Out there in clubland there is something called MDMA, you may have heard of it. Its full name is 3,4-methylenodioxymethamphetamine but it's more commonly known as Ecstasy. At least to the British tabloid press, East 17's Brian Harvey and the Madchester scene of the late 80s and early 90s.
It's a controlled substance that, when you take it, is supposed to let loose the serotonin gates in the brain - serotonin is the drug that controls moods - and give the user an overwhelming sense of love, empathy, energy, understanding and a taste for crap house music. You know - really dangerous stuff.
The Journal of Psychopharmacology, published by SAGE, has announced that it has uses beyond dancing to stuff you normally hate and funding the bottled water industry. It says that individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder can be safely given to sufferers without evidence of harm and "offer a vital window with reduced fear responses" where psychotherapy can take effect.
The study is the first of its kind to have a completed randomised, double-binded clinical trial to evaluated MDMA as a thereapeutic aide. The trial had participants treated with a combination of MDMA and psychotherapy, and by the end of it 80 percent of the trial group no longer had the diagnostic criteria for PTSD compared to 25 percent in the placebo group. All three subjects who said PTSD had stopped them from working were able to return to work after they'd had treatment.
Subjects were given psychotherapy every week before and after the experimental sessions and all were overseen by a blinded, independent rater testing each subject using a PTSD scale at the baseline, and at intervals four days after each session, then again two months after the second session.
Apparently, 10 of 12 responded to the MDMA treatment, while only two in eight responded well in the placebo group. None in the MDMA grou had any physical problems as the result of being given pure MDMA.
The key though wasn't dosing on X and heading to Ministry of Sound. SAGE says it's vitally important that the drug was given in a controlled, safe environment and had concentrated periods of patient-therapist contact, including overnight stays and all-day therapy sessions. Which is probably why Happy Hardcore fans go straight back to hating themselves when it's all over.
"This method involves patient preparation and close follow-up to support further processing of emotions and integration of cognitive shifts that may occur. These are not usual features of psychotherapy practice in the outpatient setting," said Doctor Michael Mithoefer, MD, one of the blokes in charge. He reckons that while the concentrated therapy sessions are not standard practice, the intensive measures could be a price worth paying to help conquering PTSD.
Many have been calling for the need to look into the beneficial factors psychedelic drugs may be able to bring for both therapeutically and physically. A leader in encouraging further study is the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, or MAPS, which sponsored the research.
You can find the treatment manual online here. MAPS has also produced a summary of scientific literature on MDMA here. Daily Mail readers may be surprised to find there are no cases of bits of brain falling away or anyone thinking they're an orange and peeling themselves.