaper and easier for those kids to go buy something else. And where are your references on the "80 % of california's medical marijuana patients are recreational users"? REALLY GUYS, the articles have been very clear. MDMA use in therapy is not the same as getting prescribed a drug by a doctor. Marijuana is given to patients so they can better control symptoms of whatever of the 250 conditions they have, with them administering to themselves as needed. MDMA is administered by a doctor only, only for PTSD, and only during therapy. What i'm trying to say is anyone who thinks that MDMA is turning into the next medical marijuana industry or that doctors will start prescribing big bottles of MDMA to anyone who complains of feeling blue lacks knowledge of MDMA, Marijuana, mental and physical health, and United States drug policy. What really helps the soldiers years later isn't the MDMA, its the cognitive therapy they completed while under the influence of MDMA. Its also a shame that so many people believe pharmaceutical drugs are a good long term solution to mental illness. As someone diagnosed with GAD, SAD, MDD, and complex PTSD, I know from personal experience that cognitive therapy is the only long term beneficial treatment that attacks the root of the illness, not the symptoms. Psychologists who believe its better to give your kid ssri's and anti psychotics than CBT are like doctors who believe its better to treat cancer with pain medication than treatment that actually gets to the root of the problem.

    December 12, 2012 at 12:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. james

    I'm not trying to whine to the world but I was raised in a fairly abusive household. I never got shot at in a war but I think that these negative experiences led to a form of PTSD as I would find myself constantly remembering and reliving significant childhood abusive events.

    When I was about 20 I tried some MDMA...a rather high dose of it. Prior to that, I looked at love as a form of addiction. After that I realized the true nature of love. It's been about 20 years since I did it. I'm happily married, not depressed, not addicted to drugs and successful. That experience truly inspired me and steered me down a better path...one without alchohol and drugs.

    Taking a drug to fight alcoholism and addiction may sound counter intuitive to some. For me, it helped. I'm sure it would have hurt me more than helped if I continued to use it every weekend recreationally. Regular use of something that strong definitely would be damaging. That being said, as with any medication, if used responsibly it can work wonders.

    If you are suffering from PTSD then life can be hell. You are already depressed and likely already addicted to alcohol and drugs..MDMA should be safe if the correct dosage is taken and you are monitored during your journey. What do you have to lose.

    December 28, 2012 at 09:09 | Report abuse | Reply
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  20. Brenda Keleman

    According to a pilot study published in the latest issue of the peer-reviewed International Journal of Healing and Caring, veterans with high levels of PTSD saw their PTSD levels drop to within normal limits after treatment. They reported that combat memories that had previously haunted them, including graphic details of deaths, mutilations, and firefights, dropped in intensity to the point where they no longer resulted in flashbacks, nightmares, and other symptoms of PTSD. The study involved veterans from Vietnam, as well as more recent conflicts. -

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    February 12, 2013 at 07:26 | Report abuse | Reply
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    May 4, 2013 at 22:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Liz

    For those of you who think PTSD is "easy" to deal with or "simple" to cure, why don't you talk to the ex-wife/husband of a soldier? Why don't you talk to the child of a soldiered parent? I am an SECOND ex-wife of a soldier who came back and tried therapy, tried self medication, and tried anti-depressants to cope and STILL had a hard time!

    For those of you who think the "life" they live is easy and can be cured simply by talking about it, let me put you in bed, midnight, being choked to near death because your husband heard a car backfire outside the house and thought he was being shot at! Let me put you in a home depot, walmart, or other story where they move items around and have something crash to the floor and watch your loved one duck under something or grab you and run! Let me put you in a car, on a windy road, smell burning trash and suddenly find yourself clinging to the seat hoping and praying they don't crash because it sends them into a fit of fury trying to evade "enemy drivers"...

    Its risky yes, but damn if it isn't worth a shot... people are willing to vaccinate their children with drugs they can't name or even know where it comes from, yet they hear "drug" and have an opinion. Go do some damn research and read more than liberal/conservative media, READ THE FACTS!

    May 24, 2013 at 08:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Emma Jones

    I feel that in this country, doctors over diagnose, patients are over prescribed and the result is profits for pharma. If a back to basics approach is practiced, patients would have a beeter chance to deal with and hopefully overcome their issues. If only professionals treating patients could start with non medical practices and herbal remedies. A very simple yet effective herbal remedy called Relax-V is under used in my opinion. For the readers following this post, have a look at this product.

    June 10, 2013 at 18:56 | Report abuse | Reply

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